Controversy reigned supreme in an exciting Serie A weekend. THT reviews all the action from the weekend’s round of fixtures.
Referees are tasked with one of the most unenviable jobs in football. Under constant scrutiny, referees can decide the outcome of a game by simply blowing their whistle. This weekend in Serie A, the ‘referee’ was at the centre of all the attention and that, of course, is never a good sign. When a referee attracts all the headlines, it can only be for controversial reasons. “At the end of the first half, we were being robbed” cried Fiorentina’s Sporting Director, Daniele Prade. He was referring to the rather harsh sending off of Nenad Tomovic which would bring Fiorentina down to 10 men.
La Viola’s clash against AC Milan was hugely important with both sides vying for the elusive third Champions League spot. Ex-Fiorentina captain, Riccardo Montolivo, who joined Milan in the summer would steal the ball off David Pizarro to soon give the away side the lead. Montolivo would silence those fans who didn’t hold back in jeering the Milan midfielder. Milan took control.
A second goal in the second half from Flamini with Montolivo again in the thick of things looked to have put the game beyond Fiorentina’s reach. But the Vincenzo Montella’s men would have other ideas. Fiorentina grew into the game and the tricky Adem Ljajic won a penalty for the home side. A decision by referee, Tagliavento, that looked a bit generous. Ljajic would step up and slot past Abbiat. 1-2.
Surely this would be a wake up call to Milan, to not simply stroll through to the second half. But Fiorentina were determined and received another penalty after Cuadrado was brought down in the box by Mattia De Sciglio. David Pizarro would place the ball on the spot and then strike it past Abbiati to restore parity. Fiorentina mounted a fight-back that is synonymous with the never say die attitude that Montella has instilled in them. This result also effectively keeps Fiorentina’s hopes of a Champions League spot alive. Embarrassingly enough, both sets of representatives got into a heated argument during the game.
The cousins of Milan, Inter, were also felt hard done by refereeing errors. President Massimo Moratti went so far as to hinting against a conspiracy against Inter. Referee Gervasoni, the man under the spotlight and a penalty against Inter, the incident in question. It certainly didn’t look like a penalty and it’s hard to think about a possible explanation the referee has to offer. Atalanta would pile on misery on Inter with a thrilling 4-3 win at the San Siro.
Antonio Cassano limped off early in the second thus adding another injury headache to under-fire manager Stramaccioni, who now only has Tomasso Rocchi as a natural striker at his disposal. Rocchi would net his 100th goal in Serie A and his first in more than a year. While Andrea Ranocchia produced his own version for miss of the year when it would have been easier to score. The cliché: ‘Right position, wrong player’ was thrown around but, in truth, he should have buried that with his eyes closed. Inter’s chase for the last Champions League spot was dealt another blow. Mathematically they are still in with a shot, but the form of their rivals and their own injury crisis suggests otherwise.
Champions Juventus were made to work for their three points against lowly Pescara. With the all important return leg against Bayern Munich playing in his mind, Antonio Conte opted to field a few fringe players. Plenty of chances were created as Juve began knocking on the Pescara door, only to be denied by the heroics of custodian, Ivan Pelizzoli. Pelizzoli clearly eats his vegetables as he time and time again thwarted any shot Juventus attempted.
It looked like one of those nights for the Bianconeri that was until Mirko Vucinic made amends for a criminal miss with a brace. One from the spot and the other was a well taken finish by the Montenegrin which was enough to get Juventus over the finishing line. Vucinic would go on to celebrate his first goal by taking off his shorts, an act he would label as ‘spontaneous’. It was Vucinic’s third goal in his past two Serie A games, which would reaffirm the theory that the best of the Montenegrin does turn up as we enter the business end of the season.
Elsewhere, Napoli maintained their second position in the table with a win against Genoa. The goal of the weekend though threw up two contenders: Antonio Di Natale produced a left-footed volley that was eerily similar to Francesco Totti’s goal against Sampdoria all those seasons ago. The angle was almost impossible but count on Toto to make the most difficult task look the easiest. Josip Ilicic, the other contender, embarked upon a solo mazy run before finishing it with his wrong foot past Sergio Romero to keep alive Palermo’s hopes of safety.
Pre-match stabbings, red cards, missed penalties and beautiful goals, in other words, a usual day in the office for Roman derby. The most passionate and volatile derby in the peninsula returned for 138th time after a late kick-off on Monday as both the Roman teams found themselves neck and neck in Serie A table. There were clashes between fans before the match started and according to some reports four fans were stabbed. The match went off to a quiet start and neither team wanted to take risks in first quarter-hour. Lazio broke the deadlock on 16th minute as Hernanes applied a beautiful finish to a Lazio counter-attack, scoring from 25 yards out. Lazio’s recent form in Serie A has taken a beating and they have falled down from being Scudetto challengers to a team struggling to get in Champions League slots but they seemed determined to maintain their recent string of wins in the derby.
Things for worse for Roma as Lazio was awarded a penalty on 49th minute. Aiming to double his tally, Hernanes missed the spot kick and that was uarguably the turning point of the match. The home team received a fresh dose of motivation after Hernanes’ miss and it looked like a matter of time before they would score an equalizer. Hernanes’ fortunes in the derby dipped dramatically as his trip on Pjanic led to a Roma spot kick. Up stepped ever-green Francesco Totti and he made no mistakes to draw level, thus equalling the record of most goals by an individual player in the derby. With nine goals in 36 Roman derbies, Totti joined Marco Delvecchio and Dino Da Costa as joint record holders and should create his own record if he plays for a season or two more. The 1-1 draw in the end was the first draw in Roman derby in six years. AS Roma’s chances of a UCL qualification was dealt a severe blow but Lazio still have a fighting chance for the same.