Juventus consolidated their lead at the top of the Serie A table as Milan dropped points against Torino. Roma saw their match rained off as Napoli suffered a shock loss to Atalanta. All these and more in our weekly round-up.
The opening game of the weekday saw Fiorentina taking on Cagliari away from home. In what was supposed to be a routine victory for the Viola turned into a nightmare once the match ended. Winless in their seven previous matches, no one would have given Cagliari even half a chance to come away with anything from this match and not certainly any points. A club in the top four suddenly started appearing pedestrian as the club from the relegation zone dictated the game for most of the parts. In what was surely one of their worst performance of the season, Fiorentina allowed Pinilla to score a first-half penalty. Quite surprisingly, it took the visitors almost an hour to muster any sort of serious challenge and although their attacks increased later on in the game, it was too little too late for them to come away with anything from this match.
Udinese hosted Bologna next, and with only two points separating the two teams, this was certainly a match to watch out for. With the visiting side lying precariously in the relegation zone, a victory was required to allay the fears of their supporters. A string of losses stretching four matches saw the Fruili side in an unusual position in the Serie A table. As always, Di Natale opened the scoring, tucking in a penalty inside the first quarter of an hour. Udinese then had a good chance to double their lead, but Curci denied Agyemang-Badu from close range. A brief revival from Bologna saw the visitors and specially, their teenage ‘keeper, Scuffet come under some pressure, but once they weathered that storm, there was nothing stopping them from collecting all three points on offer. Lopez then put the icing on the cake with a left-footed strike – one which sent Udinese six points clear of the relegation zone.
AC Milan then hosted Torino at the San Siro, with the home team looking to build on their two wins under new coach Seedorf. In a move which surprised everyone, Seedorf left De Jong on the bench and instead chose to start with Muntari and Montolivo in midfield with a new 4-2-3-1 formation. Seedorf did explain his choice later on – highlighting the fact that he needed players who can take long shots from the midfield for this game. The match started at a slow pace with Milan taking the lion’s share of possession. Playing Bonera in the first eleven is a cardinal sin, and Seedorf found that out within the opening 20 minutes. Immobile was surely proving quite a handful to the Milan back-line and his mazy runs and bursts of acceleration had them running for cover every time.
A nice interplay from midfield saw the ball laid on to Immobile who expertly ran with it, outfoxed Bonera leaving him on the ground and then coolly finished in the bottom right corner. If this was sign of things to come, it was certainly going to be a tough outing for the home side. Milan responded in their own manner with almost everyone thrown into attack. De Sciglio was sure to have a busy night as Milan chose to attack down the right flank on almost every occasion. Although they created a lot of chances and even had a higher possession than Torino, Milan failed to make it count. Rami’s goal gave Milan a crucial point from this match and kept Seedorf’s unbeaten streak alive in Serie A.
Next up were Napoli, who faced Atalanta away. Serie A challengers this season under new coach Rafa Benitez, Napoli have been a force to reckon with in the domestic circuit. However, all their good work came undone when they allowed not one, not two, but three glaring defensive howlers to happen against Atalanta. From the onset, the home team pushed the visitors and they also had their first shot when Baselli’s effort whistled over the bar. Napoli woke up from their deep slumber late into the game but till halftime, none of the sides had anything to show for their efforts. Reina committed the first howler when he allowed the ball to slip off his gloves, which ended up in the back of the net. Strangely though, Higuain, who left on the bench from the start was called into action. Higuain made an immediate impact but on the other end, Atalanta doubled their lead when Inler mistakenly passed the ball to Denis, who gleefully made it 2-0 in favour of the hosts. Their misery was complete when Moralez rounded Reina to score the third of the night.
The focus soon shifted to the Derby d’Italia, where defending champions Juventus hosted Internazionale. The match which followed not only increased the gap at the top of the table, but also underlined Juventus’ pedigree and their desire to win their third Scudetto on the trot. Playing in front of their home crowd, Juventus would always be a different team and they proved just that when a Pirlo cross found Lichtsteiner, who opened the scoring. Pogba and Tevez made life difficult for Handanovic, who was soon found shouting at Nagatomo for his error which led to Juventus’ second goal of the night.
Pogba continued to pressurize the Inter defence line, and when his shot was blocked by Handanovic, Vidal was at hand to score the third. Juventus seemed to let of the pedal after that and they were rightly punished by Rolando, who scored a consolation for the visitors. The dominating victory left Juventus on the top of the Serie A table with 9 points now separating them from second-placed Roma, whose game was washed out.