Roberto Mancini’s Inter earn draw in Milan derby; Juventus and AS Roma keep winning while bottom of the table Parma suffer yet another defeat at home.

Honors even in Milan derby

A sold out San Siro did not get the spectacle they paid for in technical terms as Inter and Milan played out a sluggish 1-1 draw last night. Mancini made his return to the Nerazzurri bench after six years and immediately announced his intentions by scrapping the 3-5-2 module for a more adventurous system with Mateo Kovacic behind the front two. Both the teams struggled to play fluid football in midfield and some basic errors in defence led to dangerous openings for either side. Mauro Icardi could only manage a tame effort on goal after being set free by a ridiculous pass by Sulley Muntari. Inter were made to pay for that miss when Stephan El Shaarawy’s cross was met with a brilliant side-footed strike past Samir Handanovic.

After the interval Inter started better but once again Icardi could only find the Curva Nord from a promising position after a goal-mouth scramble fell kindly to his feet. Joel Obi who was arguably the worst performer on the pitch last night scored the equalizer after Cristian Zapata’s half-clearance ended up right on the edge of the box. Obi was there to pounce on this error and this time made no mistake as the Nerazzurri drew level. Both the teams had chances to gain three points but were denied by the crossbar. El Shaarawy blazed a shot against the bar when it looked easier to score in a one-on-one situation with Handanovic. Icardi could only find the top of the crossbar with a volley but to be fair to the Argentine it was the most difficult out of his three big chances last night. A point against each other does not help any of the Milanese clubs and at this moment both are struggling to get out of mid-table.

Status quo at the top of the table

Paul Pogba’s brace and a second half goal from Carlos Tevez secured all three points for Juventus at the Olimpico which stretches their unbeaten run to 20 Serie A games against Lazio. Max Allegri once again used the Christmas tree formation with the Argentine duo of Carlos Tevez and Roberto Pereyra behind Fernando Llorente. Although Lazio looked threatening on a couple of occasions it was the Bianconeri who took the lead when Paul Pogba rounded off a quick break led by Carlos Tevez. Pogba was running the show and was unlucky to see his curler crash against the post. Claudio Marchisio’s impressive burst down the right led to Juventus’ second goal expertly finished by Carlos Tevez for his ninth goal of this Serie A campaign. Pogba grabbed his second of the night after a delightful reverse from the impressive Pereyra set him on his way. Makeshift left-back Simone Padoin, who had a fine game last night, was sent off few moments later but Lazio could not get any consolation from the game leaving them with 19 points from 12 games.

Roma produced a spirited comeback after falling behind to a 57th second goal from Maxi Moralez to claim all three points from their difficult away trip to Bergamo. Roma fell behind very early on in the match and they were lucky not to go two goals down when De Sanctis flapped a Boukary Drame cross but Daniele Baselli could not hit the target from eight yards out. Atalanta were made to pay for that miss as Adem Ljajic equalized with a fine curling effort into the bottom corner of Sportiello’s left hand post. Roma completed the turnaround few minutes later when Ljaijc turned provider setting up Radja Nainggolan to sidefoot home from inside the box. Atalanta increased the pressure after the interval but Roma held on for three points although they will be worried with Vasilis Torosidis’ injury ahead of their crucial clash against CSKA Moscow in the Champions league this Tuesday.

Unsung hero Antonio Di Natale scores his 200th Serie A goal

Anotonio Di Natale’s seventh league goal of the season was his 200th career goal in Serie A. Di Natale is synonymous to Udinese having remained faithful to the Zebrette despite getting multiple opportunities to join a big club. He once stated: “I’ve played in the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, two European Championships and a World Cup. I could’ve won more elsewhere, but I made my choice and I do not regret it. I’d do it all over again.” Since joining Udinese he has been the Capocannoniere twice in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Loyalty is a rare thing these days and very few players resist the monetary temptation to stand by their club and help them achieve their ambitions. ‘Toto’ Di Natale is one of them. His goal scoring record has been quite extraordinary in Italy with 124 goals in 178 appearances. Now he joins the elite list of players like Silvio Piola, Guiseppe Meazza, Roberto Baggio and Francesco Totti to score 200 goals in Serie A. As age catches up Di Natale’s reflexes have become slow but his influence on the team has not changed one bit. An exemplary professional, Di Natale now sets his sights on Roberto Baggio’s record of 205 goals.

Elsewhere in Serie A…

Cagliari fought back from two goals down to gain a creditable draw against Napoli with Diego Farias scoring a brace. The spectacular 3-3 draw was typical Zemanlandia which confirmed the Czech’s philosophy of trying to score one goal more than the opposition. His counterpart Rafa Benitez would be disappointed to see his side failing to hold on to a lead once again with the same errors creeping in Napoli’s defence last evening as well. Parma’s tumultuous week went from bad to worse as they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at home to Empoli. Roberto Donadoni was adamant that he won’t quit the job but reports suggest Hernan Crespo is ready to take over from the ex-Italy head coach. Eusebio Di Francesco’s hairdryer treatment at half-time did the trick for Sassuolo as they extended their unbeaten run to six games with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Torino. High flying Sampdoria would be bitterly disappointed to drop points against lowly Cesena while Chievo managed to snatch a point near the end at the Stadio Friuli.

Random Facts

  • Juventus have kept nine clean sheets so far, a joint-record in the top five European leagues(alongside Bayern Munich)
  • Carlos Tévez’s goal was the seventh conceded by Lazio in the first 15 minutes of play after half time, a league-low
  • Juventus have always won the game after being ahead in this Serie A season
  • Roma attempted only six shots tonight (including blocked), their worst tally in a Serie A game this season
  • Roma have scored 15 first half goals this season (five every 15 minutes), more than any other Serie A team
  • Cagliari have scored the joint-most goals on the road in the current Serie A so far – 14, along with AC Milan.
  • Napoli are the only Serie A side that have found the net following a throw-in this season: Higuain vs Cagliari, Callejon vs Inter.
  • Antonio Di Natale scored his 200th Serie A goal in his 400th appearance in the top-flight
  • Sassuolo have now gone unbeaten for 6 games (3W 3D), their best ever run in Serie A
  • Torino have failed to convert each of the last 5 penalties taken in Serie A (3 this season with 3 different players)
  • This was only the second draw over the last 20 Milan Derbies in Serie A (11 wins for Inter, 7 for AC Milan)
  • Joel Obi’s very first goal in Serie A (54 appearances) has come right in the Derby against AC Milan

Goal Of The Week

El Shaarawy’s cross around knee height was nonchalantly guided into the back of the net with a classy side-footed finish by Jeremy Menez. It was a stunning goal from the enigmatic Frenchman, providing the only moment of real quality in a disappointing derby.