Club Focus – Chievo – Back to earth with a bump but a draw is all it takes for the Flying Donkeys

It was the result that every Hellas Verona fan had been praying for all weekend. The past seven days had been a living nightmare for the fans of Verona’s first and most successful club, as every time they opened the local or national newspaper, there it was, in black and white. Not only did their city rivals, Chievo, have six points, but they were sat two points clear as the only club in Serie A with a 100% record after two games. Every critic (and to some extent, every Chievo fan as well), knew it could not possibly last. However, if one man was going to be the architect of their downfall, it was always going to be Beppe Iachini.He was the Coach who led the Gialloblu back out of Serie B and into the big time, at the first opportunity three years ago, after their relegation from the top tier. He was dismissed in November 2008, following the Flying Donkeys’ disastrous return to Serie A. This must have made Iachini only more determined as he returned to the Stadio Bentegodi, for the first time since that day, as the man at the helm of Brescia – incidentally – another club he has just led out of the second division.

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Gialloblu Coach Stefano Pioli kept faith with the same formation that got off to such a flying start by making short work of Catania and recording a fantastic 3-1 win over Genoa. A lot was expected of the Flying Donkeys, after that emphatic performance last week and every part of the side had been performing to their maximum and, most importantly, in unison in the opening two weeks. This meant that, when Brazilian central midfielder Luciano – an integral cog in the Gialloblu machine – hobbled off with a knee problem after only 15 minutes, the Bentegodi faithful began to fear the worst. This was confirmed on the half hour mark, when the quite brilliant Alessandro Diamanti curled a perfect free-kick over the wall and into the top corner for what would prove to be the only goal of the game. When Luca Rigoni was replaced at half time after an ineffective performance, it left the Gialloblu ‘tifosi’ scratching their heads as to what was going on and how to remedy their midfield problems.
This is where Mr Pioli will have to start to earn his money. In the first two games of the season, the midfield of Chievo was simply outstanding. The trio of central midfielders Luciano, Rigoni and Michele Marcolini were unsung heroes as they kept the engine room of the side ticking over. This left the creative skills of Simone Bentivoglio free to cause mayhem around the final third of their opponents’ half, for the front pairing of Sergio Pellissier and Davide Moscardelli to take advantage of. The early departure of Luciano and the halftime withdrawal of Rigoni meant that the Gialloblu midfield was disjointed and never really got on top of the game. New signing Gelson Fernandes was brought on to replace Luciano and, although he showed some great touches, it will take more than just two games for him to adapt to life in Serie A.
This didn’t mean, however, that Brescia had things all their own way throughout the game. Davide Moscardelli wasted a great early chance due to his poor first touch and Simone Bentivoglio blazed a guilt-edged opportunity over the bar from close range, shortly before Diamanti showed why he was so highly-sought-after when he made his move to the Premiership and West Ham United. Sergio Pellissier, then, found himself clear on goal with eight minutes left, only for the referee to call play back for an earlier foul by the Gialloblu skipper.
Pioli will be hard at work on the training ground this week as his next task is to find a way of keeping the midfield as tight as possible as they travel down South to face a Napoli side that will be abuzz with excitement, after a brace, scored in the last few minutes, saw them turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win at Sampdoria, thus making it their first win there in 14 years. This leaves the table looking rather tight after three games, with Chievo still third, despite that first defeat while Napoli have climbed to seventh place. If Pioli’s men can avoid defeat and pick up a wonderful hard-earned point at the San Paolo, then the Gialloblu faithful can really begin to believe that they are in for a season to remember.
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