Turin has proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Rosanero over the past few years. On Thursday night, the success continued as Palermo notched up a very impressive 3-1 victory over Juventus and continued their winning streak at the Stadio Olympico to three games.
Javier Pastore was once again the key man in the big game and his man of the match performance started with a second minute goal, which settled the team into a nice rhythm. His vision was once again the centrepiece of his performance and the languid midfielder would time and again take the right option. A seemingly simple task, frustratingly missed by most of the players all season. With the 1-0 lead, Salvatore Sirigu seemed to pick up his form from last season as well after recent criticism and pulled off a couple of fantastic saves from Alessandro Del Piero. With the defence holding out, Palermo were able to fly down field and Ilicic scored his second rebounded goal in the last four days. Juve still carried on when Bovo put the tie firmly out of their reach with a thumping free kick. A consolation goal at the end will not detract from an excellent performance and the result their recent performances have been warranting.
Maybe it was the return of the club captain Fabrizio Miccoli to the substitute bench that inspired them to a performance reminiscent of last spring. Maybe it was just finally starting to click with the players and they now have a better feel for each other. Either way, the Rosanero fans will be relieved to see some life in their team and a glimmer of hope for the rest of the campaign. Pastore correctly identified the key afterwards: ‘It was important to find the back of the net early.’ This settled the nerves and finally gave them some encouragement. Confidence must have been low after losing a 29 game streak without a defeat at home on Sunday. The season had not started how they wanted and they would have felt time slipping by if this form had continued. Getting the early goal was a statement that they were coming out fighting and not ready to give up yet.
Pastore seems confident this is a team with all the right things coming together: ‘Tonight, we have seen the real Palermo, like the one from last season and we hope to continue like this.’ There have never been any negative words coming from the players or coaching staff this season and maybe this is the performance they all knew they were capable of. The challenge will be to see if they can replicate this throughout the crucial few months that lie ahead.
A few months starting with Lecce on Sunday. These are the games that need to be won in order to fulfill the lofty ambitions set at the open. Delio Rossi has already downplayed celebratory notes and called for concentration: ‘I have always said the team is full of quality players. What we are lacking is experience, but against Juve we played a great match. Our focus though, needs to turn to Lecce on Sunday.’ Indeed all the good work achieved on Thursday night could quickly be undone at the weekend. The players seemed to have regained some confidence and will no doubt be buoyed by this result and be spurred on to better results.
What will be most pleasing for the Coaching staff will be the performance of the two central defenders, Cesare Bovo and Ezequiel Munoz. The Juve forwards were ineffective and inefficient, which will boost the pair dramatically. Having come in for much criticism recently, their placement and decision making was much better and they will hope will be the stepping stone for further improvements.
The performances of the last few weeks haven’t been the problem, it had just been the lack of results. A moral boosting victory like this will have the Rosanero fans in full voice once again. Whether this will be the highlight of the season or the start of a rejuvenated campaign, time will yet tell, but a Palermo team reminiscent of last year could really shake things up in the most open title race in years.