Football Italiano’s 500@five – Inter fail to seize the initiative

Inter produced a thoroughly uninspiring performance against Genoa and failed once more to increase its lead following Milan and Roma’s goalless draw.

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Jose Mourinho’s frustration with his players was evident as they played some turgid football to limp to a 0-0 draw at the San Siro. This was the first time since 1998 that the Nerazzurri have been held without scoring on their home ground for two games in succession. It also means that Inter have now won only once in their last five outings, their drop in form keeping a title race open which should have been sealed long ago. Mourinho’s men resembled more of the dysfunctional unit they were a few years ago than the leaders of the Italian Championship.

Another point that became even more apparent in this game was the immaturity of Mario Balotelli, as the youngster returned to his tantrum throwing ways. Balotelli did his chances of appearing for the Azzurri no favours by delivering a characteristically insipid performance that lacked imagination. Inter transfer guru Marco Branca blamed fatigue from international duty for the lacklustre draw.

Inter’s cause was however helped by an equally tight game between Milan and Roma on Saturday. Both teams knew victory was paramount for their title cause, but erratic finishing and wastefulness lead to a rather timid exhibition of football. Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani’s claim that the clash would be “aesthetically most pleasing” turned out to be quite the opposite. The fluidity of Milan’s build-up play was belied by its finishing, whilst Roma seemed to choke in front of the sell-out crowd at the Olimpico. Leonardo’s men showed the same kind of profligacy that sees them trailing Manchester United 3-2 going into this week’s Champions League clash. If Milan had managed to maintain its momentum this side of the year they could have well been level on points with Inter, if not ahead of them already. The other concern for the Rossoneri will be the absence of Alexandre Pato, as without the Brazilian the side lacks a clinical finisher.

Palermo meanwhile continued its impressive string of results with a 1-0 victory over Livorno thanks to an 81st minute Fabrizio Miccoli strike. The Sicilians were dominant throughout the game and deservedly scored the late winner to stay in fourth place, two points above Juventus. The Bianconeri were lucky to come away with a 2-1 win from Florence, as Fiorentina were the better side for long periods of the game. However, the characteristic of a good side is in its ability to win without playing too well and the Old Lady seems to slowly but steadily be working their way out of its rut. Antonio Candreva finally showed his value for the team with a very able performance, the midfielder seeming to have comfortably fitted into the system at Turin.

This week’s action was all quite restricted, probably as a reaction to last week’s goal glut. Serie A was back doing what it does best – defending. It has also become apparent this season that the gap between the top half of the table has narrowed considerably. It also seems more and more likely that this title will go down to the wire and any premature predictions are as good as a punter’s bet.

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