Serie A analysis – Chiellini fires Juve to the top, Genoa respond in style

Juventus travelled to the capital for the second consecutive fixture. Having dispatched Roma prior to the international break sealing Luciano Spalletti’s fate, the Bianconeri faced an equally tough assignment against a rejuvenated Lazio. Biancocelesti Coach Davide Ballardini had taken note of how the Turin giants had dismantled Roma and set his team up to try to suppress their opponents. Missing both their key strikers Tommaso Rocchi and Mauro Zarate, Julio Cruz played as the lone front man with support behind from Pasquale Foggia as Ballardini flooded the midfield to repel any Juventus sorties. His troops were highly charged in the opening exchanges, tenacious tackling knocked the Bianconeri out of their stride. Ciro Ferrara was missing his inspirational leader Fabio Cannavaro so it was left to Giorgio Chiellini and Nicola Legrottaglie to organise the troops at the back. Chiellini has been subject of much debate in the peninsula, his selection in Marcelo Lippi’s Azzurri squad sparked hours upon hours of heated arguments. On Saturday night these critics were silenced with an outstanding display of leadership and courage that left all who witnessed it in no doubt about his international credentials. After his team had lost their star player Diego on the stroke of half-time, Chiellini stood firm, putting his body on the line time and time again as the hosts pummelled the Juventus back line in the second period searching for the breakthrough. The big defender had laid the foundations and his teammates seemed to feed off his inspirational display. With less than 20 minutes left to play Martin Caceres, playing in his Juventus debut, fired the Old Lady in front and four minutes into injury time, David Trezeguet sealed the points to continue their perfect start to the season.

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For 70 minutes on Sunday, Claudio Ranieri’s debut on the AS Roma bench was turning into a nightmare – one down to Siena, the team lacked inspiration, and looked set for their third straight defeat of the season. Introduction of Mirko Vucinic and John Arne Riise and suddenly, the game was turned on its head as the Giallorossi got on level terms with a goal from big defender Philipe Mexes, and then stole all three points a minute from time with an absolute thunderbolt of a free kick from Riise. At the game’s conclusion, an extraordinary outpouring of emotion from Daniele De Rossi showed just how much this meant to all Romanisti. Sunday evening saw an emotionally charged match between Genoa and Napoli. This game already had history as last season Genoa had won the corresponding fixture 3-2 whilst playing with only nine men, and this time around the inexperienced Paolo Tagliavento, had the unenviable task of keeping things under control. Right from the first whistle tempers were frayed and after just 28 minutes the inevitable happened as Genoa’s Domenico Criscito was expelled for dissent, it was clear to all what was said with an extremely offensive hand gesture, the young official was correct in sending him from the field. Marik Hamsik put the visitors ahead three minutes from the break before more controversy six minutes into first half stoppage time. Napoli defender Hugo Campagnaro, having already been booked for a lunge on Genoa goalkeeper Marco Amelia, hauled down Giuseppe Sculli in the penalty area leaving Tagliavento no option but to produce another red card. As Sergio Floccari despatched the penalty with aplomb, half time was needed to calm tempers.

Despite the dismissals, this was turning into an exceptional football match – the home crowd were creating a rip roaring atmosphere seldom seen in Italian football arenas these days. Coach Giampiero Gasperini played his trump card after the break as Argentinian Rodrigo Palacio replaced Giuseppe Sculli as it was clear it was just a matter of time before he would also see red. Palacio and Giandomenico Mesto were proving too hot to handle and ten minutes into the second period the latter unleashed an unstoppable right foot shot which left Napoli keeper Morgan De Sanctis stranded as it nestled into the back of the net. The game was all one way from here, two more goals from substitutes Hernan Crespo and Houssine Kharja put the gloss on a victory that fires the Rossoblu joint top of the table. Despite the game being all but over there was still time for one more sending off – Napoli defender Salvatore Aronica racked up his second yellow card four minutes from time leaving Roberto Donadoni’s side in nine. The Grifoni look set for the long haul and a ticket for a Genoa home game is the hottest ticket in town right now. Finally, a special mention for Udinese hit man Antonio Di Natale, whose second half hat-trick against Catania sees him projected to the top of the goal scorers table and must have caught the eye of Azzurri Coach Marcello Lippi.

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