It was billed as the most important game since the last most important game, as experts unanimously predicted that the losers of this mid-week blockbuster would be out of the title race. Perhaps those statements were a little premature, but this was a chance for one of the Nerazzurri’s closest challengers to lay down a marker for the coming months. Juventus went into the game ravaged by injuries with defender Martin Cáceres joining Vincenzo Iaquinta, Alex Del Piero, Hasan Salihamidžic, Jonathan Zebina and Tiago on the treatment table. New Juventus President Jean-Claude Blanc was looking for a memorable debut for his tenure at the helm of one of Italy’s superpowers.
Sampdoria was coming off the back of a sensational 4-1 destruction of Bologna and were supremely confident of getting a result at the Stadio Olimpico. Luigi Del Neri could welcome back Daniele Gastaldello to the heart of his defence, but lost the services of his captain Angelo Palombo, the only changes from last Saturday’s footballing master class at the Luigi Ferraris. Del Neri was oozing confidence before the game, stating that his side merited top spot in the championship. Many comparisons have been made to this team and the last Sampdoria title winning side from 1991. Then, the Blucerchiati were masterminded by the Yugoslav Coach Vujadin Boskov and had the talents of Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli orchestrating things on the pitch. In 2009, Del Neri has the mercurial Antonio Cassano supplying the ammunition to Giampaolo Pazzini as the team from Genoa look to break the Inter stranglehold on the Serie A crown.
At the end of a pulsating evening at the Stadio Olimpico, one team’s title aspirations were re-kindled whilst the others lay in tatters. Juventus’ 5-1 beating of Sampdoria was the clearest message yet that Ciro Ferrara’s men are here for the long haul. Inspired by the brilliant Brazilian playmaker Diego, the Bianconeri simply took Sampdoria apart in a scintillating 90 minutes, the echoes of which will reverberate all the way to Milan. Luigi Del Neri will have woken up on Thursday morning wondering just what happened to his team. Diego, alongside Sebastian Giovinco, orchestrated proceedings right from kick-off. The little Italian eluded his marker Marius Stankevicius all evening to create opportunity after opportunity for Amauri, who led the line superbly. By the time Giorgio Chiellini had doubled Juventus’s advantage towards the end of the first-half, adding to Amauri’s 26th minute opener, Del Neri had swapped his system around by bringing on striker Claudio Bellucci to replace defender Luciano Zauri. This enabled Reto Ziegler to drop into the back four and gave Antonio Cassano licence to roam behind a front two.
Cassano was totally ineffective all evening as Felipe Melo and Mohamed Sissoko followed his every move and closed down any space Del Neri’s main talisman could find. Any hopes Sampdoria had of clawing their way back into the game in the second-half evaporated after just five minutes when a wonderful team goal involving Diego and Giovinco culminated in Mauro Camoranesi slotting the ball home. The party could start in earnest. A brilliant header from Amauri capped off a wonderful performance from him, and substitute David Trezeguet got in on the act despatching his side’s fifth to send his family in the VIP area into raptures. A consolation goal from Giampaolo Pazzini could not take the gloss off a wonderful night for the Bianconeri, whose supporters left the stadium purring with excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead.
Sampdoria were left to lick their wounds and must get back on track at the weekend against Bari, or their excellent start to the campaign could all have been for nothing. Marcello Lippi would surely have noted the wonderful display from Giovinco, and with regular performances of this calibre, a seat on the plane to South Africa looks far more likely. On the other hand, Cassano spent most of the evening sulking around the field at war with himself and with his teammates. For those people thinking that the former Bari man has been criminally left out the national team, last night’s performance may have provided more questions than answers.
Serie A analysis
Milan, a tale of one city, Roma, the same old problems– August 24, 2009
José’s derby day delight, Diego tames the Roman gladiators– August 31, 2009
Chiellini fires Juve to the top, Genoa respond in style– September 14, 2009
Top spot for a resurgent Samp, Totti leads from the front again– September 21, 2009
Two tales of one city– September 25, 2009
Will the real Viola please reveal themselves, Inter fall in Genoa– September 28, 2009
Inter go clear as Juve and Fiorentina play out entertaining draw– October 19, 2009
Juventus or Sampdoria, who are Inter’s real challengers?– October 29, 2009