After a three and a half month sabbatical Serie A returned, rebranded, repackaged and with controversy still lurking murkily in the background.
Before a ball was kicked in the new campaign trouble was afoot in Bologna and on Sunday morning coach Franco Colomba was relieved of his duties with president Sergio Porcedda declaring that the two men could not agree on how to take the club forward. I Rossoblu now face champions Inter on Monday evening with an air of uncertainty hanging over the club.
The on field action got underway early Saturday evening and congratulations must go to Giandomenico Mesto. The Genoa forward’s fantastic overhead kick eight minutes from time was the first goal of the new season as his side defeated Udinese at the Stadio Friuli.
The first Saturday night fixture took place in the capital as Roma entertained new boys Cesena. The game kicked off in an atmosphere that was eerily quiet. The reason for this was a protest from Roma’s hardcore supporters in the Curva Sud who boycotted the first 45 minutes in protest against the “Tessera del Tifosi”, a new identity card that fans must purchase in order to travel to away matches .This action was mirrored at grounds across the peninsula.
One consolation was that they missed absolutely nothing from their team on the pitch in a turgid opening period. Cesena came to the Stadio Olimpico with nothing to lose before start of play and left with a hard earned point after a dull goalless draw.
Coach Massimo Ficcadenti must take the plaudits for masterminding his team’s outstanding display. His 4-3-3 formation was designed to hit the home side on the counterattack. The 43-year-old coach identified a weakness in the Roma backline and he placed the quick Japanese defender Yuto Nagatomo on the left hand side to make life uncomfortable for full-back Marco Cassetti. Time and again the man on loan from FC Tokyo was the outlet as the hosts over committed on their sorties into opposition territory.
Alongside Albanian hit man Erjon Bogdani and young midfielder Ezequiel Schelotto, Nagatomo ensured his team enjoyed every single minute of their return to the top-flight after a 19 year absence.
Roma by their own admission were poor. Jeremy Menez having been placed in a free role behind the front two of Francesco Totti and Mirko Vucinic had one of his all too familiar off nights. It wasn’t until coach Claudio Ranieri replaced him after the hour mark with Rodrigo Taddei and reverted to a more orthodox 4-4-2 that the team looked more like the side that played some scintillating football last season.
Ranieri admitted in his post match interview that his players were suffering physically and that he hoped to have the squad at the optimum level for their Champions League opener against Bayern Munich in mid September when new striker Adriano should have completed his rehabilitation from injury.
Roma’s opening five games looked like they could provide the catalyst for a title charge. However after Saturday’s listless showing the next four are now vital to their season.
On Sunday the two other newly promoted teams both started with defeats. Lecce had a baptism of fire going down 4-0 at the Giuseppe Meazza against a Milan side seemingly rejuvenated by the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovich from Barcelona.
The big Swede was paraded on the pitch prior to kick-off and after 29 minutes of the first period Alexandre Pato was playing as though he believed his place in the team was under threat as he netted two of his side’s opening three goals. In the dying seconds of the match Filippo Inzaghi added the fourth.
Brescia meanwhile went down 2-0 at Parma. The opening weekend has also called into question the need for goal line technology with Edson Cavani’s debut goal for Napoli at Fiorentina being wrongly awarded as replays showed that his header did not not cross the line.
In a bad tempered affair that saw red cards issued to Juan Vargas and Manuele Blasi it was another debutant Gaetano D’Agostino who ensured a share of the spoils with a wonderful left foot strike early in the second-half.
After the game Napoli Coach Walter Mazzarri seemed to know exactly what his team was suffering from when he said “we have certainly paid for our trip to Elfsbourg last Thursday.” but then retracted by saying “we will not use this as an alibi”.
He also refused to comment on striker Fabio Quagliarella’s shock transfer to Juventus and was probably as surprised as anybody to hear that Luigi Del Neri’s new look side had gone down 1-0 to Bari earlier in the day.
The nine month rollercoaster of thrills and spills in Italy’s top flight are well and truly off and running.