On Saturday night at the Artemio Franchi Stadium in Florence, one of Serie A’s most astute Coaches masterminded the unlikeliest of victories to put his side temporarily into the top three of the Championship. Francesco Guidolin has quietly gone about his business to make Parma a force to be reckoned with. Against Fiorentina, his team played with verve and style and nobody could argue that his team didn’t deserve to win 2-3 after an exhilarating 90 minutes against la Viola. His starting formation of 3-5-2 was designed to get his two wing backs, Cristian Zaccardo and Paolo Castellini, in behind the Fiorentina rearguard. After 30 minutes it worked to perfection as Zaccardo crossed from the right for Nicola Amoruso to level the scores after Alberto Gilardino had given the hosts the lead just five minutes earlier. Amoruso is a perfect example of Guidolin’s expertise in the transfer market, having taken the veteran striker from Torino in the summer – he proved in Florence that he still has an eye for goal as he was given a starting berth up-front to replace the injured Alberto Paloschi. His strike partner on Saturday night, Valerj Bojinov, has had a new lease of life at Parma. Having spent two years in the English Premiership with Manchester City, the Bulgarian’s career seemed as good as over due to the crippling injuries that meant he only made a handful of appearances at Eastlands. Guidolin was aware of what a fit Bojinov was capable of so he took a gamble on him and has been repaid in kind with some sparkling displays this season. When he latched on to the end of a beautifully flighted free-kick from Daniele Galloppa eight minutes into the second-half, he reminded another of his former employers just what they were missing. Guidolin has got the balance of his team absolutely right as he has taken experienced players such as Amoruso and former Roma defender Christian Panucci, and blended them with some of the Italy’s most outstanding young talent such as Paloschi and the highly rated Daniele Galloppa.
The former Siena man has formed a formidable midfield partnership with Stefano Morrone, who himself has lead by example this season, proving to be an inspirational captain to the rest of his team. The squad also has strength in depth, as Fiorentina found to their cost when former Bari outcast, Davide Lanzafame, replaced an exhausted Bojinov on 63 minutes and just five minutes later, grabbed his side’s winning goal. The coach was full of praise for his players at the end of the game: “I have an extraordinary squad”, was Guidolin’s assessment of his team’s performance. Many people will wonder for how long the Ducali can keep up the pressure on Italy’s elite, if Saturday night is anything to go by, we hope it will be until at least next May.
Incredible scenes in the capital on Sunday afternoon as 10,000 Bari fans packed into the Stadio Olimpico to see their team play AS Roma. What they witnessed in the first 45 minutes was an absolute master class in forward play by Roma’s inspirational Francesco Totti. The saying “one man doesn’t make a team” is regularly used in football, but in Roma’s case, it’s all about Prince Francesco. The Giallorossi are a different animal with Totti pulling the strings. His role as lone striker allows Mirko Vucinic to play wide on the left where he is far more comfortable and he seemed inspired by his captain’s return as they blew Bari away in the opening period. Totti opened his account from the penalty spot after just seven minutes, followed up with a blistering right foot freekick eight minutes later, and then made sure he got to take the match ball home with a superb left foot shot just before the half hour mark. Coach Claudio Ranieri was left purring, President Rosella Sensi was left purring and the tifosi in the Curva Sud were left wondering if they will ever see the likes of him again. To Bari’s enormous credit, they never gave up and their supporters, packed into the Curva Nord, never stopped encouraging their team, a late own goal from Roma defender Marco Andreolli gave them some reward for a spirited second half display.