Rafa Benitez is teetering on the brink of a premature sacking at Inter after the Italian and European champions were shockingly beaten by Chievo, cutting them further adrift from the leaders in Serie A, their city rivals Milan.
Inter went into the match at the Stadio Bentegodi with an injury crisis in most positions, but even so a defeat to Chievo has left Benitez clinging onto his job. Added to that, the only Nerazzurri player to be playing to their maximum capabilities, Samuel Eto’o, is surely going to receive a ban for a Zinedine Zidane-style head-butt on a Chievo defender.
Sergio Pellissier gave the Flying Donkeys an unlikely lead with a bullet header, and soon after Eto’o’s moment of madness came. He had been tussling with Bostjan Cesar, before planting his head into the defender’s chest while the referee’s back was turned. Marco Materazzi must have had déjà vu from the Inter bench.
Davide Moscardelli doubled Chievo’s lead before Eto’o made it 2-1 in stoppage time, but it was too little too late. Benitez, whose side are in sixth place and nine points off the top of the league, must be wondering where to go from here. His job (if he still has one in the morning) will be made harder when Eto’o is surely suspended for his head-butt.
Milan would have enjoyed seeing Inter falter, especially as they stretched their lead at the top on Saturday night. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s classy overhead kick gave them a 1-0 win over Fiorentina, who are starting to regain their form after a drab start. Notably, Ronaldinho was again dropped for the San Siro clash after his nightclub exploits last week.
Milan are three points clear after second-placed Lazio failed to match their win. Parma hosted Lazio at the Ennio Tardini and managed to snatch a draw to boost their recent good form that has seen them shoot up the table and out of the relegation zone. Hernan Crespo gave Parma the lead against his former club but Luca Antonelli’s own goal ensured a 1-1.
Napoli strengthened their surprise third place position with a convincing thrashing of Bologna at the San Paolo. Christian Maggio and a Marek Hamsik double gave the hosts the lead, and although Riccardo Meggiorini pulled one back, Edinson Cavani gave Napoli a 4-1 win. The loss deepens the woes of Bologna who are struggling on the pitch as much as they are in the board room, with financial difficulties prohibiting their progress. Bologna sit just three points above the drop zone.
Juventus and Roma are two sides whose bad starts threatened to undermine their season, but both have got back on track recently. Juventus beat Genoa 2-0 in a match that the Rossoblu’s goalkeeper Eduardo will want to forget. He scored an own goal to give Juve the lead before unconvincingly allowed a Milos Krasic strike to ensure victory for the Bianconeri, keeping them in the top-four. Roma prevailed over Udinese by the same score-line, as Jeremy Menez and Marco Borriello netted impressive solo goals. Roma stay in fifth position but within touching distance of the teams ahead.
Catania vitally pulled six points clear of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win over Bari, who are still propping up the table. It seemed that Bari could steal a point at the Stadio Massimino in Sicily when Catania’s star striker Maxi Lopez got himself sent off. Lopez has been courted by big clubs recently but two bookings for protesting to the referee will not have impressed them. Nevertheless, Christian Terlizzi scored a late winner to give Catania breathing space.
Cesena also remain in the bottom three after losing 2-1 to Palermo at the Stadio Manuzzi. Josip Ilicic gave the Sicilian side the lead with a remarkable back-heel, but Erjon Bogdani equalised. However, the first goal of the season for Fabrizio Miccoli upon his return from injury gave Palermo the three points to keep them in European contention.
Roberto Donadoni’s debut as Coach of Cagliari went perfectly as he distanced the club from the relegation zone with a 2-1 win over 18th-placed Brescia. Andrea Caracciolo’s penalty put Brescia in front before two goals within three minutes in the second half for Cagliari. Alessandro Matri and Daniele Conti’s screamer gave Donadoni an undeserved victory.
Lecce are just a point off the relegation zone after a losing to Sampdoria, for whom Giampaolo Pazzini netted a hat-trick. His first goal gave Sampdoria a lead before Lecce’s Javier Chevanton was red-carded. Pazzini’s penalty made it 2-0 but Lecce’s 10 men fought back, with David Di Michele and Suleymane Diamoutene equalising. But, Pazzini struck again with two minutes left to confirm victory.