Serie A analysis – Week 29 – Roma back in the race for the Scudetto

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Roma president Rosella Sensi couldn’t watch, half of Rome couldn’t watch, as Mirko Vucinic coolly stepped up to convert the penalty that put his side 3-2 ahead against a plucky Udinese side on Saturday evening at the Stadio Olimpico. As news filtered through of Inter’s failure to see off the challenge of Palermo in Sicily, the capital outfit was giving its supporters a collective heart attack with another topsy-turvy 90 minutes of thrills and spills. Vucinic was simply outstanding in attack alongside Luca Toni, and within 25 minutes both men had netted to put the Giallorossi two up and seemingly out of sight. This, however, is Roma, and when Antonio Di Natale scored his 20th goal of the season from the penalty spot shortly before half-time, and then his 21st to bring the visitors level with half an hour to go, the tifosi on the Curva Sud must have feared that another chance to close the gap on the two Milan giants at the top of the table had disappeared. Thankfully no-one told Vucinic – who kept his head to put away the spot kick and then secure his first hat-trick for i Lupi seven minutes from time with a superb strike to make the points safe. A patched up Roma which was missing Daniele De Rossi, David Pizarro and Rodrigo Taddei through suspension had left its supporters breathless once again. Next comes a tricky away day at Bologna before next weekend’s massive clash with Inter in Stadio Olimpico.

Gabriele Oriali, a World Cup winner in 1982 and now Inter Milan director, used the after match press conference to criticise referee Antonio Damato’s leniency in not sending off Palermo full-back Cesare Bovo for a crude tackle on Diego Milito. Bovo had already conceded a penalty after just 11 minutes as he wrestled Lucio to the ground and was lucky not to have received a second yellow card for his second infringement. Chelsea fans would have watched with interest as Damato pointed to the spot – sometimes there is no justice in football – Milito tucking the spot kick away with ease. Palermo, under the shrewd guidance of Delio Rossi, are a real force at the Renzo Barbera and immediately drove the visitors back in search of an equaliser. They didn’t have to wait long, as Uruguayan youngster Edison Cavani levelled the contest just 13 minutes later. The match never lost its edge as the visitors desperately looked for a winning goal to stop their dreadful recent run of results, but a decisive strike never materialised and now it is no win in seven for the Nerazzurri. In most circumstances, a draw in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the Sicilian capital would be seen as a point gained, but Jose Mourinho and his staff knew it was two dropped – Milan now had a chance to climb to the summit of Serie A for the first time in almost three years.

By 4.55pm on Sunday afternoon, Inter were still top of Serie A, thanks to another blundering display from Leonardo’s side. The Rossoneri had gifted Napoli an opening goal when full-back Massimo Oddo apparently decided to man mark his own goalkeeper, allowing Hugo Campagnaro to stroke the ball into an empty net. Napoli were trying to win at the San Siro against Milan for the first time since 1986, back then it was Diego Maradona who inspired the team, now it was another Argentinian, Ezequiel Lavezzi, who acted as the fulcrum of the Partenopei. When Alexandre Pato hobbled off after just 15 minutes, the Milanisti must have feared the worst but Filippo Inzaghi drew his team level just before the half-hour mark. The second period was a tense affair, Morgan De Sanctis in the Napoli goal was inspired as Ronaldinho tried to drag his side on to victory but, unlike seven days ago against Chievo, there was no fairytale finish as Inter Milan stayed top by a point.

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Juventus are in boot camp this week after another woeful display at the Luigi Ferraris in Genoa where Sampdoria had revenge in mind for their 5-1 hammering earlier in the season in Turin. The match was settled by a moment of madness when Antonio Cassano hit a speculative shot from all of 35 yards that deceived third choice goalkeeper Antonio Chimenti and gave the Genovese all three points – Juventus now travel to Naples on Thursday where they will face another stern test.

Finally, Serse Cosmi’s rollercoaster ride in charge of basement club Livorno seems to be at an end. Following his team’s 3-0 hammering at the hands of Atalanta Cosmi said:“I feel betrayed by my players”. Having already threatened to walk out earlier in the season, it seems President Aldo Spinelli, not renowned for his patience with his managers, will have the taxi waiting for Cosmi and a new name in place for the team’s mid-week trip to the San Siro to face Inter.

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