Just three weeks into the new campaign and the pressure is already starting to mount on some of the major players in Serie A. After Milan vice president Adriano Galliani’s extraordinary attack on the quality of refereeing after his side’s 2-0 defeat at Cesena and Roma coach Claudio Ranieri’s 10 minute tirade at his pre-match press conference on Saturday, this weekend will have done nothing to calm the waters at Milanello or Trigoria.
On Saturday night at a rain sodden Giuseppe Meazza stadium, Galliani again watched in horror from the stands as his team were held to a 1-1 draw by Catania. The islanders were one of the least active clubs during the summer transfer window, but Coach Marco Giampaolo took all the plaudits after the match for his diligent tactics as he side earned a well deserved point. The post match statistics showed Milan had over two thirds possession during the game but Giampaolo’s side used this to their advantage with a series of devastating counter attacks that should have closed the game out before half-time. Led by the brilliant Adrian Ricchiuti and last season’s goal scoring sensation Maxi Lopez, the Sicilian’s were quite happy to allow their hosts to advance with Lopez always available as an outlet. As Milan searched for the opening goal, their defence was left threadbare and the speed by which the visitors attacked set alarm bells ringing. When the deadlock was finally broken it was from a wonder strike from defender Ciro Capuano who smashed in a 25 yard howitzer which did nothing to improve the mood in the VIP area. Filippo Inzaghi rescued a point for the hosts with a first-half injury time strike which was harsh on the visitors. Milan tactician Massimiliano Allegri declared after the match: “We cannot keep defending like this,” before adding “I do not feel there is a problem with our concentration”. The people who pay his salary may beg to differ.
Another 20 minutes of madness cost Roma all three points at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday afternoon. After conceding two late goals to Bayern Munich in midweek, Claudio Ranieri’s side did exactly the same against Bologna as the giallorossi threw away a two goal advantage to leave the club with just two points from their opening three matches. On Sunday evening on Italy’s premier sports show Domenica Sportiva, many people called into question the fitness of Ranieri’s squad as they capitulated in the final quarter. Ranieri begged to differ when he explained “if we had just looked to protect our two goal lead and not gone looking for a third we would have won the game. At this moment the team is tranquil and serene”. Last season Roma had the third best defensive record in the league – this campaign has seen seven goals shipped already. Brazilian central defender Juan is looking a pale imitation of himself and Philippe Mexes is demonstrating the erratic form that forced Ranieri to pursue the signing of Nicolas Burdisso so vigorously during the summer. With the Argentine central defender currently suspended and John Arne Riise still missing with a head injury, the back four looked clueless.
Full-backs Marco Cassetti and Aleandro Rosi whilst good going forward, look hopelessly out of their depth defensively. To make matters worse for the tifosi in the Curva Sud, it was former Lazio striker Marco Di Vaio who grabbed a brace to break Roman hearts, his first goal being a classic example of pace and power as he out muscled Rosi before despatching an angled drive into the corner of the net. There was at least one positive for Ranieri, a first goal for new striker Marco Borriello. As the capital club search for new owners, if things do not improve quickly, they may also be searching for a new coach.
Over the past week it looked increasingly likely Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri would sacrifice either midfielder Marek Hamsik or Argentinian playmaker Ezequiel Lavezzi in favour of new signing Jose Sosa for the trip to Genoa to face Sampdoria. Fortunately for the vesuviani he opted to stick instead of twist and was rewarded by Hamsik grabbing his side’s equalizer and Lavezzi setting up the winner for Uruguayan hit man Edinson Cavani with a delicious left foot cross as the southern giants picked up their first win of the season and their first win against the blucerchiati for 15 years. Mazzarri explained the reason behind his decision after the match “I decided to give Hamsik a more central role and this worked well. He played with maturity today. I also gave Lavezzi a more attacking role and his performance really pleased me. It is still early season I we have to consider the players physical condition”.