Serie A analysis – Week 32 – Top three all win, Lopez is the toast of Catania

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The Easter weekend of fixtures in Serie A brought no change to the leader board as the top three all recorded victories. On paper, Inter looked to have the easiest fixture as they played host to Bologna – but after another turbulent week off the field for the Nerazzurri, it was hardly a home-banker. Calciopoli once again reared its ugly head, as President Morratti had to answer some uncomfortable questions after Gazzetta Dello Sport published a transcript of conversations held in 2005 between ex-refereeing supremo Paolo Bergamo and himself. Striker Mario Balotelli went on the club’s website to apologise for his immature behaviour after he called into a live TV chat show to vent his anger about being left out of the squad over the previous month. All this, of course, in addition to Jose Mourinho’s sensational midweek press conference, in which he told shocked reporters how he: “loved Inter Milan but hated Italian football because it hates him”. Thus, it came as something of a surprise when Balotelli was named in the starting line-up for the visit of Bologna. The youngster was greeted by both applause and whistles as he entered the arena on Saturday afternoon but, just seven minutes into the second-half, he silenced the boo boys by grabbing his team’s second goal as the league leaders cruised to a 3-0 victory. Thiago Motta returned to form, grabbing a brace to keep the Nerazzurri at the summit of Serie A.

In Rome, the harmonious mood of the one half of the city formed a marked contrast to the off-field turmoil in Milan. AS Roma are riding a crest of a wave and Saturday’s trip to Bari saw 15,000 fans converge on Puglia. The anticipation was almost unbearable before kick-off – Bari had only lost twice on their home patch but Claudio Ranieri’s men were unbeaten in 21 league games. The Roman born tactician opted to start with all his crown jewels. Francesco Totti returned from injury to partner Luca Toni in attack, Mirko Vucinic, one of Europe’s hottest properties at the moment, would play wide on the left in a 4-4-2 formation. 19 minutes into the game, Ranieri’s selection was vindicated as all three combined perfectly to put the Giallorossi ahead – Vucinic finishing off a majestic move. For 10 minutes, with Inter Milan still being held at the San Siro, Roma were virtual leaders of Serie A. In a stifling atmosphere, one player shone above all others – David Pizarro. The little Chilean midfielder was outstanding from start to finish, his vision and confidence on the ball an absolute joy to watch. At the final whistle, hordes of Roma tifosi, who were shoehorned into the Curva Sud, spilled onto the running track to celebrate a massive victory with their heroes.

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AC Milan travelled to Sardinia to face a resilient Cagliari. With speculation still rife as to the future of their Coach Leonardo, the Rossoneri were involved in an incredible first half of football. Twice they led through Marco Borriello and Klaus-Jan Huntelaar, but twice they were pegged back by Daniele Ragatzu and Alessandro Matri. Seven minutes before the interval, Davide Astori’s own goal sealed victory for Leonardo’s men to keep them hot on the heels of the top two. Performance of the weekend must surely belong to Maxi Lopez of Catania. He was simply unstoppable in the Sicilian derby against, netting twice in just 32 minutes and sending the home crowd at the Angelo Massimino into raptures. Since joining the Islanders from Gremio in January, the former Barcelona striker has scored six times. Alongside Captain Giuseppe Mascara, he has been the main reason the club has extinguished lingering relegation worries. Goal of the weekend belongs to Lazio striker Sergio Floccari, who after four minutes of the game against Napoli produced a header so powerful it almost ripped the goal from its foundations. Indeed, had the net not been there, the ball may have sailed right into the middle of Vatican City – a truly stupendous effort.

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