At the start of the new campaign, many experts within the game assured us Lazio would struggle to finish in the top half of the table. After four rounds of fixtures, the biancocelesti have a realistic chance of a European spot next season. Coach Edoardo Reja has to take a lot of credit for his diligent work in the summer transfer window that looks like it is about to pay dividends.
Last night at the Stadio Olimpico the tifosi in the curva nord discovered a new hero – Anderson Lima Hernanes. The 25-year-old Brazilian was picked up by Reja at the end of August from Sao Paolo and against Milan, in front of 40 thousand spectators on a sultry night in the capital, he showed just why the club were so anxious to acquire his services. Reja placed Hernanes just behind the lone striker Sergio Floccari with Tommaso Rocchi dropping to the bench. He also introduced Pasquale Foggia into a four man midfield which also included Cristian Ledesma, Cristian Brocchi and Stefano Mauri. Reja had done his homework as Foggia and Mauri drifted into the wide areas to utilise their pace against the rossoneri’s sluggish backline. With Brocchi and Ledesma matching the work ethic of Milan’s Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf, the home side nullified any threat their esteemed visitors threw at them. Hernanes was the stand out player throughout the 90 minutes, his link up play between the midfield and Floccari was exemplary.
In the second-half as the game became more and more stretched, Hernanes found space he was not entitled to find. After Zlatan Ibrahimovic had grabbed his first league goal for Milan to give the visitors the lead against the run of play, the Brazilian dragged his side back into contention by firing in a low cross in from the left hand side that was despatched by Floccari. After the game Reja could not hide his delight at the performance of his new acquisition describing him as “a player of huge quality that will help this squad enormously”. Serie A beware, Lazio are back.
Inter once again take charge of Italy’s premier division and Wednesday night’s 4-0 demolition of Bari saw the return to form of Diego Milito. Just three days earlier, the Argentine hit man was facing mounting pressure after a woeful performance in Palermo led many observers into thinking Rafael Benitez would wield the axe. He didn’t and he was rewarded with a five star display at the Giuseppe Meazza that saw Milito grab a brace along with Europe’s most in form striker at the moment, Samuel Eto’o. The Cameroon forward has now netted five times already in the league this season as the nerazzurri lay down a marker for the pretenders to their crown.
Roma are now in a crisis – official. Wednesday evening’s 2-1 defeat in Brescia amid chaotic scenes on and off the pitch plummeted the giallorossi into the bottom three. At the centre of all the hysteria were referee Carmine Russo and his two assistants, who, after denying Claudio Ranieri’s men two clear cut penalties, then awarded one to their hosts whilst at the same time showing a straight red to Philippe Mexes. Replays showed the big French defender timed his tackle to perfection from just outside the penalty area and after the match the clubs directors could not wait to grab the microphone to vent their anger. Sporting director Daniele Prade described Russo’s performance as “embarrassing” and then continued his attack by declaring:“in my 11 years in the game, I have never seen such a woeful refereeing display”. Next up was the club’s sporting coordinator Gian Paolo Montali who announced “the club will be asking for the suspension of all three officials” and finally coach Ranieri, who stated “everyone in the stadium could see that we merited the two penalties, apart from Russo and his colleagues”. He then had to fend off questions linking Marcelo Lippi with his job and if things could not get any worse for il lupi, Inter visit the capital on Saturday evening.
After a scintillating display to help his Palermo team beat Juventus 3-1 at the Stadio Olimpico in Turin, Argentine midfielder Javier Pastore was only interested in one thing, getting hold of Alessandro Del Piero’s shirt. He explained after the match “Del Piero is a real champion, I hope to one day be as good as him”.