Fans of Piacenza, whether watching on televisions at home or in local bars, or even following the action itself in the Stadio Olimpico Carlo Zecchini, suffered what’s becoming an all-too-familiar feeling of resignation deep into the second half against Grosseto on Saturday. As soon as the ball fell loose and Leandro Vitiello shaped up to shoot, collective hearts pounded and then sank as the net bulged and another loss was confirmed.
Vitiello’s rasping drive in the 83rd minute earned Grosseto a 1-0 win, condemning Massimo Ficcadenti’s side to their fourth defeat of the Serie B season. The good times must seem a lifetime ago for the Biancorossi faithful.
In 1993 the team from Emilia-Romagna had just gained promotion to Serie A and were flying high. Coach Gigi Cagni was working wonders with a team containing players such as Francesco Turrini and Giampietro Piovani. The Club were unfortunate to go straight back down after a good start to that season but returned after the following campaign when they became champions of Italy’s second tier in 1995.
It was a nerve-wracking season back in Serie A as good home form was negated by terrible away form but Piacenza managed to escape the drop on the last day of the season when key results went their way. Being able to stay afloat was always the main aim and the Biancorossi managed to survive, albeit narrowly, for a further two seasons before relegation to Serie B finally struck again in the 1998/99 season.
Nevertheless, the fans during this proud era were blessed to watch stars like Pietro Vierchowod, Dario Hubner, Enzo Maresca and Matteo Sereni at the Stadio Leonardo Garilli, and as the Club continued to attract players of this quality, it was no surprise when Piacenza returned to the big time in 2001. However, since a further relegation two seasons later, the Biancorossi have failed to get back among the heavyweights in Serie A.
Now, Ficcadenti’s Piacenza sit rock-bottom of the Serie B table after a truly dismal start to the season. With virtually no movement in the summer transfer market – the ageing Sergio Volpi is the only arrival – it is no wonder the fans have not been impressed.
The campaign kicked off with an away trip to Modena, where the Biancorossi were gut-wrenchingly beaten by a single last-gasp goal. At home the following week, Piacenza drew 1-1 with Frosinone to pick up a point. It remains the Club’s only one so far as a 2-0 away defeat to Reggina was followed by a dramatic 4-2 loss at home to Ascoli, in which Mattia Graffiedi netted a brace but Daniele Cacia missed a crucial penalty.
Saturday’s trip to Tuscany to face Grosseto should have been the ideal occasion for Piacenza to at least start turning the corner as the hosts were also without a win going into the game. The Biancorossi did start brightly as Volpi’s free-kick forced Antonio Narciso into an early dive to cover his top corner but Grosseto responded and Mario Cassano was relieved to see two efforts flashing by his post.
The home side turned up the heat in the second half with Gaetano Caridi fizzing a drive narrowly wide of the far post. This prompted Piacenza into action and Narciso produced a fantastic double save to thwart efforts from Cacia and Graffiedi.
With only seven minutes left on the clock and the match set for a stalemate, Grosseto earned a free-kick on the left, which was delivered perfectly into the path of Andrea Soncin. His powerful point-blank header was superbly blocked by Cassano but the ball fell unkindly to the edge of the box, where the incoming Vitiello rifled the rebound high into the net, leaving Piacenza fans and players alike distraught.
It’s still early days, of course, but even at this stage Piacenza are five points adrift of the safety zone and need to stop the rot. A response is needed, and quickly, though the Biancorossi couldn’t face a tougher task in their next match. On Friday evening they welcome league leaders Siena to the Stadio Leonardo Garilli. The visitors are in fine form and unbeaten so far, so the hosts will have to up their game considerably to pull off a result.
For fans of Piacenza, Friday will be one of those occasions when they simply have to believe and get behind Ficcadenti’s side from the start. Everything points to a comfortable away win but one of the beauties of calcio is its occasional reluctance to follow the script. The Biancorossi faithful will be praying for a night like this.