Serie B’s fixture list threw up two exciting top of the table battles this week with league leaders Novara travelling to Siena and third place Atalanta hosting fifth place Livorno. Whilst Siena, Atalanta and Livorno were all desperate to make an immediate return to the top flight after being relegated last year, they have all found themselves chasing newly promoted Novara who incredibly still occupy top spot.
Siena have been in good form of late and going into this game were unbeaten in three matches in which they had scored ten goals. Novara however, had not been beaten in their last eight games and still were undefeated on the road. This match looked as though it could be a classic with both sides keen to impose themselves as champions elect. Both teams had more than enough chances to win this game as they attacked each other time after time, Siena should have been a goal up when Salvatore Mastronunzio’s header hit the post from only yards out whilst Novara continually found Siena keeper Ferdinando Coppola in superb form. As the game wore on Siena started to take the upper hand and on 78 minutes the pressure paid off when a corner was not dealt with in the Novara box, in the resulting mêlée it was substitute Marcelo Larrondo who managed to stab the ball into the roof of the net for the first goal. Novara this season have never for a moment given up in any game up and no matter what the circumstances they continue to fight. This match was no different and as the game reached its conclusion they produced a moment of magic, Filippo Porcari’s long ball found Pablo Andres Gonzalez who then played head tennis with Manuel Scavone in an unbelievable one-two, when Gonzalez received the ball back he volleyed in a cross that was met with a superb flying header from substitute Emanuel Gigliotti. Honours even in a close fought match but Novara only just managed a way back in the dying seconds.
Atalanta welcomed Livorno to the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia on Friday night in a game they hoped would help them close in on the top two. Atalanta’s form has been mixed as they have won three and lost three in their last six including a 1-0 defeat at home to Livorno in the Coppa Italia. Livorno are also having a tough time remaining in the playoff places winning three, drawing one and loosing two out of the last six matches. A win at Atalanta was essential if they wished make a quick return to Serie A. The home side started well when Leonardo Pettinari’s 30 yard blast was brilliantly tipped onto the cross bar by Alfonso De Lucia nearly giving Atalanta an early lead as well as a goal of the season contender. This duel continued as moments later Pettinari hit another shot from distance that forced De Lucia to save well down at his right hand post. Livorno took this as a warning and increased their tempo, this nearly paid off but unfortunately Magnus Troest’s hand ball was not spotted by the referee. In football things have a way of balancing out and this was the case when Biagio Pagano hot a long shot on the 31st minute it took a huge deflection off an Atalanta player and sent the keeper the wrong way for 1-0, the Tuscan side now smelt blood. Atalanta tried to get back into the game mostly with long range efforts but when Simone Tiribocchi was sent off the writing was on the wall, in the final minutes Pagano found himself through on goal and calmly slotted home his second of the match. Two nil the final score, Livorno keep themselves in touch with the top of the table whilst Atalanta need to start looking at getting a run of results together.
It is tight at the top as Novara lead the table on 37pts, Siena are second on 32pts with game in hand whilst Atalanta are third on 30pts and Livorno move up to fifth on 27pts. There is much to play for but it would be hard to imagine that these teams will not be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
Atalanta 0-2 Livorno
Crotone 1-2 Vicenza
Empoli 0-1 Sassuolo
Frosinone 1-1 Ascoli
Padova 2-3 Varese
Pescara 4-2 Portogruaro
Piacenza 1-1 Torino
Reggina – Albinoleffe (Dec 8th)
Siena 1-1 Novara
Triestina 0-1 Grosseto