Acquafresca 30, 53 (pen), Palacio 64
A match where the scoreline genuinely reflects the ease with which the victors managed to achieve it.
Two teams who struggle to defend (only bottom-of-the-table Siena have conceded more than Genoa), but can produce a spectacle going forward were only ever likely to be involved in a game as open as this one. It is then, quite a shame that it became such a no-contest after Udinese’s Cristian Zapata was sent-off for his protestations at a free-kick given against his team early in the second-half, because they were keeping Gian Piero Gasperini’s side honest. But with a two-goal lead thanks to Robert Acquafresca, and a one man advantage, Genoa were able to stroke the ball effortlessly around the pitch for the remaining 35 minutes of the game, adding a third through Rodrigo Palacio.
But it was not all plain sailing. Up until Acquafresca’s first goal, the Rossoblu were having real difficulty dealing with Antonio Di Natale – a man who has more than likely done enough this season to clinch one of the remaining spots in attack in Marcello Lippi’s World Cup squad. He suits the central role afforded to him by the 4-4-2 Coach Gianni De Biasi employs at times (this match being one of them), more so than playing wide in the 4-3-3, because he is essentially given licence to do as he pleases. So instead of troubling one full-back with his pace and movement, he can trouble the entire defence. His performance deserved a goal that was not forthcoming, but it will not have gone unnoticed by Lippi, who will be searching for a striker to play with Alberto Gilardino should he take the (correct) decision to play two up-front.
For their part, Genoa looked slick. Everyone in Calcio knows they struggle at the back, but they are in and around the European spots because of their quality in attack, quality that was once again on display. If you give them space, then their expansive game flourishes, and Udinese simply gave them too much. Giandomenico Mesto and Palacio combined to wonderful effect on the right-hand side, but it is in the centre where Genoa won this game where the duo of Marco Rossi and Alberto Zapater have been something of a revelation in the last two matches. Thrown together here because of the lack of any alternatives, they complement each other well. Rossi, who has already played at right-back, central defence and right-midfield this season, is a natural fit in the middle because of his all-action style – two bookings in the two games he has spent in this position give you an idea as to how he interprets this role.
More importantly, it allows Zapater the freedom of expression, relieved of the burden of the defensive donkey work. It is no coincidence that Genoa bagged three goals during a match where he had the best pass completion of any midfielder on the pitch. He was involved in an astonishing 80 passes (73 of which were successful), nearly twice the number of any other player – Genoa’s football ran through this man, but it was allowed to with Rossi alongside him, and with Udinese’s insistence on allowing him acres of grass with which to touch the ball. It is a lesson, for both Genoa and their future opponents – Zapater and the football are a winning combination.