A total of 41 goals in the 10 Serie A games this weekend, as Juventus dented Milan’s Scudetto dreams and Roma continued their epic revival.
Juventus left Milan’s title hopes in tatters as they came out on top in a six-goal thriller at the Stadio Olimpico di Torino. The Rossoneri were in poor form and weren’t helped with the news of Kaka and Mathieu Flamini’s absence from the side after both failed late fitness tests. The Old Lady had injury worries of their own and both teams put out weakened sides due to their thread-bare squads. But it was the ever-present Alessandro Del Piero who opened the scoring, after being scythed scythe down in the box by Marek Jankulovski. He picked himself up to fire home the resulting penalty to hand the home side the early advantage. Milan equalised moments later as Ronaldinho set up Alexandre Pato for a simple finish but Juve took control as two goals late in the first half handed the home side a healthy lead going into the break. Giorgio Chiellini rose highest to head home from a corner before Amauri headed in from a superb Paulo De Ceglie cross after an impressive counter attacking move. Milan started the second half on fire as they looked for a way back into the match, with Carlo Ancelotti knowing that losing more ground to leaders Inter wasn’t an option. Following mounting pressure, Massimo Ambrosini’s hopeful strike from distance found a way into the net, aided by Juventus defender Chiellini. The Rossoneri were now well on the front foot and knew they were in with a of shot of getting a result, but full back Gianluca Zambrotta received a second yellow card to all but end the fight back. Amauri grabbed a second soon after following good link up with Momo Sissoko and the game effectively ended. Juventus stay second, six points behind Inter, while Milan slip to fourth – nine points off the pace.
Inter’s win was again filled with an unconvincing air as they were inexplicably pegged by rock-bottom Chievo before a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic brace earned them victory. With their two main title rivals meeting each other later in the day, Jose Mourinho’s men had the chance to open up a nine point gap before Sunday evening. And it all started so well, as Brazilian full-back Maxwell raced down left before cutting in on his weaker right foot and unleashing a shot into the far corner from an unfavourable angle. This was after just four minutes and with the Nerazzurri dominating throughout first half proceedings, the result was looking more and more like a forgone conclusion.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first with Inter scoring early on, this time thanks to a low drive from Dejan Stankovic. The Serb set Maicon free down the right who squared for Ibra, whose clever back heel left Stankovic with the task of stroking the ball home from 20 yards. It was surely game over for the Mussi Volanti who had only scored two away goals all season.
Yet an unlikely fight back soon ensued. Four minutes after Inter had doubled their advantage, Sergio Pellissier fired in a stunning low strike from outside the box to hand Ceo a lifeline. And shortly afterwards, Domenico Di Carlo’s side were back on level terms. Full-back Andrea Mantovani raced down the left unchallenged, eventually sliding a ball across the Inter goal leaving Simone Bentivoglio with the simple task of prodding the ball home to equalise.
Inter were stunned and started to throw men forward and after several openings for both sides, Ibra came to the Nerazzurri’s rescue once again. His back post header put the league leaders back in front before the Swedish striker unleashed a screamer from inside the box, high into the net to finish the side from Verona’s dreams.
There was a similar story in the capital as Roma left it late to eventually sink lowly Cagliari. Francesco Totti put his side ahead late in the first half following strike partner Mirko Vucinic’s knock down, with the Roma captain firing in at the near post. But the game was turned on its head in nine second-half minutes, thanks to former Roma man Daniele Conti smashing in an unstoppable free kick coupled with Brazilian Jeda’s strike from just outside the box. In-form Roma were on the ropes, but got themselves an equaliser when Simone Perrotta produced an extraordinary bicycle kick into the far top corner. Moments later Totti rattled the bar before Vucinic finished from close range to hand the Romans victory deep into stoppage time.
Elsewhere, near the top end of the table Lazio fought back from three down to grab a share of the spoils at Udinese. With both of sides seriously out of form and now starting to slide down the table after an excellent start, both were in need of a confidence boost. The opening hour was dominated by excellent counter attacking and the superb link up play of Antonio Di Natale and Fabio Quagliarella, resulting in three goals between the pair. Di Natale grabbed the first after being put through by his strike partner, superbly chipping an on-rushing Juan Pablo Carrizo. The next went the way of Quagliarella and began with a Lazio corner. The ball broke for the former Samp man who played a sweet one-two with Di Natale leaving an easy finish. It was another counter attack that supplied Udinese’s third as Di Natale raced into the penalty box before finishing at the second attempt. With 55 minutes on the clock, Lazio were in danger of being seriously embarrassed while the Bianconeri looked certain to end a run of five straight defeats.
But on the hour mark Lazio started an incredible fight back. Mauro Zarate poked in from close range following a scramble, before Mobido Diakite headed in from a corner. Lazio pressed for an equaliser and while Zarate almost curled home a beauty, Cristian Ledesma went one better, rifling in a 25-yard screamer that nestled in the bottom corner. The Fruliani’s second-half jinx continued – they’ve now lost ten points by conceding second-half goals.
Meanwhile, Fiorentina continued to climb the table after second-half goals from Adrian Mutu and Alberto Gilardino ensured a third win in four, and saw the Viola rise to fifth in the table. After a frustrating opening period, former Chelsea and Juventus striker Mutu stroked home from all of eight yards after good work from Zdravko Kuzmanovic. Catania offered very little in terms an intent response and the prolific Gilardino put the game beyond doubt, as he rounded the keeper following a horrible pass back from Lorenzo Stovini.
Sixth place Genoa lost ground in the race for Europe as they dropped two vital points at home to an ever-improving Atalanta side. In what turned out to be an astonishingly bad tempered match in which three red cards were branded out, Genoa will see this as two points dropped in their quest to keep up the pressure on their league table rivals. Atalanta took the lead early on when Sergio Floccari’s mazy run ended with the forward dispatching the ball low in the net. The Orobici were reduced to 10 men shortly afterwards when Gianpaulo Bellini received his marching orders after a second yellow card. He was promptly followed by the Rossoblu’s Omar Milanetto and Atalanta substitute Claudio Rivalta, whose stay lasted just five minutes. Amidst all the disharmony the home side did eventually equalise, when ex Juventus forward Giuseppe Sculli headed in late on.
Elsewhere, there were comfortable home wins for high-flying Napoli and Palermo. Despite missing star man Fabrizio Miccoli, the Rosanero dispatched Siena with consummate ease thanks to an altogether fluky Mattia Cassani ‘cross-shot’ goal, before Fabio Simplicio chested in from close range to ensure victory. Meanwhile, Napoli trounced sorry Lecce 3-0 at the Stadio San Paulo. An early penalty converted by Marek Hamsik, was followed up by midfielder Michele Pazienza’s first goal in over 100 Serie A games, before the wasteful German Denis eventually got himself on the scoresheet after a defensive mishap by Raffaele Schiavi, summing up the visitors day.
Sampdoria secured an excellent away victory at fellow strugglers Reggina, as the Blucerchiati look ease their relegation worries. Late goals from Claudio Bellucci (pen) and Marco Padalino sees Samp go 14th and seven points off the drop zone.
The first game of the weekend saw Marco Di Vaio net a stunning hat-trick, ruining Walter Novellino’s Torino return. It started well for the inveterate Coach as Simone Barone latched onto to Rolando Bianchi’s flick on to volley in from 12 yards. It wasn’t until early on in the second half when the home side equalised, as substitute Sergio Volpi shot was deflected over the Torino keeper and into the far corner. But the crisis stricken Granata took the lead again, almost immediately after Volpi’s equaliser. This time it was Ignazio Abate whose shot was deflected in off Miguel Britos. But this too proved to be a brief lead as Di Vaio came to fore 90 seconds later. The former Bianconeri striker scrambled in to make it 2-2, before rounding two Toro defenders and slamming in a near post effort to put the home side ahead for the first time in the match. And when Matteo Sereni tried his hand as a sweeper when trying to take it round the on-rushing Marco Bernacci, the game was effectively ended. Sereni lost out and ended up conceding a rather comical penalty, which Bernacci promptly dispatched. Bernacci won another penalty when Francesco Pratali brought him down (and was swiftly red carded), resulting in Di Vaio completing his hat-trick from the spot.
So Serie A’s reputation for a lack of goals was blown out of the water in Week 16, as Calcio fans were treated to a thrilling weekend of goals, comebacks, red cards and hat-tricks.
It officially had everything.