Inter suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of rivals Atalanta, as the Nerazzurri’s first half collapse let Juventus and Milan close the gap at the top.
Jose Mourinho was left “very angry” as he slammed his players for conceding “ridiculous goals” whilst strangely stating “I am to blame” – almost in the same breath. It was a visibly out-of-sorts Inter side that showed up on Sunday afternoon following the news of Mario Balotelli’s transfer request as well as unrest in other areas of the camp, and this clearly transmitted itself onto the pitch.
Sergio Floccari’s clever turn and shot found the bottom corner to send the Orobici on their way after 18 minutes before Cristiano Doni’s deflected free-kick doubled the home side’s advantage. With the Inter backline now in total disarray, the hosts capitalized once again as Doni grabbed his second of the game after heading home unmarked thanks to Jaime Valdes’ cross. Zlatan Ibrahimovic did net a late consolation in the dying embers but the damage had been done in the opening 33 minutes and although Mourinho threw on hoards of attacking talent in an attempt to rescue the game, the Nerazzurri created next to nothing and in terms of a response, it was non-existent.
Fiorentina’s visit to the San Siro had been largely overshadowed by the ongoing Kaka saga but it was the in-form Alexandre Pato that stole the headlines as his seventh minute stunner was enough to hand the Rossoneri a vital three points. Andrea Pirlo released Pato down the left before the young Brazilian promptly cut inside, unleashed a curling shot into the far corner, clipping the underside of the bar on its way in. The game was marred by half time demonstrations from the home fans in the wake of Kaka’s expected sale while even a second successive start for headline grabber David Beckham caused only a minor stir.
Juventus did manage to close the gap on the league leaders, but only by a point as they were held by high flying Lazio. Although Claudio Ranieri will be bemoaning his side’s inability to capitalize on Inter’s shock reverse the day before, he will have been relieved to come away from the Stadio Olimpico with a point after the Biancocelesti impressed throughout in what turned out to be an even and at times entertaining affair. There was an air of calamity about Lazio’s opener as Cristian Ledesma’s inswinging free kick found the far corner after floating over the bewildered Alex Manninger. The Old Lady’s response was immediate – former Villa man Olof Mellberg heading in from a corner thanks to some shoddy marking. The draw halts Juve’s five-game winning run and is their first draw since matchday five.
Meanwhile, Genoa jumped into fourth place with an impressive win at Lecce, reaffirming their European aspirations. Bosko Jankovic’s Zola-esque back heel gave the Rossoblu’s the lead midway through the second half before Giuseppe Sculli’s injury time goal condemned the Salentini to yet another home defeat. Their last win at the Stadio Via Del Mare now dates back to late September and Mario Beretta’s men continue to linger above the drop zone, while Gian Gasperini’s side stretch their unbeaten league run to seven catapulting them into one of the Champions League places.
Elsewhere, Roma’s march up the table continued but only thanks to a last gasp bicycle kick from Julio Baptista ensured a dramatic win at Torino. The Giallorossi struggled to break down their lowly opponents, mainly due the absence of key men such as Mirko Vucinic, Francesco Totti and Simone Perrotta, leaving them very little in terms of creative force. But a frustrating afternoon turned into a highly productive one when Baptista conjured up a piece of magic, as he chested down Philippe Mexes’ cross before letting fly with a sensational acrobatic effort which found the far corner. A goal worthy to win any match and a win good enough to take the resurgent Romans up to eighth.
Giampaolo Pazzini’s Sampdoria debut ended up as a miserable one, as Palermo secured an impressive victory at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Mark Bresciano’s far-post header just before the half time break proving the pivotal moment. The hosts had dominated the opening period but failed to recover from the Australian’s opener as Bresciano went on to double the Sicilians lead on the hour mark following good work from Edison Cavani. The Rosanero stay ninth while Samp drop to a desperate fifteenth and just five points from the relegation places.
Fourth place Napoli succumbed to two Michele Marcolini penalty kicks, as they lost at rock bottom Chievo in an ill-tempered clash. Matteo Contini’s shoulder charge was deemed too aggressive and the referee pointed to the spot – Marcolini promptly grabbing his first of the match. The Sky Blues were disappointing in the first half but they flew out of the blocks in the second, with Ezequiel Lavezzi’s mazy run ending with the young Argentine finding the far corner with a cute finish. And as the side from Naples looked to have gained the upper hand, Marek Hamsik had a moment of madness, as he proceeded to lambaste the referee for failing to award Lavezzi a free-kick, to which the man in yellow rightly sent him off. This was followed by another moment of madness from the visitors as the sending off resulted in Napoli Coach Edoardo Reja reshuffling his pack and bringing off German Denis, only for the Argentine striker to launch a verbal attack at his Coach whilst petulantly throwing his gloves in his direction. Napoli was in a mess, but thrown a lifeline when Santiago Morero received a second yellow and his marching orders for the hosts. But the visitors seemed intent on losing this one as Leandro Rinaudo stuck out a leg and although Simone Bentivoglio was looking for it – the tackle was clumsy and the penalty awarded. Marcolini stepped up and converted in similar style to his first to lift The Flying Donkeys off the bottom.
Udinese lost for a seventh time in nine outings, to leave Pasquale Marino firmly on the edge. Daniele Conti’s deflected free-kick handed Cagliari a fourth-minute lead before Davide Biondini volleyed home to leave a the Bianconeri a mountain to climb. The out-of-form Fabio Quagliarella was surprisingly benched for this one and even his second half introduction couldn’t inspire the visitors who drop to 13th in the table.
Elsewhere, Siena prevailed in the relegation six-pointer to send Reggina bottom. Mario Frick capitalized on some horrendous defending to secure a vital victory and end a run of four straight defeats. The bottom end of the table also saw Bologna see off 10-man Catania to boost their survival hopes. Goals from the unstoppable Marco Di Vaio and midfielder Martins Adailton were enough for an important win. Although it was a nervy finish for the Rossoblu as the ten men of Catania missed a late penalty before Michele Paolucci scored to set up a frantic finale. It was a fairly ill-tempered match with both Coaches being sent to the stands at separate points as tensions grew.
It’s been an uncomfortable week for one half of Milan but it all ended in smiles for the Rossoneri. As for Mourinho, his Inter side’s lead is shortened once again as he desperately looks for some good news – Kaka in a Sky Blue shirt might just do it.