Week 20 Serie A action round-up – King Kaka returns for Milan in weekend full of goals

Cynics may suggest the Kaka-City saga was a PR show put on by Silvio Berlusconi, but the Milan circus continue to make headlines for the results they are achieving on the pitch too. In a round that saw 30 goals scored in the 10 games, both the Rossoneri and Roma put in imperious performances to come away with impressive away victories whilst Juventus and Inter secured 1-0 home wins.

Sunday

Bologna 1-4 Milan

After the week that saw Kaka pledge his allegiance to the Milan faithful, it was inevitable that he would score come Sunday afternoon.

However, things didn’t start as Milan had hoped, and the side that shocked Carlo Ancelotti’s men in Week 1 with a 2-1 win at the San Siro, took the lead through a Marco Di Vaio penalty after Christian Amoroso was felled under pressure from Paulo Maldini and Philippe Senderos.

Milan hit back almost immediately and within ten minutes of going 1-0 down were 2-1 up. Clarence Seedorf latched on to a parried rebound from a Kaka shot and this was soon followed by the game’s second penalty – this time awarded to Milan. Kaka stepped up to score after Gianluca Zambrotta had been brought down in the Rossoblu box. A highly entertaining game was soured somewhat by a second yellow card to Bologna’s Gaby Mudingayi, leaving the home side with little chance of coming back into it. Shortly after, Kaka grabbed his second goal with an impressive near-post strike after playing a clever one-two with compatriot Alexandre Pato.

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A near-perfect Milan performance was capped with a first goal for David Beckham, who finished neatly by bending the ball inside Francesco Antonioli’s near post after a well-worked counter attack involving Pato and Seedorf.

Napoli 0-3 Roma

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The 125th Derby del Sole was surprisingly one-sided as Roma ran riot in Naples. Philippe Mexes headed in the first from a David Pizarro free kick midway through the first half, rising unchallenged after the Azzurri defenders at the back post had stopped their runs to claim what looked like a definite offside against the Frenchman.

The Partenopei went 2-0 down just after the half an hour mark, this time Pizarro sending in a corner from the other side for Mexes’ defensive partner Juan to rise up and head in, with Edoardo Reja’s defenders found wanting.

The third goal was just as dismal from the Partenopei viewpoint. Fabiano Santacroce failed to deal with the ball and with it stuck under his feet, passed to Alberto Aquilani on the edge of his area. Aquilani, who replaced the injured Pizarro at half time, slotted in Mirko Vucinic who ran into the area and duly punished Napoli with the finish. Napoli had a few chances through the game, notably Ezequiel Lavezzi’s free kick that produced a good save from Alexander Doni and German Denis’ late header that went over the bar, but ultimately, Napoli will be bitterly disappointed with a nervous defensive display in a crucial game against their traditional foes and table rivals.

Inter 1-0 Sampdoria

Inter reclaimed top spot on Sunday evening, 24 hours after being displaced by Scudetto rivals Juventus.

The Nerazzurri were without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, suspended whilst visitors Sampdoria were without Antonio Cassano, out with a neck injury. Davide Santon came in to make his first Serie A appearance of the season after he impressed midweek against Roma in the Coppa Italia. Amantino Mancini returned to offer support up front to lone striker Adriano.

The game was a physical battle with most of the action and stats from the first half surrounding the referee blowing his whistle and players taking knocks. Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands for dissent, apparently frustrated with the referee’s handling of Sampdoria Adriano could face a ban for an incident caught on camera but missed by the officials, seeming to punch opponent Daniele Gastaldello just a few minutes before the crucial goal of the game.

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The only goal came at the end of the first half with some enterprising wing play down the right by Maicon enabling him to cross for Adriano to volley in from two yards. Most of Inter’s chances in the first half had come from crosses from the right and Adriano could have had more than the one goal to show for his efforts.

The second half saw Inter fail to extend their lead, with Dejan Stankovic denied first by the goalkeeper in a flowing Inter attack and then later by the cross bar from distance. Sampdoria offered little going forward and had their best chance to snatch a draw in the last few minutes through a long range effort from Daniele Dessena forcing a save from Julio Cesar.

Lazio 1-4 Cagliari

After recent victories against Reggina and Palermo, and then last weekend’s home draw with title-chasing Juventus, Lazio fans would have been mistaken for thinking their side had recaptured that early season form that saw them occupy the Champions League spots. Sunday’s opponents Cagliari were also enjoying a strong run of form and provided a surprise performance at the Stadio Olimpico.

Lazio’s great start to the season began away at Cagliari where they recorded a 4-1 victory, and strangely the reverse fixture would throw up the same scoreline in favour of the away side yet again – this time Cagliari coming away with the spoils.

All the goals came in a frantic first half, and had it not been for Lazio’s inability to convert two penalties, the result and scoreline could have been very different. The Biancocelesti opened the scoring early on when on three minutes Diego Lopez’s poor clearance fell to Stefano Mauri who promptly slid in Tommaso Rocchi to finish neatly under the goalkeeper. However, the lead only lasted two minutes, with Cagliari’s Andrea Lazzari crossing for Jeda to rise up and head the equaliser. Four minutes after that and Brazilian Jeda grabbed his second of the game, this time heading in a chipped cross from Alessandro Matri after the Italian had managed to shake off his defender and draw Lazio keeper Juan Pablo Carrizo out of his goal.

Cagliari threatened soon after that again, with Robert Acquafresca inches away from connecting with a cross-shot and sending the Rossoblu tifosi into raptures. Mauro Zarate went close at the other end with his free kick whiskers away from the top right-hand corner. Cagliari’s razor-sharp passing was causing the Lazio backline all sorts of problems, and after another through ball from the midfield on 21 minutes, Jeda was brought down by Carrizo for a penalty and yellow card for the keeper. Acquafresca stepped up and calmly converted the spot-kick for his eighth goal of the season.

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The first half was to get even worse for the Biancocelesti when another Cagliari cross was headed in to make it 4-1 on 41 minutes, this time Matri getting the goal. There was still time for a hope of a comeback when Lazio where awarded the game’s second penalty, as Mauri was felled by Federico Marchetti. Rocchi stepped up to take the kick and give Lazio some rest bite from their infuriated fans, but fired his attempt wide of the right-hand post.

As badly as Lazio played, the referee seemed intent on giving them as many chances of getting back into the game as possible, awarding the game’s third penalty and Lazio’s second after another soft challenge from a Cagliari defensive player in the box. Zarate took over to save Rocchi the trouble and saw his low attempt saved by Marchetti. A truly dreadful day for Le Aquile.

Genoa 1-1 Catania

Genoa extended their impressive unbeaten run to eight games, but had to rely on Diego Milito to bail them out after Catania had threatened to steal the points.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s men struggled to break down the resolute and highly organised Sicilians, with Walter Zenga’s men also posing a constant threat at the other end of the pitch for Genoa with Jorge Martinez, Michele Paolucci and Giuseppe Mascara.

After a goalless first 45, Catania were the team to break the deadlock, but only after Genoa had been reduced to ten men after Matteo Ferrari received a second booking. Davide Tedesco’s cross was expertly met by Jorge Martinez at the back post for his second goal of the season to put gli Elefanti in the lead at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

Il Grifone fought back and equalised soon after through top-scorer Milito who had missed the past three games with injury. The Argentine capitalised after a rare moment where the Catania defence failed to deal with a Genoa cross. Milito then almost won the game for Genoa but had his late effort blocked.

Lecce 3-3 Torino

Lecce and Torino played out a thriller at the Stadio Via del Mare and surely neither side will be happy to come away from an important game against relegation rivals with just the one point each.

Torino were playing catch-up throughout the game, as Lecce went in at half time with a two goal lead, courtesy of Gianni Munari’s first two goals of the season – the first a stunning strike from the outside corner of the area into the far top corner of the net, the second a short ranch strike after Toro failed to clear a corner.

The game was beset by dreadful defensive errors by both sides and the remaining four goals all results from individual errors – with Torino’s three attempts all getting a helping hand into the net by the nervy Francesco Benussi between the Lecce sticks. First he let Jurgen Saumel’s cross from a free kick bounce across the six-yard box and into the far side of the goal, then allowing Paolo Hernan Dellafiore’s seemingly stoppable shot from outside the area bobble in over his outstretched arms.

Before Benussi’s third costly error, Lecce made a go of winning the game, with Jose Castillo benefiting from a blocked clearance falling his way, lifting it over the Torino keeper. Benussi completed his hattrick of mistakes as Cesare Natali’s header from a Torino corner was allowed to bounce under the keeper. Lecce will be the more disappointed of the two teams, failing to win after scoring three goals for the first time this season.

Palermo 3-2 Udinese

Palermo heaped even more misery on a dismal Udinese side that has now gone 11 games without a win in Serie A.

Udinese started brightly and were ahead within two minutes through Simone Pepe, curling in a brilliant free kick from 30 yards into Marco Amelia’s bottom right corner. However, poor defending from a corner saw Palermo grab an equaliser through Fabio Simplicio stooping to head home.

After the break Udinese were awarded a penalty when Aleksandar Lukovic went down under the sliding challenge of Moris Carrozzieri. Fabio Quagliarella smashed the resulting penalty against the crossbar – much to the delight of the Palermo tifosi who felt justice was done after a soft decision.

Palermo went in front after Udinese failed to deal with another set-piece, Simplicio again meeting the cross with his head. The goal was awarded by the referee despite Zebrette protests that it hadn’t crossed the line. Edison Cavani made it 3-1 with a shot that Samir Handanovic allowed all too easily through his outstretched hands. Antonio Di Natale pulled one back for the visitors for a nervy last half-hour and despite having Federico Balzaretti sent off for dissent late on, Palermo held out for the win.

Siena 1-0 Atalanta

In an evenly-fought game, Siena scored the decisive goal to run out winners at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Both sides had chances but rarely tested the two goalkeepers. Siena made the breakthrough just before half time, with a delicate finish by captain Simone Vergassola, lifted over the keeper, was bundled in by Mario Frick. Atalanta’s best chances came from distance -Tiberio Guarente smashed the crossbar from 30 yards out and then Ferreira Pinto’s shot caused panic with Gianluca Curci’s first attempt to save it passing through his hands, before the keeper rushed back to clear the ball before it crossed the line.

Saturday

Juventus 1-0 Fiorentina

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Juventus hit the Serie A summit on Saturday evening with a victory over rivals Fiorentina. Both goalkeepers put in staunch performances to keep the scoring to a minimum – Gianluigi Buffon keeping Juve in touch with title rivals Inter with some important saves on his return to the side and Sebastien Frey pulling off some fantastic saves to keep his side in the game. Ultimately it was Alessandro Del Piero’s moment of magic that once again earned the Bianconeri the points – this time providing Claudio Marchisio with an exquisite through ball to score his first Serie A goal for the club. Working in from the right in possession, Del Piero managed to draw in five Fiorentina players, deceiving La Viola’s entire defensive set-up to slot Marchisio in to delicately finish past the onrushing Frey.

Just before the goal, Claudio Prandelli’s men had appeals for a penalty turned down. Stevan Jovetic’s pace gave Olof Mellberg all sorts of problems throughout the night and with the scores at 0-0, the man deputising for the crocked Adrian Mutu was brought down by the Swede in the box. Furious pleas from the Montenegrin striker came to nothing with the referee waving play on.

Shortly after Marchisio had put Juve in front and Pavel Nedved had spurned a great chance after another delicate pass from Del Piero, Fiorentina were unlucky not to equalise. From a Manuel Pasqual cross, Mario Santana’s header hit the Juve crossbar and the Bianconeri defence could only clear the rebound as far as Ricardo Montolivo on the edge of the area. After controlling the ball, the Italian lashed a shot at goal that Buffon could only parry out to a lively Alberto Gilardino to slot in what he thought was La Viola’s equaliser. As he wheeled away to celebrate, the referee blew his whistle to disallow the goal – incorrectly – for offside.

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After the goal, the game was about three men – Del Piero, Buffon and Frey. Whilst the goalkeepers showed their class between the sticks, Del Piero was instigator to almost every Juventus move in attack, setting up great chances and accelerating the play with some intuitive passing. The mark of Pinturicchio’s performance was highlighted by the jeers the home support levelled at Claudio Ranieri for replacing him in the 77th minute.

Reggina 0-1 Chievo

In a proverbial six-pointer it was Chievo who emerged the victors from the Stadio Oreste Granillo. The bottom two sides were locked on the 13 points each going into the game and both were desperate for the points to help their similar predicaments.

Chievo were down and out in December, languishing adrift at the foot of the table, but Saturday’s victory against their closest relegation rivals has continued the spectacular post-Christmas form of i Mussi Volanti and lifted them up to 19th place. As with Week 1’s victory over Reggina, Chievo and their tifosi have a lot to thank Vincenzo Italiano for.

Reggina did much of the early pressing in the opening stages but it was Chievo who were unlucky not to go ahead after Sergio Pellissier beat Reggina keeper Andrea Campagnolo with a shot across his goal, only to see the ball come back out off the inside of the post. Reggina, led by former Chievo Coach Giuseppe Pillon, struggled to find an end product to their pressure, with Franco Brienza unable to make enough contact on an effort after a neat through-ball from Francesco Cozza.

Carmonachievo

In a high-pressure match played in dismal conditions, frustration boiled over in the 40th minute and a moment of madness from the Amaranto’s Chilean midfielder Carlos Carmona resulted in his red card and a tactical rethink from the Coach. After Reggina conceded a foul in the centre circle, Carmona picked up the ball and after a brief confrontation with Chievo midfielder Luca Rigoni, threw it from point-blank range into his opponent’s stomach, leaving the referee – all of three yards away – with no option but to send him off.

Despite the inferior numbers, Reggina remained in the game and came close to taking the lead through Antonino Barilla. First after a mazy run from the left side of the pitch to the by-line and then inside, the midfielder dragged his shot disappointingly wide of Stefano Sorrentino’s near post. Soon again after some neat wing-play down Chievo’s right-hand side from a teammate set him up, Barilla finished in similar fashion again, failing to test the Chievo keeper.

If Barilla and his Reggina colleagues needed reminding of how to finish, they only had to wait until the end of the game to learn the cruellest of lessons. From a Chievo corner, two-and-a-half minutes into stoppage time, Michele Marcolini passed the ball to outside the area for Vincenzo Italiano to unleash an unstoppable shot through the crowded box and into Campagnolo’s top right corner.

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