Week 23 Serie A Action Round-up – Inter strengthen lead, Juve into 2nd as Milan held

Another weekend of dramatic Serie A action produced 23 goals, a host of red cards and plenty of talking points as Juventus left it late to leapfrog Milan into second and Inter extended their lead at the top to seven points.

Lecce 0 – 3 Inter

League leaders Inter cruised to a convincing 3-0 win over lowly Lecce at the Stadio Via del Mare, extending their lead at the top to seven points.

Jose Mourinho’s side had the better of the opening exchanges and should have taken the lead on eight minutes, when Dejan Stankovic found himself unmarked at the far post, but he contrived to put his header over the bar from six yards out, with the goal glaring. However, the Nerazzuri didn’t have to wait long to break the deadlock. The ever-reliable Zlatan Ibrahimovic latched on to Esteban Cambiasso’s through ball and took one touch before clinically finishing past Francesco Benussi for his fourteenth of the season.

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Inter’s second came in unlikely fashion. Luis Figo, making a rare start for the Nerazzuri, ghosted between two defenders and powered his header beyond Benussi into the far corner. Figo’s goal appeared to inject confidence into the side and they started to play the ball around with ease. They soon grabbed a third through Stankovic, who made amends for his earlier miss by climbing highest to head home Douglas Maicon’s set piece and punish Lecce’s vulnerability in the air.

Milan 1 – 1 Reggina

Milan failed to keep the pressure on rivals Inter as they were held by rock bottom Reggina at the San Siro. The Rossoneri came into the match unbeaten this year, having scored eight times in their previous three fixtures. The Amaranto, meanwhile, were without a win in seven, with the worst defensive record in Serie A.

Rossoneri fans could have been forgiven for expecting a comfortable three points, however it was the visitors who took a shock lead on 34 minutes. Confusion in the Milan box allowed Bernardo Carradi to flick the ball back for Davide Di Genarro to fire past the static Christian Abbiati.

Milan’s persistence finally paid off midway through the second half when they were awarded a penalty after good work from Alexandre Pato. The Brazilian’s run into the box was halted by a clumsy challenge from Matej Krajcik and Pato’s fellow compatriot Kaka stepped up to coolly convert the spot kick and spare the Rossoneri’s blushes.

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Even the dynamic duo of David Beckham and Kaka, such pivotal figures for Milan in recent weeks, failed to inspire Carlo Ancelotti’s frustrated side as they searched in vain for a winner. The Rossoneri’s afternoon went from bad to worse after 78 minutes, with goal scorer Kaka picking up an injury that looks set to rule him out of next weekend’s crucial derby against Inter.

Catania 1 – 2 Juventus

Christian Poulsen’s injury time goal gave under pressure Juventus a vital three points against Catania as they regained second place at the expense of Milan. The Bianconeri travelled to the Stadio Angelo Massimino desperately looking for a win to revive their title challenge after two successive defeats saw them slip to third.

Vincenzo Iaquinta handed the visitors the perfect start, giving them the lead on 11 minutes for his second goal in as many games. However, Iaquinta went from hero to villain in the space of 60 seconds of insanity. First he was booked for his celebrations after putting Juve ahead, then, seconds after the restart he was shown his second yellow for a reckless studs-up challenge on Alessandro Potenza. Catania equalised on 51 minutes when the inspirational Gianluigi Buffon was unable to hold Giuseppe Mascara’s drive and Takayuki Morimoto converted the rebound.

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Despite their numerical disadvantage the Old Lady still looked threatening going forward and came close through Amauri. The game look destined for a draw, however, deep into stoppage time Poulsen pounced to give the Old Lady a dramatic victory that keeps their title hopes alive and handed Catania a third successive defeat.

Roma 3 – 0 Genoa

Roma put the disappointment of last week’s draw with Reggina behind them with an impressive win over European hopefuls Genoa at the Stadio Olimpico.

I Lupi took the lead on 26 minutes through Brazilian fullback Cicinho. Francesco Totti’s threaded ball found Simone Perrotta, who in turn lifted the ball past the advancing Rubino for Cicinho to guide into an empty net from two yards. Cicinho’s joy soon turned to anguish, after being forced to hobble off with a knee injury.

La Magica were in rampant mood and Rubinho had to be alert to prevent them scoring a second as he was tested twice in quick succession, first to keep out Mirko Vucinic’s drive then again to push Perrotta’s effort to safety.

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Two minutes after the break Roma got the second their dominance deserved through a moment of individual brilliance from Mirko Vucinic. The Montenegrin waited for Daniele De Rossi’s cross-field ball to drop before unleashing a sublime first time volley past Rubinho to give the home side some breathing space.

However, I Lupi was dealt a blow in the 55th minute when Rodrigo Taddei received his second booking for lashing out at Domenico Criscito. Il Grifone piled forward, looking to take advantage of the extra man and were twice denied by Alexander Doni, before they were dealt a double blow of their own. First they lost Rubinho to injury then had Giuseppe Sculli sent off for a foul on Totti. The result puts Roma level on points with Genoa and handed the visitors their first defeat since November.

Torino 1 – 1 Chievo

A late Vincenzo Italiano strike gave Chievo a share of the spoils in a six pointer at the Stadio Olimpico. A point did little to ease either side’s relegation fears as they both remain firmly rooted in the bottom three.

Torino started well and enjoyed plenty of possession without troubling Stefano Sorrentino in the Chievo goal. Chievo, however, had the first real opportunity of the game when Stephen Makinwa’s long-range effort was well kept out by Matteo Sereni. The hosts wasted several good chances to break the deadlock but their pressure finally brought its rewards on 67 minutes when Nicola Ventola rounded of a swift counter attack by converting Roberto Stellone’s pass.

Cagliari 0 – 1 Atalanta

Cagliari saw their fine run brought to an abrupt end by Atalanta as they lost for the first time since December. The Isolani had won their previous four games coming into the fixture, having beaten the likes of Juventus and Lazio, but it was the visitors who were making most of the early running and Cagliari had to wait until seven minutes before the break to register their first shot on target, La Dea keeper Andrea Consigli saving from Isolani top scorer Roberto Acquafresca’s goal-bound effort.

The home side then had Diego Lopez dismissed and after the interval Atalanta took full advantage of their extra man when Luca Cigarini broke the deadlock with a deflected drive that beat Federico Marchetti. The lively Cigarini then almost doubled the visitor’s lead from a free-kick. The result pushed Atalanta up to ninth and within a point of Cagliari.

Sampdoria 2 – 2 Siena

Substitute Massimo Maccarone came off the bench to hand Siena a point at the Stadio. Simone Vergassola capitalised on a defensive error from Michele Ferri to give the visitors the lead against the run of play on 21 minutes. The home side dominated and missed several chances before Claudio Bellucci equalised for Samp on the stroke of half time, pouncing on the rebound after Gianluca Purci could only parry Mirko Pieri’s initial strike into his path.

The Blucerchiati continued their dominance after the restart and Giampaolo Pazinni gave the home side a deserved lead from close range six minutes after the break after good build up play by Antonio Cassano. Sampdoria continued to create chances, with Cassano and Marco Padalino both wasting opportunities for the home side to extend their lead.

And they were made to pay for their wayward finishing eleven minutes from time as Maccarone, brought on for the ineffective Emanuele Calaio, made an immediate impact, beating Luca Castellazzi with a near post finish. The result kept the Robur above Sampdoria and put an end to their losing streak away from home.

Udinese 1 – 0 Bologna

Alexis Sanchez’s last minute strike gave back-in-form Udinese a narrow win over Bologna at the Stadio Friuli. The home side, without the suspended Fabio Quagliarella, missed several guilt edged chances to take the lead, with top scorer Antonio Di Natale the main culprit after hitting the side netting with an early chance before miss-controlling when clean through.

The visitors looked to make the Zebrette pay for their wasteful finishing, first with a free-kick from Serie A top scorer Marco Di Vaio and then only a sublime save from Samir Handanovic denying Marco Bernacci the opportunity to give Bologna all three points. With the clock ticking Sanchez jinked past two defenders before brilliantly lashing the ball past Francesco Antonioli from the edge of the area to continue their recent resurgence and remain twelfth.

Fiorentina 1 – 0 Lazio

Alberto Gilardino’s late winner handed Fiorentina a fortuitous win over 10-man Lazio at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. The visitor’s were looking to end a run of three straight defeats and started brightly, home keeper Sebastien Frey immediately called into action to save from Goran Pandev. The Biancocelesti looked dangerous and came agonisingly close to opening the scoring, with Pasquale Foggia’s free-kick coming back off the upright.

The sending off of Lorenzo De Silvestre after he picked up a needless second yellow did little to help the visitors cause, as they were subsequently faced with the task of 72 minutes with a one-man disadvantage. The Biancocelesti continued to look dangerous even with ten men, with the attacking trio of Pandev, Foggia and Mauro Zarate causing the Viola plenty of problems. Just as Lazio looked to have done enough to earn a well-deserved point, Gilardino popped up to lash beyond Fernando Muslera to break the visitors hearts.

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Despite all their possession and impressive attacking display, the Biancocelesti have now scored just once in their last three games and this defeat saw them slip into the bottom half of the table.

Palermo 2 – 1 Napoli

Two goals in the opening 13 minutes helped Palermo on their way to victory over free-falling Napoli at the Stadio Renzo Barbera. Giulio Migliaccio gave the Rosonero the lead with just two minutes on the clock. The Azzuri thought they had equalised on 11 minutes, but German Denis’ header from a Christian Maggio cross was ruled out after he was harshly penalised for a foul. Fabio Simplicio then added a second shortly after to give the home side a two-goal cushion.

However, the visitors did manage to pull a goal back just before the break through top scorer Marek Hamsik. The Slovakian collected the ball before striking a fierce drive past the reach of Marco Amelia for his eighth goal this term to give the Azzuri hope.

However, the hosts held on to record their ninth victory on home turf this season and ended a run of two successive defeats. Meanwhile, nothing seems to be going right for the Ciucciarelli of late, who have now lost four in their last five in a barren run that has seen them slide from fifth to eighth in the table.

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