Week 26 Serie A action round-up – Juventus profit after Inter’s thrilling draw and Milan’s shock defeat

Inter showed the spirit of champions while Milan are plunged deep into crisis on an eventful Week 26 in Serie A.

Juventus 1-0 Napoli

Sebastian Giovinco was given a rare start as Juventus claimed a fortuitous victory over free falling Napoli.

As one would expect, the home side had much of the early going, forcing Nicolas Navarro into saves from Alessandro Del Piero and Zdenek Grygera. On fifteen minutes, the visitor’s goalkeeper was called into action again, saving a David Trezeguet volley with his legs while Giovinco turned the follow up over the crossbar. A trademark Del Piero free kick threatened once more, but on 38 minutes the Southerners created something themselves – clever work by German Denis sent Marek Hamsik clear at the near post but Gigi Buffon’s block denied the Slovak. The game’s only goal came just before half time as Claudio Marchisio’s snapshot took a wicked deflection off Juve old boy, Manuel Blasi and bobbled into the net.

The second half saw the introduction of Napoli new boy Jesus Datolo and a change to a 4-4-2 formation that gave Napoli greater control of the game in their hunt for an equalizer. Little more than half chances were created however, as an out of sorts Juventus looked to hold on to what they had. The Neapolitan’s did have the ball in the net with three minutes to go but were denied a precious point by an offside flag. Napoli’s poor run continues, while the Bianconeri keep up the pressure on Inter – albeit unconvincingly.

Lazio 2-0 Bologna

A Mauro Zarate brace gave Lazio a welcome three points and ensured Sinisa Mihajlovic’s return to the Olimpico was to be an unhappy one.

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Bologna came into this game with just one point from four games and were soon tested by a lively Lazio front line who were hoping that they had turned a corner with last week’s away win at Reggina. Pasquale Foggia and Zarate’s long range efforts were denied by Francesco Antonioli early on, while Bologna’s best chances came from set pieces, as a Claudio Terzi header glanced just wide of the Lazio goal. But le Aquile took the lead with an expert free kick from Zarate. The Argentine curled a brilliant effort up and over the wall into the near top corner leaving Antonioli rooted to the spot. It was the ex-Birmingham man’s first goal since December 14 and his first at the Olimpico since November.

Lazio’s defensive pairing of Emilson Cribari and Sebastian Siviglia did well to repel Bologna who fought back with Serie A top scorer Marco Di Vaio leading the charge. Substitute Massimo Marazzina was brought on to partner Di Vaio as the Rossoblu swept forward in the second half. However, it only led to spaces being left at the back, and Lazio’s victory was sealed ten minutes from time when Zarate swapped passes with Tommaso Rocchi and clipped the ball over Antonioli from six yards.

Atalanta 0-2 Chievo

Luigi Del Neri was unable to get one over his former club as Chievo showed plenty of fighting spirit in Bergamo.

The first half saw chances for both teams as Ferreira Pinto for Atalanta and Sergio Pellissier for Chievo going close.

The Flying Donkeys asserted themselves after the break with Michele Marcolini’s free kick skimming the frame of the crossbar. But it was former Oribici man, Antonio Langella who gave Chievo the lead with a strong volley from a deflected cross at the back post. As general custom in Italy, Langella refused to celebrate in honour of his former employers.

Atalanta’s afternoon was to get much worse as they ended the game with 10 men – Tomas Manfredini receiving a straight red card for elbowing Simone Bentivoglio. Then in the dying minutes, Gyorgy Garics handled inside his own box for a penalty which Pellissier duly converted to secure a valuable victory for Ceo.

Cagliari 0-0 Torino

Torino continued their unbeaten run with yet another stalemate in Sardinia.

A game with little incident saw an all to familiar story for the Granata as Rolando Bianchi proved wasteful in front of goal. The former Manchester City fan twice failed to make the most of Eugenio Corini’s creativity with weak finishing and one has to wonder whether it will cost them at the end of the season.

Cagliari had chances and just before the break Matteo Sereni denied Alessandro Matri with a point-blank save after s good work from Andrea Cossu.
But it was Torino who will feel like they could have had more, Federico Marchetti was at full stretch to deny Cesare Natali’s looping header just before half time and Rosina volleyed over the bar after a neat knock down from Roberto Stellone during the second period. But it remained goalless with a share of the spoils little good for bith sides differing ambitions.

Palermo 0-4 Catania

Giuseppe Mascara’s wonder strike made it a derby to remember for Catania as they trashed their fellow Sicilians in their own back yard.

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This Sicilian derby had everything and a could not have been a more fitting way to celebrate Catania’s 400th Serie A match since their debut in 1954. The Elefanti took a surprise lead inside quarter of an hour when Pablo Ledesma dived to head a Taka Morimoto cross past the helpless Marco Amelia. Moments later, Mark Bresciano was sent off for a late tackle on Morimoto, leaving Palermo with a mountain to climb for the remaining 75 minutes. Morimoto was very much at the centre of everything, and it was he who doubled his team’s advantage when he sprung the offside trap and kept a cool head to finish.

Palermo fought back with Edison Cavani going close, but it was Giuseppe Mascara’s goal – a volley from the halfway line, that killed any chance of a Rosanero comeback. After the restart, and to their credit, the home side kept pushing for something to take from the game but Michele Paolucci’s angled drive made sure it was a derby thrashing for the Catania fans to enjoy.

Reggina 1 –1 Fiorentina

Two points dropped for Fiorentina and their Champions League ambitions, but it was Reggina that probably deserved more.

Reggina started brightly and went ahead with a fierce strike from just outside the area by Alessio Sestu. It was Sestu’s first goal in Serie A and what a goal – it zipped into the top corner giving Sebastian Frey no chance. But the lead didn’t last long, as an old boy came back to haunt Reggina in the form of Emiliano Bonazzoli – who bundled in an equalizer after Adrian Mutu’s drive was deflected into his path.

In the second half, Reggina pressed for an advantage with Bernardo Corradi and Francesco Cozza forcing saves from Frey. Later a Cozza volley hit the underside of the bar, but as the game wore on, the Viola threatened on the counter attack and nearly stole it at the end with a Marco Donadel shot that was parried to safety.

Sampdoria 2–1 Milan

Sampdoria piled on the misery for Carlo Ancelotti as Giampaolo Pazzini continued his excellent scoring form.

With injuries to key players and a shock UEFA cup exit only three days before, Milan were there for the taking and looked lackluster against a spirited Sampdoria team that were riding high on he back of a five-match unbeaten run. Antonio Cassano had a free kick pushed around the post by Christian Abbiati on 18 minutes, but the Bari born star was not to be denied when a quarter of an hour later he stooped to give his side the lead. His close range header was judged to have crossed the line, despite the Milan protests.

With the Rossoneri looking tired and desperately short of ideas, Filippo Inzaghi came on in the second half to join Alexandre Pato up front, but as Milan pushed for a goal, Pazzini struck his fifth in as many games. The former Viola man linking up with Cassano, as he has done so often in recent weeks, smashed the ball into the far top corner from the tightest of angles. The Rossoneri rallied and 10 minutes from time Pato met a Giuseppe Favalli cross from the left to pull a goal back for the visitors. And just a minute later, what looked like a dramatic equalizer was ruled out when substitute Emerson’s glancing header kick was judged to be in an offside position. Il Diavolo’s late flurry proved too little too late and Samp held on for a deserved victory.

Siena 0-0 Genoa

Genoa was left frustrated as a disallowed Diego Milito goal meant they had to share the points in Tuscany.

The game’s main talking point occurred on 25 minutes when Milito latched on to a Thiago Motta through ball and dispatched in the fashion that we have been accustomed from the Argentine – only for it to be ruled offside. Television replays showed it was an extremely tight decision.

Udinese 2-0 Lecce

Udinese got back to winning ways with a victory as Lecce continue to show relegation form.

Wonderkid, Alexis Sanchez proved a nuisance to the visitor’s defence early on as fouls seemed to be the only way to contain him. Andrea Coda’s looping header turned a Sanchez free kick on to the roof of the net, while Antonio Floro Flores was crowded out by defenders as he got on the end of another assist from the Chilean sensation.

Udinese continued to dominate in the second half and finally broke the deadlock with a free kick curled in by substitute Gaetano D’Agostino. The ex-Roma man is a dead ball specialist and he delighted the Friuliani crowd by taking a well earned bow.

Lecce’s misery was compounded when Luca Ariatti was sent off for stamping on Sanchez and deep into injury time, Giovanni Pasquale slotted in a second for the home side to make it a comfortable three points.

Inter 3-3 Roma

The league leaders were given a scare as the San Siro played host to a six goal thriller.

The Giallorossi took the lead with a well-worked goal on 23 minutes. Marco Motta skipped past Santon down the right and Daniele De Rossi got in front of Javier Zanetti for a header that bounced in off the inside of the far post. John Arne Riise added to Inter’s woe six minutes later as a surging run from the left gave him the opportunity to squeeze a finish that went through Julio Cesar’s legs.

The Nerazzurri was stunned and Jose Mourinho made radical changes at half-time, switching to a 4-2-3-1 system with Luis Figo and Patrick Vieira replacing Maxwell and Nicolas Burdisso. It had instant results, as within five minutes of the restart, Adriano found an unmarked Mario Balotelli to pull one back for the Nerazzuri. As Inter pushed for an equalizer they were caught on the counter as Baptista and Vucinic combined to play in the on-rushing Brighi to slot in a third for the capital club.

With half an hour remaining, Balotelli cut into the Roma area and was brought down by De Rossi for a penalty. Super Mario took the spot-kick himself, sending Doni the wrong way. Hernan Crespo replaced Dejan Stankovic as Inter pressed for an equalizer and it proved to be an inspired substitution, as within moments of coming on, Crespo had equalized. A trademark header from a sublime Luis Figo cross – it was a goal that was to keep Jose Mourinho’s 111-match unbeaten home League record intact.

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