Yet another long-running David Beckham saga finally came to a close this weekend, with the official announcement that he will be staying at Milan until May 31, before returning to LA Galaxy in July to join in their MLS campaign, which ends in November. After that, nobody really has any idea what will happen. No doubt the player would love to return to Italy, especially as the 2010 World Cup would be looming on the horizon giving him further opportunities to collect caps. Adriano Galliani would also love to see his prized cash cow back in Rossoneri colours, increasing the average age of an already old squad even further.
Back to more pressing matters for Carlo Ancelotti and his stalwarts and their 3-0 victory over Atalanta, combined with Fiorentina’s 2-0 home defeat to Jekyll and Hyde outfit Palermo, has provided a rather nice five point cushion in the third place they currently occupy. The aforementioned Beckham, who has been distinctly average ever since Galliani had announced his intention to keep him, had a very effective game playing in the trequartista role behind Alexandre Pato and hat-trick hero Filippo Inzaghi. His awareness and range of passing allowed him to slot in naturally to the position, having been marooned on the right hand side for the previous two games. The negativity that seems to flow throughout il Diavolo at the moment was underlined midway through the second half when, with only a one goal advantage, the Englishman started to drift back to his right-sided role, creating a four-man midfield and shoring up that area of the pitch. Having been severely punished with this sort of tactic in numerous games recently, Ancelotti swiftly sent him back behind the front two when he noticed the issue.
This sort of positivity was sorely missed at the week’s key relegation clash, as draw specialists Lecce eked out a 0-0 stalemate with bottom side Reggina, a result that does neither club any good. When you play such negative football, as Mario Beretta’s side did on Sunday, then you deserve to be relegated. It was their fifth consecutive game without scoring, and their 13th in total (effectively half of their games played to date). Draws are now of no use to these two teams, which makes it all the more bizarre that they should attempt to stifle each other in a rare game where they could actually take all three points. The visitors perhaps should have succeeded in doing just that, as Bernardo Corradi’s lob over ‘keeper Antonio Rosati may have crossed the line, a decision that did not go in their favour.
Bologna’s victory, courtesy of a Marco Di Vaio treble, the second hat-trick of the afternoon’s games, means they are now one clear victory away from the four below. While the gap is by no means definitive, it adds further pressure on those chasing to start winning games. As outlined a couple of weeks ago, the Salentini have possibly the hardest set of fixtures left out of the four teams at the bottom. They have not won at home since the end of September, and four of their remaining six away games bring forth trips to Milan, Roma, Juventus and Genoa. What makes the lack of adventure all the more strange is that Beretta does have a pair of strikers who are capable of scoring goals in José Castillo and Simone Tiribocchi, who have 11 between them so far this season. The club’s current position is not irretrievable, one point away from 17th is by no means a chasm, but they have slipped backwards while the rest have all made small steps forward.
A couple of months ago they were in pole position to escape the relegation zone, instead they have handed that luxury to Torino, who lost their first game in seven against Juventus on Saturday evening. Their unbeaten sequence consisted of seven straight draws, a commendable run but one which would not have lifted them out of the drop zone had Lecce picked up a victory during the same period. That in itself highlights how costly their winless streak has been.
The Via del Mare was not the only ground to witness a tight goal-line call this week, as the Luigi Ferraris played host to a close decision that went in Inter’s favour. Is there a stadium in Serie A that has failed to do so this season? In any case, it would seem the officials actually called this correctly (you can judge for yourself from the image), a rarity for a match involving the Nerazzurri, and as such further post-match outbursts were avoided. Genoa’s defeat was their first home loss of the campaign, at the hands of probably the only team capable of pulling it off. Esteban Cambiasso’s comments after the match, where he outlines the rather simple yet devastatingly effective Inter equation of ‘efficiency = results’ sums up their performance. What should have been a testing trip for la Beneamata in effect turned out to be a much simpler afternoon’s work. Yes, il Grifone caused Inter problems, a lot of teams do, but you never really felt as if there was any danger of them clawing their way back into a game that had become an uphill struggle after two minutes.
Bad luck with injuries struck again, as Marco Materazzi and Nicolas Burdisso had to be substituted. That takes the centre-back injury tally to four, along with Walter Samuel and Cristian Chivu. It will prove a real headache for the midweek team selection for the game against Manchester Utd. The Special One’s preferred move of pulling midfielder Cambiasso back into defence was on view again. While he coped fine in with this particular test, he struggled against Roma last week, where Júlio Baptista turned him far too easily in the build-up to their third goal. A genuine centre-back would not have been caught out in such a manner, and top level opposition as will be provided by Dimitar Berbatov on Wednesday night will take advantage. With a European midweek beckoning, ‘luck’ could well need factoring into the Inter equation.