The top three all won on an eventful and entertaining weekend in Serie A in which 34 goals were scored. There were shocks, thrashings and plenty of controversy as we reach the business end of the season with every result, every goal, every decision more important as the Serie A season reaches it’s run-in. Just 10 games remain and the stakes are high – who will feel the heat?
Inter 2-0 Fiorentina
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was once again Inter’s saviour in an eventful match at the San Siro. The big Swede was criticised this week for his Champions League no-show but he proved once more what a massive player he’s been for the Nerazzurri in their hunt for the title. The Inter tifosi had revolted against Jose Mourinho following their midweek Champions League exit so the pressure was really on the home side. And it looked that way. Il Biscione were nervous and edgy throughout, despite Ibra handing them an early lead. Mario Balotelli’s free kick was fumbled by Sebastian Frey leaving the former Ajax front man to poke home from close range. Protests followed from the Viola who believed the big Swede’s foot was too high and it should be deemed ‘dangerous play’. The goal stood and the Gigliati fury seemed to fire them up as they launched an onslaught on Julio Cesar’s goal. But the Brazilian has been in superb form this season and was again at his best saving superbly time and again to continually deny his frustrated opponents.
The game had another flash point when Davide Santon smashed his studs into Gianluca Comotto’s ribs – the Fiorentina full back even had the scars to prove it, but Inter’s young prodigy was ludicrously booked for a high challenge – much to Cesare Prandelli’s anger. Mourinho was later sent off for dissent when he asked for a second yellow for Felipe Melo and in a match full of red mist incidents and frantic exchanges, it ended with a wonderful piece of quality. And from who else – Ibrahimovic stepped up to a free kick from all of 30 yards, from which he smashed into the top corner – cannoning off the underside of the bar, making it look even more spectacular. The score-line has the look of a comfortable win for the league leaders but it was anything but – the Nerazzurri was second best for large periods and have Cesar to thank for almost single-handedly preserving their seven point advantage over second place Juventus.
Juventus 4-1 Bologna
Juve demolished relegation threatened Bologna with Sebastian Giovinco the star of the show, but not before the visitors had given them an almighty scare. The Rossoblu took a surprise lead through Massimo Mutarelli, who finished cutely after finding himself one-on-one with Gianluigi Buffon. But a sterling comeback started just three minutes into the second half when Giovinco’s corner was met with an excellent Hasan Salihamidzic header. Giovinco’ scuffed effort gave the Bianconeri the lead with less than 20 minutes remaining before a late brace from Alessandro Del Piero left the score-line a more emphatic look. The first of his which was a fine counter attack move ending with the Old Lady skipper sweeping in from eight yards, before sealing the game with a close range finish after his initial effort was saved. Claudio Ranieri’s men stay seven points adrift of leaders Inter knowing any slip ups will end their already slim title hopes with Week 32’s meeting of the top two a must win for the Turin giants.
Siena 1-5 Milan
Milan smashed a shell shocked Siena to answer their critics in a match that saw Filippo Inzaghi net his 300th professional goal. Andrea Pirlo got the ball rolling with an early penalty after Mathieu Flamini was felled before Christian Abbiati was forced off with a serious head injury leaving Dida to make his first league appearance this season. Just before the break Inzaghi netted from a David Beckham corner with the veteran striker allowed to volley in from just six yards thanks to some appalling marking from the home side. The day got better and better for the Rossoneri with Kaka returning from his injury lay off before Alexandre Pato unleashed a rocket into the top corner from almost 30 yards. Kaka should’ve made it four but inexplicably blazed his shot over the bar before Massimo Maccarone’s consolation strike. The moment of the weekend came when Inzaghi slotted in confidently after being put through by an exquisite Pirlo pass for his landmark goal. Pato got his second and Milan’s fifth after Robur keeper Gianluca Curci had hesitated leaving the young Brazilian the simplest of tasks of rounding the confused keeper and rolling home. It leaves the Milan giants six points ahead of fourth placed Genoa, but a perfect day for il Diavolo was marred when Kaka was forced of 20 minutes from time with an ankle problem.
Sampdoria 2-2 Roma
Ten man Roma fought back from the brink of defeat to claim a share of the spoils at a resurgent Sampdoria with Giampaolo Pazzini adding two more goals to his impressive tally since arriving in Genoa. But it was Julio Baptista – the villain of the piece in midweek, who broke the deadlock, sliding in at the back post to tap in Max Tonetto’s low cross. However, the game was turned on its head when Samp’s deadly strike duo stepped up with Antonio Cassano flighting a beautiful cross right onto the head of Pazzini who rose at the back post to head in. And the former Viola man handed the Blucerchiati the lead when he was first to react after Doni had woefully spilled a Marco Padalino shot. It was to go from bad to worse for the Giallorossi when Marco Motta received a second yellow for a needless shirt pull, leaving the visitors the uphill task of chasing the game with a man less. But eight minutes later, Padalino conceded a penalty for grappling with Tonetto when defending a free kick, leaving Baptista to confidently dispatch the resulting spot kick. Walter Mazzarri was furious and ended the match in the stands after being dismissed from the dugout and his side weren’t able to apply pressure on their inferior numbered opponents with both sides seeming happy to settle for a point in a breathless encounter.
Udinese 1-1 Catania
Fabio Quagliarella came off the bench to rescue a point for Udinese in an enthralling clash at the Stadio Friuli. Just two points separated the sides in the Sere A standings and it showed in an even contest. After a quiet opening, the game sparked into life when Giuseppe Mascara unleashed a trademark blockbuster – volleying in spectacularly from all of 30 yards. Both sides had chances to score in the following 45 minutes but it was Quagliarella who nicked a vital point for the Friulani – pouncing on a loose ball to poke home within two minutes of coming on. Floro Flores headed against the crossbar minutes before the end but it ended a point a piece – a fair result.
Palermo 5-2 Lecce
Gigi De Canio’s reign at second bottom Lecce got of to a catastrophic start as his side were thumped at Palermo. Former Coach Mario Beretta suffered the sack this week after just one point from the previous six games and club owner, Giovanni Semeraro turned to former QPR boss De Canio in the hope he would breathe new life into their relegation dog fight. But Sunday afternoon showed no signs of a team fighting for their lives as the Aquile ran riot. Edison Cavani converted an early spot kick after being inexplicably hauled over when in on goal. However, the Giallorossi responded – Simone Tiribocchi’s superb volley put the visitors back on level terms only for Fabio Simplicio to restore the lead after a Antonio Rosati calamitous error. But it was Titibocchi who again threw i Lupi a lifeline with a terrific solo goal. The Rosanero went ahead for a third time when Fabrizio Miccoli netted against his hometown club, firing into the bottom corner when through on goal. Lecce began chasing the game in the second period but was picked off by Davide Ballardini’s men – albeit thanks to a huge slice of luck. Simon Kjaer’s wayward cross somehow floated into the top corner before Cavani grabbed his second when he and Simplicio raced in on Lecce’s stranded goalkeeper with the latter selflessly sliding it across to his team mate for the simplest of tap ins.
Reggina 1-1 Napoli
Roberto Donadoni almost endured an embarrassing start to life in the Partenopei hot seat, only for a goalkeeping blunder to spare his blushes at bottom club Reggina. Edy Reja was unceremoniously sacked earlier in the week after the Azzurri’s European push had aimlessly fallen away, leaving Donadoni charged with the task of rescuing a side in total freefall. The former Italy Coach got off to a bad start as Bernardo Corradi sprung the offside trap, finishing well into the corner. Napoli huffed and puffed throughout a scrappy second half, but Ezequil Lavezzi capitalised on a Christian Puggioni error to equalise from a difficult angle.
Lazio 0-3 Chievo
The Stadio Olimpico provided the shock result of the weekend as Lazio were humbled by lowly Chievo, handing the Flying Donkeys a major boost in their quest for survival. The Biancocelesti went into the match on the back of three successive 2-0 wins, but the resurgence was brought to an almighty halt as Ceo followed their relegation threatened rivals, Reggina, in battering the Sky Blues on their home turf. Erjon Bogdani profited from the early injury to former Lazio man, Stephen Makinwa and the Albanian took his chance – glancing home a header from Luciano’s cross on 27 minutes. And just two minutes later the visitors doubled their lead when Sergio Pellissier was allowed to race in on goal, delightfully chipping the on-rushing goalkeeper. Lazio desperately tried to launch a response, but Chievo were at total ease and after Aleksandar Kolarov vented his frustration with a nasty late lunge resulting in the Serb’s immediate dismissal, Pellissier put the result beyond doubt with an effortless tap in late on.
Cagliari 0-1 Genoa
A late goal from substitute Ruben Olivera was enough to ensure Genoa a vital victory in their chase for fourth spot at the expense of Cagliari. The almost impenetrable Sant’Elia witnessed only its second home defeat since September, but it was a first half red card for Andrea Cossu that ultimately cost the Sardinians. It was a stirring contest between two sides that had performed above expectations this campaign and although the home side lost Cossu to an extremely harsh sending off, they had enough opportunities to earn at least a point from the game. Olivera’s close range header five minutes from time proved the hammer blow hoisting the Rossoblu above Fiorentina and into the much sought after fourth place.
Atalanta 2-0 Torino
Atalanta ended a run of three straight defeats with a comfortable victory over struggling Torino, prolonging il Toro’s away day blues. Walter Novellino’s side are yet to taste victory on the road this season and that horrible record would be extended as they fell to two second half Sergio Floccari strikes. The 27-year-old striker opened the scoring with a superb looping header immediately after the restart before making the game safe in the 73rd minute after cleverly rounding the on-rushing Matteo Sereni to slot into an empty net. It was a relatively easy afternoon for the Orobici as the Granata rarely threatened, but an injury to inspirational skipper Cristiano Doni on his comeback proved a sour note.