Inter secured their fourth consecutive Scudetto and 17th in total without even having to kick a ball thanks to Milan’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Udinese on Saturday evening.
Before kick-off, seven points separated the two Milanese giants with just three matches of the season remaining making it imperative that Carlo Ancelotti’s men took the full three points on offer at the Stadio Friuli to keep alive their slim hopes of overhauling their great rivals. And with Ancelotti announcing over the weekend that his future will be decided in the next week, the Rossoneri were undoubtedly hoping to fend off the continuing conjecture surrounding their Coach’s future with a return to winning ways following last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Juventus.
Facing an Udinese team set on avenging their 5-1 mauling at the hands of the visitors back in December and on a run of five consecutive victories, Milan kicked off the match without the suspended David Beckham and Giuseppe Favalli. They did however have captain Paolo Maldini making his 900th appearance in the famous red and black shirt and it was il Diavolo who went closest to breaking the deadlock early on when Massimo Ambrosini’s shot flew just wide. Next up, it was the Bianconeri’s turn to go close as firstly Gokhan Inler saw his volley deflect just past the post before Dida twice prevented Azzurri striker Fabio Quagliarella from breaking the deadlock. Udinese were not to be denied however, and when Maldini’s rash tackle in the box on Antonio Floro Flores resulted in a penalty, Gaetano D’Agostino despatched the spot-kick with consummate ease into the roof of the net to put the hosts 1-0 ahead.
Lacking penetration with Alexandre Pato forging a lonely existence up front, Ancelotti introduced the predatory instincts of Filippo Inzaghi for the start of the second half. But the prolific striker’s first contribution to the game was to fail to clear an early Udinese corner which resulted in a second goal for the hosts courtesy of Colombian defender Cristian Zapata. And after Inzaghi saw an effort ruled out for offside, the Rossoneri Coach threw on Brazilian star Ronaldinho in search of more creativity. Yet it was Pasquale Marino’s charges who came closest to scoring the game’s vital third goal as D’Agostino forced Dida into a fine double save.
While Milan huffed and puffed in their desperation to keep their feint Scudetto hopes alive a little longer, it was the home team who looked the more dangerous in front of goal as Quagliarella twice watched Dida deny him. And the Brazilian custodian had to be at his very best again soon after to deny Alexis Sanchez before Inzaghi saw his close-range effort deflect onto the woodwork. Milan did finally gain some repost when Ambrosini headed home a consolation late in stoppage time, but Udinese held on for the win and could have added more gloss to the victory when Quagliarella saw his last-gasp effort rebound of the post.
And so, Milan’s defeat handed Inter their first Scudetto under Jose Mourinho’s stewardship with the Nerazzurri not due to kick off their match at home to Siena until Sunday evening. And with the San Siro in the mood to party, the players indulged their fans in an easy 3-0 victory over their Tuscan visitors thanks to goals from Esteban Cambiasso, Mario Balotelli and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Elsewhere on Saturday, a last-gasp header from veteran defender Christian Panucci secured Roma a narrow 4-3 victory over Catania at the Stadio Olimpico. The Giallorossi had earlier thrown away 1-0 and 3-1 leads over the plucky Sicilian outfit, but a perfectly flighted free-kick at the death from David Pizzaro fell invitingly onto the head of the former Azzurri star to keep Luciano Spalletti’s men on course for a place in next season’s newly reformed Europa League.
Sunday’s action saw Sampdoria travel to Florence to face high-flying Fiorentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. But any hopes Samp may have held of taking a result back to Genoa were dashed by la Viola’s prolific striker Alberto Gilardino, who pounced in the first half to slide home his 19th goal of the season and the only goal of the game to keep Fiorentina firmly on course for next season’s Champions League.
Following the win they are now just one point behind Juventus in the table after the Bianconeri’s 2-2 stalemate with Atalanta at an empty Stadio Olimpico. With the Turin club’s fans serving a one-match ban for racist chanting during the recent game with Inter, Claudio Ranieri’s men went into the match looking to break their dismal record of no wins in the last two months. But after recovering from a goal down to take the lead through a Vincenzo Iaquinta header and a stunning Cristiano Zanetti volley, the Old Lady conceded again on the stroke of half-time and could have lost the match with the visitors hitting the woodwork on three separate occasions.
Meanwhile, Juve’s city neighbours Torino, came from 1-0 down at the San Paolo to defeat Napoli 2-1 and keep alive their hopes of retaining their Serie A status for another season, while fellow strugglers Reggina also recovered from a one goal deficit to defeat Cagliari 2-1 at home thanks to second half strikes from Fabio Ceravolo and Franco Brienza to retain their own chances of avoiding relegation for another week.
For the second weekend in a row, third from bottom Bologna faced a relegation six-pointer when they squared up to bottom-of-the-table Lecce at the Stadio Dall’Ara. And despite trailing to a first half volley from Simone Tiribocchi, Marco Di Vaio’s 23rd goal of the season and 100th in Serie A coupled with Sergio Volpi’s last minute winner almost certainly condemned Lecce to the relegation trap door whilst throwing the team from Northern Italy a lifeline in their quest to avoid the dreaded drop.
Back near the top of the table, Genoa saw their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League take a fateful blow at the hands of Chievo at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. After coming from a goal down to take a 2-1 advantage courtesy of Diego Milito’s penalty and a Ruben Oliveira free-kick, the Grifone saw their lead erased late on when Sergio Pellessier’s header found the back of the net to give Chievo a share of the spoils. Finally over at Palermo’s Stadio Renzo Barbera, a Fabrizio Miccoli penalty and a Giulio Migliaccio header gave the Rosanero a 2-0 victory over Lazio to keep their European aspirations for next season very much alive.
Week 36 Results
Bologna 2 – 1 Lecce
Di Vaio 37, Volpi 90; Tiribocchi 30
Fiorentina 1 – 0 Sampdoria
Genoa 2 – 2 Chievo
Milito (pen) 58, Oliveira 71; Pinzi 35, Pellissier 85
Inter 3 – 0 Siena
Cambiasso 45, Balotelli 52, Ibrahimovic 76
Juventus 2 – 2 Atalanta
Iaquinta 26, Zanetti 36; Cigarini 2, Pellegrino 44
Napoli 1 – 2 Torino
Inacio Pia 41; Bianchi 52, Rosina 72
Palermo 2 – 0 Lazio
Miccoli (pen) 6, Migliaccio 87
Reggina 2 – 1 Cagliari
Ceravolo 25, Brienza 49; Lazzari 18
Roma 4 – 3 Catania
Perrotta 12, 31, Vucinic 17, Panucci 90; Tedesco 15, Mascara 47, Morimoto 72
Udinese 2 – 1 Milan
D’Agostino (pen) 31, Zapata 49; Ambrosini 90