Sunday marked the first time on the Serie A calendar that a derby would be played in the 2013/14 season. The Derby d’Italia between Inter and Juventus was the game that everyone looked forward to the most, but many forgot about one of the most underrated derbies in world football; the Derby della Lanterna.
Colloquially known as the Genoa derby, it’s one of the fiercest rivalries in Italy. Sampdoria “hosted” Genoa at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in the late kickoff. Considering the stakes, a loss in this match usually means that the defeated coach is in danger of losing his job, if he already hasn’t been sacked in the tunnel.
Grifone boss Fabio Liverani was the favourite to get sacked first according to many. Sampdoria tactician Delio Rossi, on the other hand, narrowly avoided a relegation battle the previous season, but was credited with enhancing the squad and getting the best out of the team. Both teams were winless, but Liverani’s men conceded seven goals, scoring twice.
Genoa’s opponents in the first two weeks were Inter (2-0 loss) and Fiorentina (5-2 loss). Sampdoria faced champions Juventus (1-0 loss) and Bologna (2-2 draw), meaning that the former had the much tougher schedule to open the season, but in a derby, anything can happen.
The build up to the match was surrounded by controversy. A Genoa youth goalkeeping coach, Luca De Pra, was caught spying on a Sampdoria training session just days before the match. The club later released a statement saying that no one sent De Pra, who was wearing full military camouflage when he was recognized. Since he’s the nephew of Giovanni De Pra, the team’s goalkeeper from 1919 to the 1930s, he was instantly identified.
The reconnaissance mission sparked an internet war between the two clubs, as if the derby needed more storylines to heat up the intensity heading into the match.
Liverani setup his team in a 4-3-2-1 formation in the club’s first two games, but he switched to a 3-5-2 for the derby, a system that old boss Davide Ballardini used to save Genoa from relegation in 2012/13. He also made four changes to the starting XI that lost 5-2 to Fiorentina before the international break.
The tinkering paid off early in the match. Luca Antonini, who was making his debut, bursted forward from the wing, received a cross, and fired a volley past Angelo da Costa to open the scoring on eight minutes. It was the former AC Milan fullback’s first goal since May 2010. The Rossoblu ultras were ecstatic.
The first half ended without another goal, but the second half became even more feisty. Sampdoria came close to equalizing through Eder and Lorenzo De Silvestri, but it was Emanuele Calaio, also making his debut, who would find the back of the net. Sime Vrsaljko fed the ball to the former Napoli and Siena striker, finishing calmly into the bottom corner.
Genoa weren’t done there, though. Considering their bad luck over the years, the fans weren’t comfortable with a 2-0 lead with around 25 minutes left, Alberto Gilardino wasn’t either, especially with their rivals heavily outshooting them. The Italian international darted forward and managed to win a free kick from about 20 yards away from goal.
Francesco Lodi, Europe’s top free kick shooter statistically, stood over the ball ready to strike. Lodi had scored 10 free kick goals since January 2011, at least four more than any other player since that date. He increased his total to 11 by firing a beautifully placed shot inside the far post to give Genoa a 3-0 lead.
Liverani rushed over to celebrate with his players in front of the curva. The coach was jubilant, the players were overjoyed, and the supporters were losing their minds. It’s the largest margin of victory in a Genoa derby in the top flight.
What’s more important is that president Enrico Preziosi came out and backed his young manager. His job is safe for now. Edoardo Garrone, Sampdoria’s big cheese, wasn’t as pleased with his club and coach. If Rossi isn’t careful over the next few games, he could be looking for work very soon. All a part of the madness that is the Derby della Lanterna.
Watch the highlights here:
Other results: Hellas Verona 2-0 Sassuolo; Livorno 2-0 Catania