With another week of Serie A football in the books, it’s time to take stock of the action around the peninsula. With blizzards, a rash of red cards, dramatic victories, and one Derby della Madonnina all part of the mix, entertainment was at the prime level we all expect from the Italian top flight.
Palermo and Genoa drew 0-0 at the Stadio Renzo Barbera to kick off the weekend on Saturday, a result the Grifone are undoubtedly far more satisfied with as they currently sit five points clear of the drop zone, whilst the Rosanero are now six points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table after failing to snatch the spoils. The Sicilian club immediately prolonged its extended run of managerial madness following the stalemate, with axe-wielding owner Maurizio Zamparini deposing tactician Alberto Malesani after only his third match in charge in favor of Gian Piero Gasperini, the same man that was fired from the post three weeks prior. The sacking and subsequent appointment have seen Zamparini reach a rather dubious milestone, marking his 50th coaching hire since taking charge of Palermo in 2002.
Sunday’s lunchtime encounter witnessed Sampdoria claim a 2-0 victory over Chievo at a rainy Stadio Luigi Ferraris, with Andrea Poli and Eder each on target for the Blucerchiati. The young Italian is sure to see his transfer market stock rise after a dominant display of versatility and talent in midfield over the 90 minutes amidst sloppy weather conditions.
Later in the afternoon, Juventus cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win against strugglers Siena courtesy of strikes from Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sebastian Giovinco, and Paul Pogba, whilst Catania’s miraculous season continued with a favorable 2-1 result at the notoriously hostile Stadio Ennio Tardini. Set-piece specialist Francesco Lodi snuck in a cunning free-kick early on to give the Elefanti the lead, with Keko adding the insurance strike on his debut before Amauri grabbed a late consolation for the Ducali. Rolando Maran’s men are now just two points shy of the final Europa League place in the Serie A table, and have signalled their intent to do battle with their rivals until the bitter end to secure a spot in continental competition.
Elsewhere, Roma earned their second straight victory, coming out on top 3-2 away to Atalanta. January signing Marko Livaja hit a brace for La Dea as a blizzard raged in Bergamo, but a quality strike from Marquinho, Miralem Pjanic’s sumptuous free-kick, and Vassilas Torosidis’ looping header on 71 minutes were enough for the Giallorossi to take full points. The Greek’s cranial effort was his first goal for the capital club after signing from Olympiakos in the winter transfer window, and clinched caretaker manager Aurelio Andreazzoli’s second win at the helm in his first three games. Roma have moved to within four points of the European places in downing the Orobici, a welcome sight for tifosi after the club seemed out of contention just two weeks ago.
Cagliari and Torino rounded out the afternoon schedule with a cracking match at the Is Arenas that finished 4-3 to the Isolani and included three penalties and two red cards. The Granata were ahead 2-1 until Daniele Conti equalised for the home side on 75 minutes, setting up a dramatic final quarter-hour in which Angelo Ogbonna and Abou Diop were each dismissed for Torino. After Mauricio Pinilla gave the Sardinians their first lead of the day with a well-taken spot-kick on 87 minutes, Rolando Bianchi restored parity with a penalty of his own in stoppages before Conti amazingly clinched victory for Cagliari with a last-gasp strike from distance. The thrilling encounter was unfortunately played behind closed doors to an empty stadium in connection to concerns over the Is Arenas’ safety and Rossoblu president Massimo Cellino’s alleged use of fraudulent means to construct the venue. Nevertheless, Cagliari have received a boost in going 10 points above the relegation zone, having gone undefeated in their last seven Serie A bouts.
The marquee matchup of the weekend pitted arch rivals AC Milan and Inter against each other in the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday evening, the famous fixture ending in a 1-1 draw. The Rossoneri came out swinging as the supreme aggressor in the opening period, taking the lead on a wonderful finish by young sensation Stephan El Shaarawy with the outside of his boot. The Nerazzurri struggled to contend defensively with the energy and pace of opposition fullbacks Ignazio Abate and Mattia De Sciglio, whilst Riccardo Montolivo bossed the midfield repeatedly panicked Inter’s back line with his incisive distribution.
The Diavolo would have gone into halftime with a far greater lead had it not been for the exploits of Samir Handanovic in goal, who twice denied Mario Balotelli in fantastic fashion, amongst other stops. Andrea Stramaccioni made use of a number of tactical adjustments and his available substitutions to pull the Beneamata back into the match after the break, shoring up defensive frailties whilst January capture Ezequiel Schelotto came off the bench to flick home a picturesque header on 71 minutes for the equaliser. Milan saw the majority of the ball as the clock neared full time, but were unable to penetrate their rejuvenated adversaries’ barricades, having expended so much energy in the first half for such little reward. The draw leaves the two San Siro clubs still just one point apart in the table, the Rossoneri one rung above the Nerazzurri in fourth place.
Napoli lost ground on leaders Juventus on Monday evening, drawing 0-0 with Udinese at the Stadio Friuli. Zebrette stalwart defender Mehdi Benatia was injured early on in the match, whilst Partenopei hitman Edinson Cavani’s goalless streak in domestic play was extended to four games on the bounce. Lazio were untroubled by Pescara as they defeated the Delfini 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico courtesy of a pair of wonder strikes by Stefan Radu and Senad Lulic in the second match of the evening. With the win, the Aquile have regained possession of third place on 47 points, two ahead of closest competitor AC Milan.
Bologna and Fiorentina closed out the round on Tuesday, their encounter scheduled for Sunday at the Stadio Renato dall’Ara having been snowed off. The Viola jumped out in front midway through the first half courtesy of the in-form Adem Ljajic, but a poor start to the second period saw Marco Motta draw the Rossoblu level not long after the restart. Bologna continued to look the more likely of the two sides as the match wore on, and eventually got their just rewards when Lazaros Christodoulopoulos grabbed the winner late on for the hosts just 15 minutes into his Serie A debut. Bologna move 8 points clear of the drop zone with the win, whilst Fiorentina squandered the opportunity to snatch a share of fourth place, instead remaining in sixth on 42 points.
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