The body might be in its mid-30s, but the smile in his post-match interviews was that of a teenager making his Serie A debut. They thought the demands of playing in a Zdenek Zeman side might have been too much for him but, for the time being at least, they are proving nothing of the sort. In the first big match of the season, Francesco Totti was an undisputed protagonist.
It was perhaps the defining performance of a weekend when some of the League’s most inspirational players put their best foot forward. A couple of delicious assists and a string of pinpoint passes were enough to put Inter to the sword. After an opening match full of mistakes, the Giallorossi turned on the style in the San Siro.
“We played a great game,” beamed Totti. “I am physically well and I enjoy playing in this role. And when the team is playing well it is a lot easier.”
He was rightly lauded for producing a masterclass which any young player in his position could learn a lot from. It was enough to grab three points off an Inter side which had fought back into the match thanks to a deflected goal from another imaginative star – Antonio Cassano. But it was Totti who took the honours, much to the chagrin of the Nerazzurri.
“We went 2-1 down and then we didn’t play well,” grumbled Andrea Stramaccioni. “That is something we have to look at.”
The result put the Romans on the edge of the early pacesetters in the title fight, one of whom was inspired by their own inventive attacker. Sebastian Giovinco was at the heart of much of the action for a Juventus side with two wins out of two thanks to a crushing triumph in Udine. He was flattened for a controversial penalty and red card early in the game and later produced a couple of goals in a Bianconero stroll.
“This referee is not balanced, he doesn’t use common sense and he ruins matches,” raged Udinese supremo Giampaolo Pozzo. “It makes me angry, he ruins games and a Sunday’s enjoyment. The annoying thing is that it looked like being a nice game.”
His team was picked apart ruthlessly by the reigning champions with Giovinco, in particular, enjoying the extra space against a side down to 10 men. It was a message to the rest of the League that the Bianconeri mean serious business. Even at 4-0 up, stand-in Coach Massimo Carrera was roaring at his players that he wanted more goals.
Napoli responded to Juve’s resounding win in more hesitant style. Still, their young talent Lorenzo Insigne had a part in a battling 2-1 victory over Fiorentina on a dreadful, sand-scattered surface at the San Paolo. He had an assist for their opener and the second strike came from a poor clearance from one of his corners. A curler from Stevan Jovetic was too little, too late for the Viola.
“I would like us to play better,” admitted Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri. “I didn’t like the first half at all. But sometimes in the past we have played well and not got the result – this time we played not so well and won.”
They are joined at the top of the table by a Lazio side which brushed aside a Palermo team still struggling for an identity. Two typically clinical finishes from Miroslav Klose and a thunderbolt from Antonio Candreva were enough to get the job done. As President Claudio Lotito was not slow to point out in post-match interviews, you don’t have to buy dozens of players if you already have a strong squad.
One new signing who did make an impact, of course, was Giampaolo Pazzini at Milan. Those who doubted the wisdom of the deal which saw him swapped with Inter for Cassano and cash were given pause for thought by his hat-trick in Bologna. It also put a better shine on the Rossoneri’s start to the season.
The international break now allows everyone to gather their thoughts for the weeks to come, but a few clues have already been delivered. Juve won’t relinquish their title easily. And Napoli just might have what it takes to make a serious Scudetto challenge. But, above all, if your most exciting players express themselves almost any result is possible.
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