After the referees, the deluge. If the match officials were the main protagonists of the weekend in Italy, they were replaced by the weather midweek. Downpours across the country meant the going at many grounds was heavier than Mario Balotelli’s wallet.
It is in such conditions that you can find out some often untested qualities in a team. A lot of technique, tactics and touch have to go out of the window to make way for guts, grit and a bit of good fortune. Some sides dug deep to find such reserves on a miserable evening – but others were found wanting.
It surprised nobody to see League-leading Juventus show the character required. It looked like they might have dropped a couple of points to Bologna but their injury time winner seemed almost predictable. Paul Pogba’s celebrations were as cool and stylish as much of his performance throughout the match.
The only would-be rival to match them were Andrea Stramaccioni’s Inter with a comeback triumph over Samp at a sodden San Siro. A penalty – and accompanying harsh red card – helped to kick-start a revival which was ultimately sealed with a swagger. It was all too much for Doria boss Ciro Ferrara – sent to the stands in his fifth defeat in a row.
There was no such dramatic resurgence in Bergamo. A beautiful strike from Carlos Carmona flew like a bullet shooting down Napoli’s title ambitions. Walter Mazzarri dismissed any talk of feeling the absence of Edinson Cavani, he preferred to put it down to an unlucky night. Believe that if you will.
The lack of Hernanes and Cristian Ledesma definitely dragged down Lazio at home to Torino. They did salvage a draw through Stefano Mauri, which was not to be sniffed at against a side which has shown some of its best form away from home. But it left their Scudetto hopes looking more forlorn than a hair-dye salesman calling at Vlad Petkovic’s front door.
Perhaps the most comical conditions of all were in Parma where Roma’s calamitous character was to the fore once more. The large puddles on the Tardini playing surface could be credited with an assist in at least a couple of goals in the Giallorossi’s 3-2 defeat. But the worst defence in the Division – with 19 goals conceded and counting – makes grim reading for Zdenek Zeman.
A change of Coach, of course, may not be the answer but it certainly seems to have been in Sardinia. Cagliari knocked off a fourth win in a row for Ivo Pulga and Diego Lopez against Siena. It all made the 3-0 win awarded to Roma by the footballing authorities over the Rossoblu earlier in the year look just about the most unlikely result of the season so far.
And what to say of the latest chapter in the Milan soap opera on Tuesday? Every time it sounds like the closing titles might be coming down on Max Allegri’s reign, they deliver a final twist as with their 2-2 comeback against Palermo. Stephan El Shaarawy has sometimes seemed like the expert cornerman who keeps helping to get a battered old boxing champion back to his feet.
The overall outcome of the midweek clashes was to set up a mouthwatering Derby d’Italia on Saturday night. After all the controversy of Sunday, it was refreshing to see football – if in trying conditions – take centre stage. Hopefully that will continue when Juventus and Inter have their showdown in Turin. One way or another it is likely to have a big say in where the title ends up this year.