The throaty roar from the Curva Fiesole was unmistakable despite its lengthy absence. A huge cheer as Adem Ljajic took a throw-in meant word had reached the Stadio Artemio Franchi that Inter had slipped behind at home to Cagliari. The Florentine faithful had lifted the lid on a simmering pot of excitement that club officials are vigorously trying to keep under control.
In the end, the Nerazzurri would clamber back for a draw but that still saw Vincenzo Montella’s men make progress up the table. With Juventus, Napoli and Lazio joining Andrea Stramaccioni’s side in gathering just a single point at the weekend, the Viola were the only side to take advantage. A rousing chorus of Chi non salta e’ bianconero – whoever is not jumping is black and white – left no doubt that the Tuscan side’s supporters have their eyes on the top of the table.
Ironically, the boys from the banks of the Arno have turned on the afterburners since their top player’s jets have cooled. A side supposedly Stevan Jovetic-dependent has delivered a defeat to Milan in the San Siro and a comprehensive dismantling of an in-form Atalanta without their Montenegrin talisman. No wonder Andrea Della Valle was doing some of his best embarrassing-dad dancing in celebration in the stands.
An early lead through Gonzalo Rodriguez was cancelled out by an opportunist strike from the growing-in-stature Jack Bonaventura which was probably marginally offside. But what impressed most about these purple players was that they simply rolled up their sleeves and got on with putting things right. Two goals from Alberto Aquilani – his first Serie A double – and an assist from the ex-Liverpool man for Luca Toni put the game to bed. The only fly in the ointment was a booking for David Pizarro which means he misses next week’s trip to Torino.
“A title-worthy Fiorentina? Let’s not get carried away,” said Coach Montella. “It is nice for the fans to dream but we need to keep improving like we have so far. We can have ambition but we need to keep our feet on the ground.”
The result which caused so much joy in Florence, that Inter home draw with Cagliari, sparked the latest round of controversy. With Juventus – without their lock-picker-in-chief Andrea Pirlo – having been held to a goalless draw by Lazio on Saturday, the Nerazzurri had a golden opportunity to narrow the gap. When they failed to do so, Massimo Moratti exploded in a tirade played out almost every week by one club or another.
“I have been through all this before and I don’t want to go back those times of years ago,” he lamented, in a none-too-subtle hint at the Calciopoli scandal. “For three games in a row – and luckily we won one of them – we have suffered refereeing injustices or attitudes which have stopped us getting a result. I can’t keep quiet. I don’t like to find myself in situations like those of the past. Our penalty today was as clear as day, let’s not even joke about it.”
At least he stopped short of claiming some grand conspiracy against Inter, instead putting it down to a lack of ability on the part of referees. But, if he wanted, he could look back this season and find more than one instance where the match officials have helped his club. He is not alone in Italian football in this amnesic analysis of the game but it really does get tiresome to hear these moans week in, week out.
Instead, he failed to give credit to a couple of little sides – Atalanta last week and Cagliari this – who actually had the courage to have a go at Inter. Marco Sau is fast confirming his goal-form last year with Juve Stabia was no fluke and is a symbol of a Sardinian side built around homeland talent. Moratti could have had the good grace to recognise that fact. It took an own goal for his team to grab a point on Sunday, but that kind of information is always conveniently forgotten.
A much more precious point – or at least it must have felt that way – was snatched by Milan in the San Paolo. If anyone is keeping Max Allegri in his job, it is surely Stephan El Shaarawy, with another double to deny Napoli a much-needed win for their Scudetto challenge. If the Rossoneri want a bright side to the departure of kung-fu killer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it surely has to be the emergence of the young Italian forward who is getting a prolonged run in the side.
The weekend of many draws drew to a close – with the exception of Monday’s Roma versus Torino goals-guaranteed showdown – with derby action at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. Earlier results contrived to make it a virtual bottom of the table clash between Grifoni and Blucerchiati in search of a long-lost win. It felt like somebody had switched the lights out on the Derby della Lanterna.
There were security fears for a clash between two teams about as friendly as the two Antonios – Conte and Cassano – but in the end the game was not moved from its evening kick-off slot. It turned out to be an intense and exciting affair which went Sampdoria’s way, thanks, in particular, to young Argentinine talent Mauro Icardi who grabbed a goal and was a constant thorn in Genoa’s side. On this performance it looked like Italy missed out when he decided not to accept their Under 19 call-up earlier this year and opted for the land of his birth instead.
The derby win was enough to save Ciro Ferrara’s job, unlike Giovanni Stroppa earlier in the day. The Pescara boss desperately needed a victory over Siena but, when it did not materialise, he stepped down. A similar pressure was building on Gigi Del Neri in Genoa. Who knows how long he can fight it off?