“Clamoroso al Cibali!” was a saying born of a famous shock home win for Catania over Inter. But the Nerazzurri produced a stunner of their own at the now Stadio Massimino on Sunday afternoon with a rousing comeback. In the process they made boss Andrea Stramaccioni the hands-down winner of his training ground spat with Antonio Cassano.
At half-time that outcome had looked more unlikely than Javier Zanetti asking for a Stephan El Shaarawy haircut. After just 20 minutes they were two goals down and it seemed like the exclusion of Fantantonio had backfired in the most disastrous of fashions. But, somehow or another, the Milanese giants carved out a win which had their tactician wagging his finger like a man who had been vindicated in spectacular style.
“It is a very important win because it came against probably the most in-form team in the League,” said Strama. “I don’t know how many people would have bet on us at half-time. But the Inter side which came out for the second half gave all it had and I think it was a deserved win. If this squad didn’t have a certain reserves of strength it would have been impossible to come back.”
It is always hard in the space of one weekend to assess the importance of a single victory, but this had the feeling of a pivotal moment in the season for both clubs. Perhaps Catania started to tremble a little bit at the thought of European football which would have been theirs for the taking with a victory. Inter, for their part, showed how deep they are prepared to dig in order to keep their Champions League hopes alive – even without a key player like Cassano.
The night before, their much-hated red-and-black cousins had shown that they, too, could manage without their own enfant terrible. Injured Mario Balotelli sat out the visit of Lazio with an injury, allowing Giampaolo Pazzini to take centre stage. He performed so well that Super Mario might get more time than he would like to contemplate the life-sized statue of himself he is apparently having built for his own home.
The Rossoneri looked in good shape but one of the pivotal moments of the match was the decision to send off Antonio Candreva after just 16 minutes. It was one of those situations in which it was hard to envy the match officials. The Lazio man brought down El Shaarawy on the edge of the penalty box with a defensive teammate closing in. Nicola Rizzoli opted to award a free-kick but red carded the ex-Juventino for denying a goalscoring opportunity. It was a decision which, understandably, enraged Vlad Petkovic.
It is impossible to say whether Milan might have won the match anyway as they had certainly looked the more enterprising side. The result continued their amazing turnaround which has put them back in the Champions League positions. Those calls for Max Allegri’s head have suddenly become harder to find than woodland truffles.
The two Milanese victories allowed them to edge closer to the top two positions after Napoli and Juventus had shared the honours in their clash on Friday night. It was a game which saw the Partenopei play with something akin to first-date nerves. They knew the importance of their opportunity to narrow the gap on the Bianconeri but ended up letting it slip. And Antonio Conte’s men are not the kind of side to give you a second chance.
It was, nonetheless, a gripping affair – and in a most literal sense for Giorgio Chiellini with Edinson Cavani’s hair. He gave the Napoli hitman’s locks the kind of tug which a TV comedian recently gave to Coach Conte’s resurgent thatch to check its authenticity. The Uruguayan responded with an elbow to the face which was lucky to only see a yellow card.
Elsewhere over the weekend, a brave gamble by Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Montella was rewarded with a narrow win over Chievo. Putting Marcelo Larrondo on for Stevan Jovetic was the kind of move which could easily have left the Little Aeroplane looking foolish. Instead, his substitute produced the match-winning goal even if, as the Viola Coach admitted, it had been scored via a header from Luca Toni in an offside position.
In Sunday’s night game it was the old and new show for Roma. Veteran Francesco Totti opened the scoring with his 225th Serie A goal which tied former Milan great Gunnar Nordahl in second spot in the all-time scoring table. Marco Borriello equalised from the spot for Genoa, but then youngster Alessio Romagnoli put the Giallorossi back in front and old-timer Simone Perrotta clinched the win. Totti embraced his children at the final whistle and there was not a dry eye in the house.
Bologna dished up a couple of contenders for goal of the week in their 3-0 dismantling of Cagliari. Alessandro Diamanti, no stranger to such strikes, curled in one beauty with Cristian Pasquato thumping home another. Coach Stefano Pioli dedicated the win to singer and Rossoblu supporter Lucio Dalla, who passed away a year ago.
There was also an important three points for Sampdoria thanks to another precious strike from the prodigious Mauro Icardi which will surely have added a little bit more to his future transfer value. Delio Rossi, whose previous coaching adventure ended so spectacularly in Florence, appears to have got the recipe right in Genoa. His team is playing with a bit of punch – possibly afraid of what fate awaits them if they let him down.
Down in the lower reaches it looks like it is almost game over for Palermo, Siena and Pescara. They managed just one point between them at the weekend and it cost Cristiano Bergodi his job. Another week, another coaching casualty. But, by now, those hardly constitute news at all.