It was one of those crazy Sundays which only Serie A really knows how to produce. There were red cards, controversial penalties, cracking goals and even a rumble among the VIPs. At the heart of it all were the two sides of Milan.
The Rossoneri got the madness started with a lunchtime trip to a jam-packed Stadio Artemio Franchi. The game with Fiorentina was billed as a Champions League showdown and it proved just as contentious as such clashes tend to be in Italy. The final outcome, a 2-2 draw, left Milan in pole position for a top-three finish, but what twists and turns there were along the way.
First there was a goal for the not-very-welcome old boy Riccardo Montolivo. His persistence paid off when he robbed David Pizarro of the ball and thumped one home and was then submerged in the midst of his non-celebration. It must have felt sweet, however, to stick one to the supporters who were jeering him.
Things seemed to fall apart for the home side after that. Stefan Savic had to go off injured, then his countryman Stevan Jovetic also limped out of the game. But, in between times, came the game’s most incendiary moment.
Nenad Tomovic was shown a straight red for an outstretched arm which felled Stephan El Shaarawy. The home support felt it was a harsh decision and, in among the honoured guests, somebody turned on Milan supremo Adriano Galliani. Things got extremely heated and, eventually, he watched the rest of the game elsewhere. Fiorentina apologised for his treatment post-match and promised to ban the individual involved.
It looked like Galliani would be celebrating nonetheless when the Rossoneri went 2-0 up through Mathieu Flamini but their 10-man opponents had other ideas. Incredibly, through Adem Ljajic and then Pizarro, they converted two penalties to grab a draw which still leaves Max Allegri’s men favourites for the Champions League but salvaged some purple pride.
“It’s not possible to let Fiorentina back into the game from 2-0 up,” said the Milan boss. “The mistakes we made today will help us to mature because you can’t let a team a man short get back into the game.”
But if he thought he had things to teach his side, he should spare a thought for Andrea Stramaccioni. He must have believed his Inter team was finally on the right track when it led Atalanta 3-1 at home to keep its European dreams alive. But German Denis had other ideas to produce a hat-trick and turn the game on its head. By the end of the match there were more unedifying scenes with the players on the pitch ready for a fight.
The Inter boss was convinced that a controversial penalty for the Bergamo outfit turned the game on its head. He was scathing in his criticism of referee Andrea Gervasoni.
“He saw something which wasn’t there,” he said. “The Atalanta players were going to take a corner. I am new to this game but only he saw the penalty.”
“It was an invented penalty - a disgrace,” added Javier Zanetti. “It was a decisive mistake because at 3-1 we were in control. It always seems to happen to us.”
The incredible result effectively ended Inter’s hopes of third place despite their cousins being held to a draw in Florence. It would take an amazing turnaround for the Nerazzurri to achieve Champions League football now. The Europa League may be their only hope at this point.
Elsewhere over the weekend, Juve sweated more than necessary in their 2-1 win over Pescara, mainly thanks to the heroics of visiting goalkeeper Ivan Pelizzoli. Goal hero Mirko Vucinic stripped down to his pants to celebrate one of his strikes. It had many people wondering what he might do if he struck the winner to turn around the Champions League tie with Bayern Munich.
Napoli were able to keep the gap to nine points – and increase their breathing space over chasing Milan – with a competent win over Genoa. In the process, however, they threw the Rossoblu into prime relegation territory. A rare away win for Palermo at Sampdoria and a draw between Siena and Parma mean there are now three teams tied on 27 points in a fight to avoid being the two sides who join Pescara in Serie B next season.
All in all, a pretty gripping weekend of action. And there is only the little matter of the Rome derby to come...