At the conclusion of a see-sawing battle with Torino, Milan midfielder Mathieu Flamini felt one man deserved praise above others. “Christian Abbiati made the difference with his saves. It was extraordinary stuff, he’s a great ‘keeper.”
Both the Rossoneri and Torino had good chances during the match. Toro will look to one in particular when Paulo Barreto was brilliantly denied by the veteran goalkeeper from close range, before the rebound ballooned off his foot and on to the roof of the net.
Mario Balotelli would then give Milan all three points in the 84th minute. It signalled another Torino defeat, one Coach Giampiero Ventura labelled ‘undeserved.’ It was their fourth loss in a row and continued a worrying trend.
In the last three matches – against European and Scudetto chasing clubs Milan, Juventus and Fiorentina – the Granata conceded critical goals in the dying moments. That the defeats came against three clubs in the top four makes the fadeouts even more galling. So close to crucial points which then vanished. Balotelli’s goal was the earliest of the bunch. Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio struck with 86 and 91 minutes on the Derby della Mole clock. Romulo broke Toro hearts in Florence with four minutes remaining, after they fought back from three goals down.
Disturbingly for those in claret red, the recent trend stretches back further. It commenced in Round 26, away to Cagliari. The Sardinians scored either side of a 92nd minute Rolando Bianchi equaliser – the 87th and 94th minutes – in what was a chaotic contest. A fortnight later against Parma, Giampiero Ventura’s men picked the ball out of the net four times in the final 13 minutes to lose 4-1.
When Riccardo Meggiorini scored with 12 minutes remaining versus Napoli, the Granata led 3-2. The Partenopei then found the target three times. “I didn’t think we could lose it at that point,” uttered a stunned Ventura. “We’ve got to look back and realise where we went wrong so that we can learn from it. A team also grows through these experiences.” They didn’t learn as results indicate. A week after Napoli, Torino fell behind to Bologna in the 86th minute, but were saved only by an even later Bianchi strike.
Ventura suggested his side ‘gave up’ at Parma once they fell behind. Could complacency be the issue at hand? Their position in recent weeks looked to be one of mid-table comfort. Despite the losses, they looked safe as long as those below struggled. That has changed. The relegation threatened club have clawed towards much-needed victories while Toro’s concentration was lacking. Mentally Torino have not been able to see out matches. It’s an ongoing concern for what was at the start of the campaign one of Serie A’s most miserly defences.
The Round 31 Stadio Renato Dall’Ara draw was the last point Torino secured. Siena, Palermo and Genoa’s recent revivals have exposed the struggling Granata to the relegation dogfight. It ensures a nail-biting end to the campaign. Tuttosport reported the Coach stormed out of training last Friday. Toro’s current predicament looks to be overwhelming.
They face a crunch match tonight with Genoa. Ventura has admitted this match could determine their Serie A status. He cancelled the pre-match Press conference and decided the team would go on a mini-ritiro to prepare. Ventura wants maximum focus on the task at hand. Torino – 36 points – are four points clear of 18th placed Palermo. Their finish is manageable. They face Chievo and Catania after the Grifoni.
Ventura said before the San Siro clash his side must be ‘wary’ throughout. They failed to heed the warning and were punished in the dying embers. Should they overcome these wobbles then survival can be secured, but another late blackout will make for a nervous final two rounds of the campaign.