An Alejandro Gomez brace and Francesco Lodi free kick saw Catania crush Udinese 3-1 to keep their European hopes alive.
Only one point separated these teams going into the game, as the Sicilians were in eighth place and the Friulani ninth, so it was a head-to-head to stay in the race for Europe. Antonio Di Natale joined Dusan Basta, Giampiero Pinzi, Andrea Lazzari and Giovanni Pasquale on the treatment table, while Maurizio Domizzi, Maicosuel and Thomas Heurtaux were all suspended. Gonzalo Bergessio was only fit for the Catania bench, while Nicolas Spolli started his two-match ban.
After 70 seconds Danilo’s header from an Alexander Merkel free kick was well held, but moments later Zeljko Brkic was almost beaten by a Mehdi Benatia deflection on Sergio Almiron’s shot. Mariano Andujar turned a Merkel free kick out for a corner, while a smart Papu Gomez backheel flick in the box came to nothing, as no Catania teammates were ready to take advantage.
There was real danger on 28 minutes, as Brkic punched away a free kick and Pablo Barrientos volleyed the rebound just over an open goal. Catania started to turn up the pressure and Brkic did well to hold on to a Gomez cross-shot at the near post with Almiron ready to pounce.
Udinese also threatened on the counter, as Marco Davide Faraoni’s lob was plucked out of the air, then his snapshot was deflected out for a corner. Lucas Castro’s effort was smothered by the goalkeeper and Merkel fired over the bar.
In first half stoppages Merkel’s screamer bounced just in front of the goalkeeper and whistled wide of the upright.
Catania broke the deadlock after the restart with a well-worked move. A long Barrientos pass started the attack, as Castro and Gomez exchanged passes to burst into the box and Papu finished it off the inside of the near post from 10 yards.
Alessandro Potenza was sent off from the Catania bench for dissent and the atmosphere got increasingly fiery.
Catania doubled their lead when Castro dribbled past two players, sent Barrientos down the right and his cross found a Gomez header. Brkic got a hand to it, but not enough to keep the ball out of the net. It was unusual to see Gomez score with his head, as he is only 1.64m tall.
Andujar punched away another Merkel free kick, but Francesco Lodi made it 3-0 for the Elefantini with a trademark set piece that took a deflection off the wall to loop over Brkic and under the bar.
Muriel got one back with a wonderful solo effort, as he turned to leave two defenders behind and nutmegged Nicola Legrottaglie with an angled drive into the far bottom corner.