Juventus secured the Serie A title with a 1-0 win over Palermo. Giancarlo Rinaldi wraps up the Week 35 action.
Only in Italy, perhaps, could they even argue over basic arithmetic. On all official calculators the answer shows as 29 but, for those encased in black and white, it reads as 31. Regardless of which running total you prefer, there was no arguing that the collective skills of Juventus added up to worthy winners of yet another Scudetto this season.
It was clinched with a low-key display in a party atmosphere. Struggling Palermo caused the Bianconeri only sporadic problems while the home side went through the motions knowing that even a draw would clinch their crown. It was fitting, however, that a campaign hero like Arturo Vidal should ensure the celebrations were sealed with a win.
Maybe Massimo Donati thought he was still playing in Scotland as his nudge in the back of Mirko Vucinic would have surely gone unpunished in the SPL and many other Leagues. Not in Italy, however, and - especially - not on an away trip to one of Serie A’s big guns. Vidal thumped home his fifth League penalty of the season, making him the first Juventino to reach double figures this term, and it was pretty much game over.
There was still time for Paul Pogba to sour matters a little with an unnecessary spit at Salvatore Aronica which saw him receive a red card. But nothing was going to stop La Vecchia Signora’s supporters celebrating. They might have fallen short of the very top level in Europe but they were more than good enough to dominate in Italy. Not invincible this time, perhaps, but still pretty much untouchable.
“The boys have been extraordinary,” said Antonio Conte after clinching his second title in a row as Coach. “It was a beautiful, intense and tiring season but my players have always been up to the job. It wasn’t easy to win this year. We knew the Champions League would use up our energy but the boys were amazing nonetheless.”
There was talk, around the game, that the Coach might be tempted to move elsewhere if the Bianconeri do not strengthen their squad in the summer. The man himself responded with a slightly unconvincing: “I’m happy where I am.” While director Beppe Marotta insisted they were planning a fresh assault on Europe with their current manager still in charge. It was not the day, you felt, for contaminating the champagne.
Juve’s triumph left Napoli’s evening clash with Inter feeling like a bit of a sideshow. Still, Walter Mazzarri’s men kept their focus with a 3-1 victory courtesy of an Edinson Cavani hat-trick which took him to 101 since he joined the club. He is only 14 short of Diego Maradona and all those with a passion for the Partenopei will hope he hangs about next season to pass that record.
There were small celebrations in the San Siro as Max Allegri’s men all but clinched a crack at the Champions League with a hard fought win over lowly Torino. A couple of key saves had Rossoneri fans seeking instant sainthood for Christian Abbiati before Mario Balotelli - who else? - tapped in the winner. It was a major step in Milan’s remarkable recovery from early season relegation contenders to top three finishers.
“I have got clear ideas about my future,” said Allegri, another Coach whose fate at his club is in doubt - and regularly undermined by Silvio Berlusconi. “I have another year on my contract and I want to stay. I hope to stay.”
Whoever is in charge at Milanello next year is likely to have a Champions League qualifier to face after this weekend’s win was combined with Fiorentina’s last gasp loss to Roma. The Viola had run the show in the second half and had a good shout for a penalty and hit the woodwork before old boy Pablo Osvaldo struck the winner in injury time. He had no hesitation in celebrating in front of his former fans in the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
That result allowed the Giallorossi to close the gap on the Florentine’s fourth place and Udinese also boosted their Europa League chances with a fifth win in a row - this time at Sampdoria’s expense. These late-season rushes are becoming a speciality at the Stadio Friuli. Who knows what they might achieve if they could ever keep their team intact one summer and actually get off to a decent start?
Also on the up - although more likely to qualify for Europe via the Coppa Italia than the League - were Lazio against already-on-their-holidays Bologna. Miroslav Klose cracked home five of the home team’s six goals to become the first player to achieve such a haul since Roma’s Roberto Pruzzo 27 years ago. It was just one short of the Serie A record - shared by Silvio Piola for Pro Vercelli against Fiorentina in 1933 and Juve’s Omar Sivori in a controversial clash with Inter in 1961 when the Nerazzurri sent out their youth team as part of a protest at how the League had been decided.
If Stefano Pioli’s side appeared already satisfied with their survival when they turned up at the Olimpico, there should be a word of praise for near neighbours Parma. They could have played out a mutually-convenient draw with Atalanta but instead went for - and got - the win. The same could not be said for Chievo and Cagliari who played out a bloodless nil-nil draw on Saturday evening. There are repeats of the Antiques Roadshow which have provided more thrills and spills.
Another side not resting on its laurels was Catania with Gonzalo Bergessio helping himself to a hat-trick against slumping Siena. The little Tuscans had staged a mini-revival to stoke dreams of survival but those flames of hope are now barely embers. A midweek derby with Fiorentina could just about extinguish them once and for all.
One team already bidding farewell to the top flight is Pescara after a sacrificial 4-1 thrashing by Genoa. The Rossoblu boosted their own survival hopes with the three precious points which finally sank the Dolphins. It is a fifth relegation from Serie A for the boys from the Stadio Adriatico - only once have they survived in Italy’s highest division for more than a single season. And those are the kind of harsh figures that even their most ardent supporter would find impossible to dispute.