Roma are now alone at the top of the table after a remarkable midweek round of Serie A football. Giancarlo Rinaldi writes.
It looked, on paper, like a pretty humdrum round of midweek matches. With the top five clash between Inter and Fiorentina yet to come, a reasonably routine set of games was widely expected. Instead, it produced shocks, controversy and an incredible comeback.
The outrage came at the Stadio Bentegodi where Chievo thought Alberto Paloschi had thumped them back into the lead after trading goals with Juventus. Instead, his strike was ruled out for something which remained unclear after numerous replays. An own goal to clinch three points for the Bianconeri only rubbed salt in the wounds. Having rested some of his first team regulars, Antonio Conte could heave a sigh of relief.
“We have been trying not to speak about refereeing decisions for or against us,” said the Juve boss. “Let’s try to talk about football. Everybody makes mistakes, but they should not be magnified if they go in favour of some teams. This incident helped us out but others will go against us in future.”
If La Vecchia Signora rode her luck, her main rivals in action had to work harder than expected. Roma took their time to break down a stubborn Sampdoria side and retain the League’s only 100 per cent record. It was only after new boss Rudi Garcia was sent off that they finally threw off their shackles. A fine piece of persistence by Mehdi Benatia and a Francesco Totti-assisted Gervinho goal ensured they finished the night on top of the table. It is the first time in the club’s history that they have recorded five wins out of five at the start of a Serie A season. Curiously, they have yet to score a goal in the first half of a League match.
“This is a nice win, we have played three games away from home and getting three wins was very difficult,” said Garcia. “My players deserve credit, their spirit is great. They want to do well for our fans and this attitude is very important for the future.”
How they would have loved a second half strike or two in Naples where most people’s home banker was blown apart by Sassuolo. Having shipped seven to Inter at the weekend, Eusebio Di Francesco’s men were expected to be sacrificed at the San Paolo but instead clung on to their first point of the season. San Gennaro must have been otherwise occupied.
“We did not have a good game,” admitted Rafa Benitez. “We did not play as well as we have recently and Sassuolo are a team who knew what they were doing. Our work did not have the speed and quality it has had in the past.”
Some kind of benefactor, however, was looking down on Milan. They appeared to be down and out in Bologna as they trailed 3-1 with about a minute to go but Max Allegri’s men have made a habit of squeezing out of tight spots. With Mario Balotelli banned, it was up to Robinho to kick-start their revival and Ignazio Abate completed an unlikely resurgence which salvaged a point which really did neither side many favours.
“I am angry because after we made it 3-3 we ran the risk of losing the game,” said Allegri, referring to a crossbar struck by Alessandro Diamanti in injury time. “We rushed and hit a long ball and could have lost a fourth goal. At the moment we can’t take even 30 per cent of the chances we create and we need to tighten up the defence.”
Most weeks that would have been the round’s top scorer, but it was trumped at the Ennio Tardini. Few people would have had Parma and Atalanta pegged to go goal crazy but that was exactly what they did. The home side edged it by the odd goal in seven, but they had to fret in the final minutes after doing their best to squander a 4-1 lead and seeing Amauri sent off.
There were scoring draws between Livorno and Cagliari and Torino and Verona which could easily have gone either way while Lazio shook off their derby blues with a win over ailing Catania. It put Vlad Petkovic’s men into sixth place as the strongest of those sides on the fringes of the title race. There is little doubt that they are good enough to maintain a challenge in that zone for the rest of the campaign.
The round had kicked off on Tuesday night with a clash between Udinese and Genoa which only sparked into life in its closing moments. Emanuele Calaio nodded an Antonio Di Natale free-kick past his own goalkeeper to decide the game. Friuli boss Francesco Guidolin seemed a little emotional at the final whistle as his substitution of Maicosuel had been jeered by his own support. He seemed to suggest that fans might have got used to the miracles of recent seasons and maybe have outrageous expectations for his team. There is no doubt the Coach has set the bar high for his side in recent years. But a little bit more gratitude towards his achievements would be no bad thing.