The backdrop of Serie A is often just as dramatic as anything happening on the field of play. Giancarlo Rinaldi rounds up a weekend where some special spectators stole the show.
Every now and again you go to a game where the ranks of Press photographers turn their cameras away from the pitch and towards the crowd. It is usually a sign of some major news story which has been brewing in the build-up to the match. At the weekend it was Erick Thohir, Adriano Galliani and about 12,000 young Juventus supporters who drew the attention of the zoom lenses.
First into the limelight was the will-I-stay-or-will-I-go Milan stalwart as he sat in the stands in Sicily. A few days ago it looked like the most famous follicle-free fellow in Serie A would no longer be part of the Italian game. The worst start to a season by the Rossoneri in more than 30 years appeared to have delivered his bald head on a plate. But we had all reckoned without the intervention of that master of the U-turn Silvio Berlusconi. Quicker than you could say Bunga Bunga, a compromise deal had been struck.
So, in the kind of agreement you would strike to buy a bit of peace from two whining children, the San Siro side will divide the role which once belonged to Galliani alone. It remains to be seen just how durable the power-sharing with Barbara Berlusconi will prove to be. In Catania, at least, it got off to a successful start.
That did not look entirely likely when Max Allegri’s men slipped behind but they stepped up their game to turn the match on its head with goals from Riccardo Montolivo, Mario Balotelli and Kaka. Proceedings were also notable for Super Mario’s claims he was racially abused by an opponent and Stephan El Shaarawy’s return to action. Three points, after victory over Celtic in the Champions League, were a great tonic.
“I said it the other night when I was talking with the President,” said Galliani after the game. “When you are on a winning run you think it will never end and it is the same when you are losing and things are going badly. Then comes the moment when the wind changes direction. It has changed for us now.” There are certainly signs of a minor recovery getting under way.
There was less to smile about for Inter’s new Indonesian owner at his first match in the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza since taking over. Fredy Guarin looked to have given him the perfect welcome gift but a late Renan strike for Sampdoria forced him to settle for a share of the spoils. An irate Walter Mazzarri, perhaps trying to appease his new boss, described it as the worst performance of his time in charge at the Nerazzurri.
“I believe this team will get even stronger,” said Thohir. “However, we need to be good for 90 minutes and not just for 45 minutes. But that is football - it is a beautiful sport which can be both enjoyable and dramatic.” He should certainly get more than his share of both feelings now that he has the helm with the Milanese giants.
They had to wait late to squeal with delight at the Juventus Stadium on Sunday evening. With sections of the ground closed to their hardcore support due to territorial discrimination, the Bianconeri came up with a nice initiative to open them up to thousands of children. They even brought forward kick-off time so as not to keep them up too late with school the following day.
Yet it looked like all their high-pitched encouragement might not get its reward as a stubborn Udinese side threatened to spoil the party. It took an injury time header from the ever-more-influential Fernando Llorente to grab the three points. There could be a few hoarse voices in the classrooms of Turin this week.
Their delight will have been intensified by the fact that the brakes remain firmly applied to the once-runaway Roma. It took a late Kevin Strootman equaliser to snatch a point in Bergamo and avoid defeat by Atalanta. Nobody expected the Giallorossi to win every game this season but, equally, their slowdown has been surprisingly abrupt. One can only imagine the capital club are trying out every lotion, elixir and treatment to get Francesco Totti back in action as soon as possible.
With Fiorentina to play Verona and Lazio to face Napoli on Monday, those were the main moves at the top of the table. With Genoa and Torino, Cagliari and Sassuolo and Parma and Bologna all seeing their matches end all square, the only significant progress in the lower reaches came from Eugenio Corini’s revitalised Chievo side. Their 3-0 thumping of Livorno saw them leave Catania isolated at the bottom of Serie A.
But one man’s celebration is another man’s torment. Davide Nicola’s days on the bench of the Tuscan side may well be numbered. “Give me time to think,” said not-renowned-for-his-patience President Aldo Spinelli. “Right now I am too angry.” That does not bode well for his tactician’s future. Yet another coaching casualty could well be imminent.
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