A flash of genius, puzzling tactics and a dash of refereeing controversy made for an intriguing Turin derby. Giancarlo Rinaldi examines events in the Juventus Stadium and elsewhere in Serie A.
This time there was no need to take to Twitter to show off his post-match injuries. Carlitos Tevez did his talking on the pitch in the Turin derby with a strike worthy of winning any match. In the process, he joined Giuseppe Rossi at the top of the goalscoring charts while cementing Juve’s seat at the head of the Serie A table.
Yet this Derby della Mole was a curious game in many aspects. The Bianconeri had a couple of scares early on before turning up the temperature to really start grilling the Granata. It served up one searing strike from their South American hitman and an emphatic victory seemed to be the only possible outcome on the menu.
But the second half dished up radically different fare. After 15 minutes of bland produce from both sides, Toro suddenly decided to take a gamble and throw all their spicy attacking options into the pot. It was almost too tasty for the home team to handle.
Two decisions from referee Nicola Rizzoli left a particularly bitter taste for Granata fans. The first was not to book Arturo Vidal for a handball offence when he had already received a yellow card. The second was to caution Omar El Kaddouri for a dive in the penalty box when replays showed contact with Andrea Pirlo. Boss Giampiero Ventura faced his post-match interviews with a mixture of pride and regret.
“We couldn’t have forced the play like we did in the last half hour for the whole game,” he insisted. “But it’s rare to see Juventus in such difficulty in the Juventus Stadium. After the first 15 minutes of the second half, they didn’t manage a shot on goal. If Rizzoli had seen the penalty, maybe we would have had an even better result.”
“From the replays, you can see he touched me,” added a disappointed El Kaddouri. “I think it was a clear penalty.”
Antonio Conte, shown the incident, had a slightly different view. “Anything could have happened,” he claimed. “He could have booked El Kaddouri or he could have given the penalty.” And, in fairness, the attacking-midfielder’s fall did seem to have some time delay after the initial contact. That won’t, of course, be any consolation for Toro fans who had reason for recrimination at the final whistle.
“These are tough games,” admitted Coach Conte. “Torino had nothing to lose - they are already safe and, along with Verona, they are the real revelations of the season. We tried to give them little chance to break. With Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile and El Kaddouri, they can hurt anyone.”
The end result was a response to Roma who had enjoyed a 1-0 win of their own against Bologna on Saturday night with Radja Nainggolan getting his first goal for the Giallorossi. It was not the finest performance Rudi Garcia’s side has ever produced but it was further proof of their growing maturity. With Napoli and Fiorentina to play on Monday evening, it made the capital club’s second place look all the more comfortable.
Those delayed matches should have allowed Inter to turn up the heat on the Viola and Partenopei but they failed in their mission to string three wins in a row together. Instead, they were held to a draw by visiting Cagliari in a game which singularly failed to stir the blood. It seems to be two steps forward and one backwards for the Nerazzurri at the moment, even if their boss Walter Mazzarri felt they deserved a penalty for a foul on Mauro Icardi.
“It was such a clear foul how can I not mention it? It’s incredible,” he stated. This was a distinct U-turn from a manager who just last week said he would no longer comment on refereeing errors after his own team got the benefit of one against Fiorentina. But veteran Serie A watchers know that the only thing consistent about this Division is its inconsistency.
Frustration among black-and-blue supporters will only have been exacerbated by their red-and-black cousins getting another win, this time against Sampdoria. Adel Taarabt confirmed his quick adjustment to the Italian game with the opening goal for Milan. Another new boy, Adil Rami, added a second although this one put fire in the belly of the home support. Most Doriani thought Giampaolo Pazzini had fouled goalkeeper Angelo da Costa in the build-up to the goal. Neutrals, however, would accept that the Rossoneri were probably worth their win overall.
Verona continued their impressive season with a madcap 3-2 triumph away to Livorno. Bosko Jankovic, Romulo and Luca Toni had them three clear by half-time and they had numerous opportunities to extend their lead before Paulinho and Leandro Greco made them sweat. Nonetheless, Andrea Mandorlini’s side held firm to take another step towards the Europa League.
With Udinese and Atalanta sharing a point each which shuffled them a little closer to safety, the biggest movers in the lower reaches were Chievo who hit a couple of goals past hapless Catania to leapfrog their opponents out of the drop zone. However, a definite gap has developed between the bottom five and the rest of the League with Cagliari hovering somewhere in between. Atalanta, Samp and Udinese could yet get dragged back in there, but it looks unlikely right now.
Sunday night saw Lazio put another nail into Sassuolo’s coffin but there were jeers for the Biancocelesti at the final whistle from their own fans. Stefan Radu hit the pick of the goals in their 3-2 triumph but large sections of the Roman club’s support seem to be up in arms at the running of the club by President Claudio Lotito and his cohorts. They are angry at what they perceive as a lack of investment in their team and have started a campaign for regime change. And where is it running? Why on Twitter, of course.