Top beat bottom, the Milan crisis roadshow rolled on and Inter’s revival suffered a setback. Giancarlo Rinaldi sums up another intriguing week of Serie A action.
It was football, Jim, but not as we know it. After a precision strike by Andrea Pirlo had won a tense but classy Europa League clash with Fiorentina, Juventus needed a different set of skills in Sicily on Sunday night. It was appropriate, perhaps, that a street-fighter like Carlitos Tevez won them the match.
You could hardly blame Catania for throwing everything they could think of at the Bianconeri in their top versus bottom encounter at the Stadio Massimino. However, it produced a game which often seemed more akin to a boxing match than a Serie A fixture. Those of a certain vintage might have thought the most appropriate player on the pitch was Fabian Monzon with his echoes of a middleweight champ of yesteryear, Carlos, who carried the same surname.
Three sendings off - one for each Coach and one for Gonzalo Bergessio after a game-long tussle with Giorgio Chiellini - were the final tale of the tape. But it said plenty about La Vecchia Signora’s character that she was able to walk away with another victory. Sometimes she uses the light-fingered skills of the pickpocket to pinch the points but on this occasion she was more than happy to go blow-for-blow with a feisty opponent before delivering the killer blow. It takes all sorts of victories to compile a Scudetto triumph.
Such clinical and varied skills were missing, however, in the Stadio Olimpico where Lazio and Milan shared the spoils. A deflected Kaka shot looked like it might have given the Rossoneri a precious win but a header from Tata Gonzalez denied them victory. In a season in which both clubs have had more than one moment of crisis, it was a result which really did neither any favours. Their supporters can compare notes at the end of the campaign over who has the most reason to be outraged.
The result did, however, seem likely to allow Clarence Seedorf to limp on a little further in charge of the Milanese giants. His side did not perform brilliantly but they did come away with something from a tricky ground to visit. If he can somehow hang in there to the summer, perhaps, he will have half a chance to build this team into the kind of side he wants. Whether he will be given the time, however, has to have a huge question mark attached.
Earlier on Sunday evening, the derby of Italy’s disappointed Europa League sides went the way of Fiorentina. It was a win which was harsh on a Napoli side which played most of the match with 10 men after losing Faouzi Ghoulam, but remained committed to attack. A victory for Rafa Benitez’s men would have all but guaranteed them Champions League football next season but a late Joaquin strike allowed the Viola to narrow the gap to seven points. It’s still a handsome advantage, but it gives Vincenzo Montella’s men an outside shot at the top three at the end of a week which had seen their morale-crushing defeat to Juventus in Europe.
It was a weekend of Serie A surprises, too, as Inter’s impressive revival of recent weeks was unplugged by Stefano Colantuono’s in-form Atalanta side. Giacomo Bonaventura was the man to ensure the Bergamaschi took all three points with a double either side of a Mauro Icardi strike. Walter Mazzarri’s men could easily have won an aggressive, open match but - for the time being at least - their rise up the table has been put on hold.
“You can’t create as many chances as this - as we have on other occasions - and not score,” lamented the Nerazzurri boss. “You can’t start the second half letting three or four goalscoring chances go begging in the first eight minutes - especially against an Atalanta side which is playing so well.”
The other shock - if not in outcome, then certainly in the scale of the scoreline - was Sampdoria’s 5-0 thrashing of Verona. Perhaps Hellas have started to rest on their laurels having hit the 40 point mark with the assumed Serie A safety it brings. Certainly, they were devoured by a hungrier Genoese outfit who are clearly starting to take on the fighting characteristics their Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic craves.
That result clinched a bad weekend for the city of Verona with Chievo having been in ultra-generous mood against Roma on Saturday evening. The Giallorossi need no gifts but the Flying Donkeys crashed and burned early with a string of calamitous errors. Gervinho took advantage of one early on while Mattia Destro raced along a motorway up the middle of their defence to clinch the win. In the process, he continued to flag up his progress to Cesare Prandelli.
He’ll have some work to do, however, to overtake Ciro Immobile in the Azzurri pecking order. He struck three times - the last one a real beauty - to down Livorno and get Torino back to winning ways. European football may have flown, but it remains a very positive season overall for the Granata.
Elsewhere, Parma took their undefeated run to 17 games with a come from behind draw at home to Genoa. Toto Di Natale scored one and missed a penalty as Udinese saw off Sassuolo and Bologna won a tense clash with Cagliari thanks to a Lazaros Christodoulopoulos penalty. Rarely can a goalscorer have had a more appropriate first name if his goal kick-starts a miraculous recovery for the Rossoblu.