Drama, passion and intrigue are often elements of the Italian game but never more so than at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Sunday. Inter's Mauro Icardi and Sampdoria's Maxi Lopez have been the protagonists in Serie A's most publicised love triangle since Wanda Nara left the latter for the former. The events which played out when the pair met in Genoa were worthy of any soap opera.
It started with a snub during the pre-match formalities. The Nerazzurri striker worked his way through a string of Doriano handshakes before finding himself - not surprisingly - ignored by his jilted love rival. It would be about the only time the Blucerchiato hitman would have the upper hand.
For the lucky in love Icardi was also blessed with good fortune on the field of play as he opened the scoring for the visitors. Having been jeered by the fans of his former club, he found himself unable to resist goading them after his goal. He cupped his hands to his ears as if to urge them to boo more loudly. It might have made him feel good, but it won him few friends.
“Personal issues have to be put to one side,” said his boss Walter Mazzarri. “Footballers are professionals and they should never forget that. They have to keep their cool and up until his goal he had done that perfectly. He should have gone back to the middle of the pitch and not made that gesture - although it didn't seem to me like such a big deal.”
Yet the storyline did not finish there as Lopez had the chance to deliver a footballing slap in the face to the man who waltzed off with his wife. But he failed to convert a penalty and the afternoon went downhill from there for both him and his team. Samp soon went down to 10 men and Icardi added one of a further three goals for Inter. If ever a football game could be the subject of a Blues song, Maxi's afternoon surely provided more than enough material.
And it did not end on Sunday as Maurito then took to Twitter to apparently taunt him further. If the aim was to humiliate Lopez then it may have hit the mark but it all appeared in desperately poor taste. Icardi’s playing style may have earned comparisons with Gabriel Batistuta but - off the pitch anyway - he has plenty to learn before he has the right to be mentioned alongside one of the game’s true greats.
Another man who was not feeling the love at the weekend was Antonio Conte. He broke a lengthy pre-match Press conference silence to return to one of his favourite themes. “I know what Juve mean in Italy - you are either for us or against us,” he opined. Many may wonder why he felt the need to go back in front of the microphones to repeat the nobody-likes-us-we-don’t-care message which has become a something of a mantra of his reign in Turin. Nonetheless, it seemed to do the trick as his team brushed aside a lacklustre Udinese on Monday night with the minimum of fuss. Sebastian Giovinco and Fernando Llorente strikes were more than enough to see off a team which has little left to fight for this season.
Prior to that game, there had been no hint of heartache for the rest of Serie A's top sides. Despite being shorn of in-form hitman Mattia Destro through suspension, Roma swept aside Atalanta to keep up their incredible pace in second place. Adem Ljajic may be clicking into a late-season surge which will be familiar to Fiorentina fans as he scored one and set up another in a comfortable triumph. All they can do is keep on winning and hope Juve stumble - even if that looks less likely than Conte giving his players a minute’s peace during a match.
Napoli had a harder time at home against Lazio but ultimately got the job done thanks to a hat-trick from the object of their fans’ affections, Gonzalo Higuain. They had slipped behind to a Senad Lulic strike but Dries Mertens drew them level before the incident which swung the game in their favour. Lorik Cana was sent off for the foul which led to a penalty converted by El Pipita but replays appeared to show the Argentinian hitman was offside in the build-up. The Biancocelesti did their best to remain competitive but an Ogenyi Onazi strike was consolation only as they ultimately lost 4-2.
There was another comeback win in the city of Romeo and Juliet where Fiorentina recovered from slipping behind to a Jacopo Sala goal for Verona to get the best of a 5-3 goal feast. That is 15 goals in the two Serie A meetings between the sides this term. It was the Viola's 1,000th victory in Italy's top division and the match ended with both sets of fans chanting the name of the opposition team as a sign of the long-standing love-in between the two clubs' supporters.
Torino were the other team to turn potential defeat into victory but they left it late in a match which will have had Cesare Prandelli swooning over his attacking options. Alberto Gilardino must have thought he had given Genoa the win when he struck with about five minutes to go but Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci had other ideas. They added two injury time strikes - one better than the other - to complete an improbable triumph.
Elsewhere, Milan were more prosaic than passionate as they ground out a 1-0 win over ever-more-doomed Catania which leaves them still in the hunt for an improbable Europa League spot. The most significant result in the lower reaches was in Livorno where an Alberto Paloschi hat-trick helped Chievo to a vital victory. With Sassuolo and Bologna both being held to draws after taking the lead against Cagliari and Parma respectively, it was an important step towards survival for Eugenio Corini's men. And Paloschi, thankfully, felt no need to goad anyone about his goalscoring prowess.
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