Fabrizio Miccoli scored his 100th Serie A goal and Josip Ilicic bagged a brace as Palermo got back on track by crushing Catania 3-1 in the Sicilian Derby.
The Derby di Sicilia usually sees the Rosanero in front, but this season Catania are flying high in seventh place whereas Palermo were just two points clear of bottom spot. Gian Piero Gasperini was already under fire with Samir Ujkani, Edgar Barreto and Carlos Labrin suspended after their red cards against Bologna, joining the injured Abel Hernandez, Nicolas Bertolo and Andrea Mantovani, but Fabrizio Miccoli returned after three weeks out, sending Paulo Dybala to the bench. Catania missed Gonzalo Bergessio and Marco Biagianti, so Taka Morimoto had a rare chance.
Stand-in goalkeeper Francesco Benussi beat away an early Francesco Lodi free kick, but Miccoli marked his comeback with a goal to give Palermo the lead. The Pocket Striker gathered just outside the box when Nicolas Spolli allowed a Michel Morganella cross through and picked his spot to smash into the far top corner. It was Miccoli’s 100th Serie A goal.
Santiago Garcia blasted over and Sergio Almiron’s blockbuster of a free kick from 30 metres stung Benussi’s gloves.
Franco Brienza thought he’d made it 2-0 when turning Spolli inside out with his dribbling skills, but Mariano Andujar palmed the rising angled drive on to the crossbar.
Morganella trapped a long Miccoli ball to get between two defenders, but stumbled at the crucial moment and could only get a corner. Miccoli’s free kick was deflected and a series of shots were charged down from that move, as Palermo were in control.
Morimoto won a good tackle in midfield to turn and a crucial Massimo Donati sliding challenge did enough to put him off for a shot wide. A row broke out between Spolli and Donati when the Catania man surged into the box and went looking for the foul, but both players were booked. In Donati’s case, it means he’ll be suspended next week.
Catania lost Mariano Izco just before half-time, making way for Lucas Castro. They also had their best chance, as a trademark Lodi free kick curled over the wall and was palmed out from under the bar by Benussi's one strong hand.
After the restart Miccoli hit the side-netting at the end of a strong run and Palermo doubled their lead as again Catania were torn apart.
Brienza went down the right to the by-line and back again with Spolli chasing him, then rolled across for Josip Ilicic to hit a daisy-cutter from the edge of the box into the near bottom corner.
Ilicic also tested Andujar from distance with a powerful snapshot and the Catania goalkeeper rushed across to parry Miccoli’s free kick.
The Elefantini were pushing forward, but left themselves wide open on the counter-attack and Ilicic did it all by himself. The Slovenian picked up in the centre-circle and ran forward with support from Miccoli, but feinted a roll across to his captain and instead turned in at the near post from 12 yards.
Souleymane Doukara had the chance to score with his first touch, but mis-kicked into the air when off balance. Catania wasted a golden opportunity moments later, as Doukara and Gomez combined to set up Barrientos, but the finish was weak and into the arms of Benussi.
Paulo Dybala replaced Miccoli and with his first touch went clear round the Catania defence and drew out the goalkeeper, but the angle was too tight and it flashed across an empty net.
A Barrientos cross whipped just past the back post with Doukara only grazing with his head, then a Gomez shot was deflected for a corner.
Catania did get one back with Lodi’s typically fantastic free kick over the wall and into the near top corner before Benussi could get there, making it a tense final 20 minutes at the Barbera.
Palermo looked nervous all of a sudden and Gomez flashed a ball into the six-yard box that was eventually scrambled clear. Spolli was fortunate to escape a second booking for his lunging tackle in midfield.
It was wide open and Brienza volleyed Dybala’s cross wide. It was so nearly 4-1 with nine minutes to go when Brienza again burst down the left and rolled across for Morganella with the goalkeeper well beaten, but Spolli threw himself at the ball and managed to deflect it over the bar from a yard.
Miccoli was on the bench and shouting more than his Coach, which earned him a yellow card that will see him suspended next week against Inter.
Dybala went on the counter and generously rolled across for Ilicic, who on a hat-trick blasted wide. Another Dybala counter saw his finish palmed inches past the near post.
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