Catania crushed local rivals Palermo 2-0 to win the Derby di Sicilia for the fifth time on the trot.
Rosanero Coach Devis Mangia referred to this as “the mother of all games,” realising the bitter rivalry that exists between the sides. He had to prepare for this match without the suspended Afriyie Acquah and Ezequiel Munoz, while Abel Hernandez, Eran Zahavi, Alexandros Tzorvas and Pisano were sidelined, so Federico Balzaretti moved to right-back. Catania missed David Suazo, Marco Biagianti and the banned Nicolas Spolli.
Palermo had lost their last four consecutive visits to the Massimino, including last season’s humiliating 4-0 defeat. Curiously, this fixture hasn’t ended in a draw since their 3-3 Serie B meeting on December 21, 1980.
Catania had a very strong start with Pablo Barrientos drilling wide, though Fabrizio Miccoli had penalty appeals for a handling offence. The cross clearly struck Nicola Legrottaglie’s arm, but it was planted on the turf as he came sliding in, so involuntary.
Francesco Benussi smothered a Sergio Almiron solo effort, but Catania broke the deadlock with a classic free kick from specialist Francesco Lodi. The midfielder curled an absolutely perfect set piece into the near top corner from a good 20 yards out.
Panic in the Elefantini area moments later when Nicolas Bertolo got between two distracted defenders, but Mariano Andujar was alert to the danger and smothered at his feet.
Andujar blocked a low Josip Ilicic snapshot, which represented Palermo’s first real effort on target after 40 minutes.
Mauricio Pinilla was a second half substitute, but Palermo gave away a penalty when ex-Catania defender Matias Silvestre felled former teammate Maxi Lopez as a corner came in. Maxi Lopez stepped up and converted with a powerful finish, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Benussi did well to palm a Barrientos attempt away when Almiron went on the counter. The tension escalated and a scuffle broke out when Gennaro Delvecchio went down, as Palermo accused him of diving in a tussle with Silvestre ahead of a corner. Both players were booked.
In the clearest sign yet that Maxi Lopez will complete his January move to Milan, the striker was given a standing ovation as he left the pitch. He was in tears as he hugged all the members of the bench, realising this was probably his final home game at the Massimino.
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