It was a game of two halves, as Chievo dominated the first and Udinese had the better of the second, but Samir Handanovic’s penalty save proved decisive.
This was a Friuli-Venezia Giulia derby that saw the Flying Donkeys free from pressure, while the Friulani needed points to stay in the race for Champions League qualification. Chievo had top scorer Sergio Pellissier and Gennaro Sardo suspended, joining the injured Davide Moscardelli and Nikola Gulan, so a new forward line was introduced. Udinese had Giampaolo Pinzi out on a one-match ban with Mauricio Isla and Emmanuel Badu sidelined, while Maurizio Domizzi was dropped due to disciplinary action after an incident in training.
There was a minute’s silence before kick-off for Udinese-owned Piermario Morosini, who died last week during the Pescara-Livorno Serie B match. In his memory, friend Antonio Di Natale had his shirt number 25 on his captain’s armband.
Chievo had a sensational scoring opportunity just three minutes in, as Alberto Paloschi and Rinaldo Cruzado exchanged passes down the left for USA international Michael Bradley to unleash a screamer from distance that cracked against the far post.
Dario Dainelli also threatened, getting in front of Andrea Coda to nod a corner wide. A promising Udinese move saw Kwadwo Asamoah burst into the box and his back-heel flick set up Pablo Armero, but a shove on his defender halted play. Soon after, Armero was the one nudged in the back to stop Luciano’s attack in the box.
Paloschi really should’ve opened the scoring on 36 minutes when Cruzado and Luciano combined in midfield to dispossess the Udinese defence, but the Under-21 international scuffed his finish wide of the near stick.
It was the start of a brief siege on the Friuli net, as Samir Handanovic first parried a Bradley effort, then at full stretch was able to fingertip Cruzado’s daisy-cutter round the post. Udinese were under pressure and Coda limped off to make way for Joel Ekstrand.
Before the break Bradley won back possession in midfield and threaded through for Cyril Thereau, who was brought down as he tried to go round Handanovic for an inevitable penalty. Thereau got back up to take the spot-kick, but this time Handanovic made up for his error and parried the penalty at the near post.
After the break, Cruzado drilled wide and Mehdi Benatia charged down Paloschi’s attempt. Udinese remained a shadow of their usual selves, so Paulo Vitor Barreto made way for Antonio Floro Flores. The Brazilian rarely gets a start and it showed, as he barely touched the ball.
Udinese finally got a shot on target on 62 minutes when Stefano Sorrentino fumbled a curling Di Natale free kick at the near post. Di Natale also went close when he squirmed between Dainelli and Francesco Acerbi only to fire over the bar.
Chievo had clearly run out of steam and now the Friulani were pouring forward, as Sorrentino had to perform a very tricky save to palm Di Natale’s volley out from the base of the near post.
A smart Floro Flores through ball almost found Di Natale in the box during the final minutes, but Boukary Drame scrambled clear. Deep into stoppages Di Natale volleyed over with the outside of his boot, as the Bentegodi crowd breathed a sigh of relief.
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Saved penalty: Thereau 43 (C)