As the Serie A season develops, so it becomes an increasingly intriguing prospect. Week 20 produced several fascinating results, games which see the title race well and truly back on and Ciro Ferrara closer than ever to losing his job as manager of Juventus. So, without further ado, here’s what happened….
Inter’s seemingly irrepressible march to the title came unstuck on Saturday night as Jose Mourinho’s side could only muster a 2-2 draw away to a depleted Bari. It was the home side who took the lead in the second half with two penalties – one given for handball against Walter Samuel, the other for a blatant foul by Lucio – both being converted by Paulo Barreto. However, the Nerazzurri have made a habit of making dramatic comebacks in recent weeks, and their trip to the Stadio San Nicola was to prove no different. Goran Pandev pulled a goal back on with twenty minutes remaining when he pounced on Mario Balotelli’s blocked shot, then, just five minutes later, Pandev was hauled down in the box for Inter to be awarded a penalty of their own. Diego Milito sent Jean-François Gillet the wrong way to draw his team level and secure a valuable point in what was a stern test for the reigning champions.
Whilst their rivals were struggling against Bari, Milan continued their highly impressive form with a stylish 4-0 win over bottom club Siena at the San Siro. Ronaldinho stole the headlines with a magnificent hat-trick, the Brazilian appearing to be back to his best with a joyous display of technical brilliance. When Marco Borriello was rashly brought down by Siena ‘keeper Gianluca Curci, who was sent off for his trouble, it was Ronaldinho who stepped up to emphatically beat Gianluca Pegolo and give the Rossoneri a 1-0 lead. Fifteen minutes later Borriello got himself on the score sheet with a superb close-range volley from a tight angle which flew venomously into the net and has to be one of the contenders for goal of the season so far. Ronaldinho got his second with twenty minutes of the game to go, heading a David Beckham corner beyond Pegolo before sealing the win with his third, a sublime shot into the top corner from the edge of the box. Leonardo’s team have closed the gap between themselves and Inter to just six points with a game in hand and now look set to push their Milanese rivals all the way in the race for the Scudetto.
Meanwhile, Ciro Ferrara’s Juventus travelled to Chievo where their alarming slump in form continued unabated with a pathetic 1-0 defeat. With an injury crisis compounding the Bianconeri’s dire situation, Juve were outplayed by the Mussi Volanti at the Stadio Bentegodi. The Old Lady’s almost inevitable defeat was sealed with a goal Gennaro Sardo, the defender hitting a low drive beyond Buffon from all of twenty-five yards. With Juve having dropped out of the top four and the team’s performances getting more desperate each week, Ferrara gets ever closer to becoming yet another of Serie A’s managerial casualties.
Roma continued their stunning run of form with a 3-0 win over Genoa at the Stadio Olimpico which saw the Giallorossi move into third place. Simone Perrotta opened the scoring for Claudio Ranieri’s side after quarter of an hour, prodding home after Il Grifone had failed to clear Mirko Vucinic’s free-kick. Just before half-time Luca Toni scored his first goal for Roma since joining from Bayern Munich, sliding to get on the end of another Vucinic cross and put the result beyond doubt. Toni sealed another impressive Roma performance on the hour, Vucinic again the provider as the Italian target man connected with a crossed free-kick to head beyond Marco Amelia.
The rest of the weekend’s games threw up a number of interesting results. Atalanta inflicted a painful 3-0 defeat upon a Lazio side which had been making slight improvements of late, Fiorentina continued their indifferent form with a surprising 1-2 defeat to Bologna at home, fourth-placed Napoli could only manage a 0-0 draw with Palermo, Sampdoria and Catania drew 1-1 at the Stadio Ferraris, Parma versus Udinese ended in stalemate and Cagliari convincingly beat strugglers Livorno 3-0.