Chris Mann is back to give BackPageFootball the lowdown on the latest round of Serie A matches as leaders Inter stumble against Napoli.
Have things just got interesting again on the peninsula? With Napoli holding Inter to a draw and Milan, Roma and Juventus all registering important wins, a small dent has was made in the Nerazzurri’s sizeable lead at the top of Serie A. Is this the start of an Inter slump? Neutrals across Italy will certainly be hoping so.
No, your eyes did not deceive a few moments ago, Internazionale really did fail to win at the weekend. In an open, attacking game on Sunday evening, Napoli held the league leaders to a 0-0 draw in the Stadio San Paolo. Quite how the game ended goalless is something of a mystery, both teams hitting the woodwork and coming agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock on a number of occasions. Diego Milito and Marek Hamsik were the liveliest players on show, although even their best efforts could not prevent the game ending in stalemate. Despite the draw, Inter still lead Serie A by seven points whilst Napoli hold on to fourth place.
Roma, now Inter’s closest challengers for the Scudetto, continued their incredible run of form by beating Palermo 4-1 at the Stadio Olimpico, the team’s sixth straight league victory. Two goals from Matteo Brighi and another from Julio Baptista saw the Giallorossi establish a 3-0 lead by the hour mark, Fabrizio Miccoli pulling one back from the spot for the Aquile before John Arne Riise continued his rich vein of goal scoring form with a stunning finish from a tight angle seven minutes before the end. Claudio Ranieri’s side are playing with a wonderful verve and cohesion at the moment, qualities which they will have to produce with regularity from now through to the end of the season if they are to snatch the title from Inter’s seemingly inevitable grasp.
This isn’t something I’ve been writing much in recent weeks, but there’s some good news for Juventus fans. A 3-2 victory over Genoa in Turin marked Alberto Zaccheroni’s first victory since replacing Ciro Ferrara at the Stadio Olimpico and is the Old Lady’s first league win since the 6th January. Despite missing a host of first team players and going behind to a Marco Rossi strike early on, the Bianconeri rallied impressively as Amauri and Alessandro Del Piero each scored to put the home side ahead. Rossi equalised for the Grifone with twenty-five minutes left to play, but Juve didn’t crumble as they have done so regularly of late, instead they pressed hard and eventually won a penalty which was expertly dispatched by the excellent Del Piero. This result needs to be the start of a revival if Juve are to secure a Champions League place by the end of the season.
On Friday evening, as I briefly mentioned in my preview, Milan beat Udinese 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at the San Siro. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Alexandre Pato had put the Rossoneri 2-0 up inside the first forty minutes before Antonio Floro Flores equalised with a diving header on the stroke of half-time. Unperturbed by their opponent’s revival, Milan regained their two-goal lead on the hour, Huntelaar turning neatly in the six-yard box before firing beyond Samir Handanovic. Antonio Di Natale pulled one back for Udinese in the last five minutes, but it was too little too late, Leonardo’s side recording an important victory which keeps them on Roma’s coattails in third place.
Week 24 Results in Full:
Milan 3-2 Udinese
Roma 4-1 Palermo
Sampdoria 2-0 Fiorentina
Cagliari 3-1 Bari
Catania 0-0 Atalanta
Chievo 0-1 Siena
Juventus 3-2 Genoa
Livorno 0-1 Bologna
Parma 0-2 Lazio
Napoli 0-0 Internazionale