Lazio, much like their new pet eagle, have soared to the top of the Serie A table. The Roman club’s latest addition made its second appearance at the Stadio Olimpico much to the delight of the Laziale in attendance and to the chagrin of animal rights groups. Lazio have now won both games since “Olimpia” was introduced to the pre-game ceremony at their home games. The club held an online vote to name the bird of prey, a move which attracted the attention of mischievous Roma fans who bombarded their rivals’ official website with unflattering suggestions.
Sabotaging online polls may be the only enjoyment fans of the Giallorossi are finding from this season. Another defeat away from home has left Claudio Ranieri’s side in the relegation zone. Roma were beaten 2-0 at Napoli in Derby del Sole (The Derby of the Sun). Slovakian captain Marek Hamsik opened the scoring for Napoli in the second half after some dreadful defending before a Juan own goal doubled the Partenopei‘s advantage. Francesco Totti, whose relationship with Ranieri is fractious at best, produced another miserable performance in the process.
Roma’s woes were only compounded by the result at the Stadio Olimpico where their bitter rivals continued their ascent with a 1-0 over Brescia. Lazio displayed a vast array of attacking options as their Brazilian playmaker Hernanes impressed. The summer signing’s passing and grace in midfield has already drawn comparisons with Kaká and allowed him to provide the assist for the equally impressive Stefano Mauri’s goal late in the first half. Lazio would have to wait for the result in Derby d’Italia to confirm their status as league leaders.
The pre-match hype had suggested that their would be goals galore in Juventus v Internazionale. Neither Milos Krasic nor Samuel Eto’o, arguably the two most impressive players in Serie A thusfar, were able to muster what would have been a decisive goal in the most eagerly anticipated derby for several years. Inter were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty after some clumsy grappling in the first half by Giorgio Chiellini. The spectacle many had envisaged never materialised and the scores remained at 0-0.
AC Milan had Andrea Pirlo to thank for their 1-0 victory over Parma. The veteran repealed two years of middling form in a fine display which was perfectly encapsulated in his first-half wonder goal, his first from open play since December 2007. The 2006 World Cup winner received the ball over 30 yards away from goal before moving towards the centre of the pitch and unleashing a incredible strike towards the top corner. It will surely rank as one of the goals of the season and one of the finest of the midfielder’s illustrious career.
Another veteran enjoying a new lease of life is Genoa‘s Luca Toni. The former Capocannoniere connected with a trademark header in the sixth minute of stoppage time to give the Rossoblu a 2-1 win over Bari. The goal, his 98th in Serie A, comes amid renewed calls for a call-up to Cesare Prandelli’s Italy squad.
Observers of Serie A are running out of adjectives for Javier Pastore. The Argentine was once again the star attraction for Palermo as the Sicilian club claimed a vital three points against Fiorentina. Pastore embarked on a run which saw him beat two defenders and the goalkeeper before slotting home to give Palermo a 2-0 lead. Alberto Gilardino brought La Viola back into the game before Adem Ljajic had the opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot. Salvatore Sirigu, a strong contender for the Azzurri‘s goalkeeper jersey, denied the Serb. Delio Rossi’s side hung on to their slender lead to win 2-1. Rossi was not completely satisfied with his team’s performance. “We are a side who play great football”, he said, “but honestly, many times we are a bit too narcissistic.”
Meanwhile, Antonio Cassano returned to his temperamental old ways as he reacted poorly to being substituted during Sampdoria‘s 1-1 draw at Bologna. Chievo‘s Flying Donkeys continue to hover around Serie A’s summit after they managed a 0-0 against Cagliari; while Lecce defeated Catania‘s Little Elephants 1-0.
The weekend’s results lend themselves to an intriguing Serie A table. Lazio, to Olimpia’s delight, are perched at the top of the league. Two points separate them from Napoli and the two Milanese sides. At the other end, horrid starts to the campaign leave Fiorentina, Parma, Roma and Udinese wondering if it just isn’t their year. Fortunately for these under-achievers, an international break provides respite as the Azzurri square up to Northern Ireland in the European Championship Qualifiers.