Serie A Update

by Richard Chambers

“Spezzatino” – Lunchtime has a special resonance in Italy. The Sunday spezzatino is sacrosanct; it is a family time. So, when Serie A announced that the league would be introducing 12.30 kickoffs on Sundays for the benefit of television broadcasters it was understandable that there would be some backlash. Most everyone has had their say on the issue, including the Vatican. When the weekend’s clash between Parma and Roma was confirmed as a lunchtime kickoff, the Parma Ultrá were incensed.

So outraged were the Parma fans that they decided to stage a protest. A statement from the club’s fans revealed their cunning plan: “Seeing as this is lunchtime… we invite all the fans to come to the Curva Nord with a sandwich…and eat it when the teams step on to the pitch.”

This daring sandwich protest was the prelude to an unremarkable 0-0 draw. Claudio Ranieri’s decision to take off Francesco Totti at half-time and Mirko Vucinic just over ten minutes later has been heavily criticised by many. Murmurs of discontent continue to seep from the Roma camp and the end of the Tinkerman’s era may be near.

A coach sitting on a similarly hot seat is Fiorentina‘s Sinisa Mihajlovic. La Viola came into Saturday’s game against Bari at the foot of the Serie A table. The growing storm surrounding striker Adrian Mutu’s latest controversy threatened to overshadow Fiorentina’s preparations for the potentially crucial fixture. The disgraced former Chelsea man was involved in a fracas with a Florentine barman in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Despite the actions of Mutu, Fiorentina managed to claim a 2-1 victory. Marco Donadel set the men in purple on the way with a tremendous opening goal. Mihajlovic’s side have been derided for lacking inspiration (aside from the Adem Ljajic that is) but that criticism cannot apply to Donadel’s wonderful curling effort which looped over Jean-Francois Gillet. Fiorentina’s second was netted by Alberto Gilardino (remember him?) before a late Bari consolation goal created some discomfort for the home side.

At the other end of the table, league leaders Lazio entertained Cagliari. Lazio’s eagle mascot, Olimpia, was not in the mood for entertaining. The eagle landed on the roof of the Stadio Olimpico instead of the pitch, disrupting the pre-match preparations. Unlike their mascot and an army of invading zombies that somehow found their way into the Olimpico, Lazio were focused on the job at hand. Sergio Floccari put the Biancocelesti into the lead in the first half before Stefano Mauri gave Lazio a two goal advantage with an unorthodox chested goal. In-form striker Alessandro Matri pulled a goal back for the visitors but could not prevent Lazio securing their position at the summit of Serie A.

Internazionale lost ground on the league leaders after they drew with Sampdoria at the San Siro. Following their European exploits in midweek, the champions needed a late equaliser from Samuel Eto’o to prevent Sampdoria from claiming a surprise win on Sunday. Some dogged battling from Antonio Cassano allowed the Italian international dispossess Christian Chivu on the touchline. From there he chipped an exquisite cross towards Stefano Guberti, whose volley somehow found its way past Júlio César. Samp were unable to hold on to their lead. A thumping near-post header from Samuel Eto’o, his 15th goal in all competitions this season, levelled the game for Inter with just ten minutes to go.

Their slip-up allowed AC Milan to leapfrog Inter into second on Monday night. They emerged from the Stadio San Paolo with three points after they beat inconsistent Napoli 2-1. Once again, Adriano Galliani and Silvio Berlusconi will have been delighted to see Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic score Milan’s goals as the Rossoneri notched their fourth league win in succession. The most impressive moment of brilliance on Monday night did not come from a player in a red and black shirt, however.

Napoli, reduced to ten men in the first half, worked restlessly for an unlikely comeback. In the 80th minute they found themselves in contention via a candidate for goal of the season. Argentine striker, Ezequiel Lavezzi, tumbled in the penalty area under the duress of challenges from Sokratis and Nesta. Rather than flail about in search of a penalty, Lavezzi staggered to his feet and inexplicably managed to dig a chip over Christian Abbiati. The Neapolitans retrieved the ball from the goalmouth and went about finding an equaliser but were unable to complete the recovery. I urge you to scour the internet for a video of the goal such is its brilliance.

Elsewhere, despite Milos Krasic’s flop, Juventus were held to a 0-0 draw by Bologna. Krasic appeared to dive to win Juventus a penalty but a healthy dose of karma and the outstretched palms of Emiliano Viviano ensured that cheaters did not prosper at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara. Palermo were beaten 2-1 by a resurgent Udinese, the goals coming from Mehdi Benatia and Antonio Di Natale. 2-1 was a popular scoreline at the weekend, Lecce overcame Brescia by that margin on Sunday in a battle of the Serie A newcomers. The Flying Donkeys of Chievo soared to a win over Cesena to return to fourth in the table. The 2-1 (yes, 2-1) victory was sealed in stoppage time by Cyril Thereau. Underachieving Genoa managed to claim a win over the Elefanti of Catania. Rafinha’s cross was diverted into the net by the right boot of Marco Rossi for the game’s only goal.

Next week’s Serie A action includes the mouthwatering prospect of Milan v Juventus. The fixture may represent one of the last glimpses of Calcio we’ll see in the coming weeks after talks between the players’ union and Serie A collapsed. Stay tuned to backpagefootball.com for the latest on any potential strike action.

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