Inter solidified their position at the summit of the Serie A table, Bologna continue to fly under Roberto Donadoni while Juventus registered their sixth victory on the spin.
It was, as always, a frenetic weekend in Serie A. And below are this week’s talking points.
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Gian Piero Gasperini lamented his side’s discipline in the wake of their ignominious 2-1 home defeat to Carpi earlier in the month yet, for what seemed the umpteenth time this campaign, the Genoa boss could only look in in disgust as Diego Perotti, who, to compound matters, began on the bench, saw red as the Grifone surrendered deep into stoppage time.
Genoa were, for all intents and purposes, the superior side throughout. Goran Pandev was threatening on the break while Bologna No.1 Antonio Mirante was prompted into a pair of heroic stops when he repelled Sebastien Di Maio’s header before foiling Nicolas Burdisso from a corner.
The hosts, though, have a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot and the alarm bells were beginning to ring when Perotti was dismissed for an ill-judged elbow on Diawara. It was, alarmingly, the eighth red card brandished to a Genoa player in sixteen outings this term.
Thereafter, Bologna began to crank up the pressure as Anthony Mounier threatened to exploit the hosts harrowing disciplinary record when Burdisso mistimed his back pass. The winger, though, ballooned his attempt into the stands.
But that would serve as a precursor for injury time as Luca Rossettini, akin to his header against Napoli last weekend, rose highest from a corner to power beyond a hapless Burdisso.
Widmer shines in defeat for the Zebrette
Perhaps it has been lost in Udinese’s prolonged period of mediocrity but Silvan Widmer, on the evidence of his displays since his arrival from Switzerland in 2013, most definitely merits a move to a side with loftier ambitions than those of Udinese’s.
Individual errors beset the hosts’ performance on Saturday evening but it was Widmer, an indefatigable presence down the right, who could depart the field after a 4-0 trouncing with his head held high.
Promising, too, has been the Swiss under 21 international’s displays against the league’s traditional heavyweights. The Zebrette, for instance, were under the cosh at the San Paolo against Napoli last month yet Widmer proved a menace to Faouzi Ghoulam all evening.
Small wonder Alex Telles’ yielded perhaps his most disappointing display in Inter colours after he was cautioned midway through the first-half. On one occasion, Widmer ghosted past the left-back with consummate ease but his delivery was expertly dealt with by the burgeoning partnership of Miranda and Jeison Murillo for Roberto Mancini’s side.
Inter, though, were unremitting, profiting on lapses in concentration from Bruno Fernandes, Mauricio Domizzi — who also, coincidentally, began at the heart of defence when Udinese shipped three against the other Milan outfit earlier in the season — and Francesco Lodi to add yet more substance to their title credentials.
Questions arise over Montolivo’s suitability
Jeers reverberated around the San Siro as Milan engineered their second draw in as many weeks with a side residing below the proverbial dotted line yet perhaps the biggest jeer of the afternoon was reserved for 78th minute when Riccardo Montolivo was relived of his duties in midfield by Sinisa Mihajlovic.
Granted, the Italian has yielded some impressive performances at the heart of the Milan midfield this campaign but, as demonstrated in the Rossoneri’s stalemate with Carpi last time out, his decline since he suffered that harrowing leg-break at Craven Cottage ahead of the World Cup in Brazil last summer has been so marked that it raises questions as to why the Milan hierarchy have been so determined to tie the midfielder to a new deal.
But perhaps the news that the midfielder, who turns 31 next month, is set to put pen-to-paper on an extension is indicative of the Rossoneri’s transfer policy. Many were under the assumption that Phillipe Mexes, who has redefined the phrase mercurial since his move from Roma, would be jettisoned ahead of Mihajlovic’s arrival in the summer yet the ageing defender was rewarded with an improved contract for his satisfactory displays towards the end of Pippo Inzaghi’s stint.
Rumours that Kevin-Prince Boateng, once of Milan and recently discarded by Schalke 04, has been sought by Silvio Berlusconi only underlines the crippling effect the Milan owner wields over the Rossoneri faithful.
Stadio Olimpico becoming a burden for Roma
Roma president James Palotta had lamented the hostility present inside the Stadio Olimpico after Roma’s goalless draw with BATE Borisov in midweek.
The result, coupled with Bayer Leverkusen’s inability to find a winning goal against Barcelona, ensured of the Giallorossi’s progress to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League yet the jeers, of which Palotta has previously remarked benefits no-one, bizarrely amplified when news began to filter through that Leverkusen’s search for a second against Barcelona was in vain.
Radja Nainggolan previously threw his arm up in the air in defiance after his side were jeered off in their last home league fixture against Atalanta while the players were nonplussed when they discovered the row of carrots laid outside the training ground by the Roma Ultras — in the midst of a civil war with the club over an apparent disregard to prevent the Curva from being partitioned — last week.
Taking Roma’s commendable 0-0 draw with a hitherto relentless Napoli side into account, then, it is interesting to wonder how much of an influence the rancour back in the capital has had on this admittedly fragile side.
Kostas Manolas yielded one of the most impressive individual displays of the season in subduing the league’s most prolific goalscorer Gonzalo Higuain while Rudi Garcia’s side were also unfortunate not to take the lead with ten minutes remaining, as Daniele De Rossi nodded home Antonio Rudiger’s delivery but the linesman adjudged the ball to have curled out of play.
Roma, free to express themselves without the burden of their home support, were able to hold the hosts at arms length and, though Napoli may feel that they merited all three points, it was a defensive showing that characterised Roma’s previous campaign.
Genoa, languishing perilously close to the relegation zone, visit the Stadio Olimpico to conclude domestic matters ahead of the winter hiatus though the most intriguing subplot may be the reaction of the Roma fraternity to a crucial point in Naples.
Dybala equips Juve with the Tevez-like spark
The Bianconeri’s nascent season malaise was quickly ascribed to the departures of key dressing room figures in Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo yet, as Juve slumped to draws at home to Chievo and Frosinone, the offensive problems, engendered by the former’s exit, seemed to run much deeper.
Paulo Dybala, procured from Palermo to alleviate the departure of Tevez, had been chained to the substitutes bench, liberated only in certain moments and, promisingly, delivering when required. Goals arrived against Roma, Chievo and Bologna (albeit the latter two were manufactured from the penalty spot) but there remained a lingering sense that, when Allegri finally does unleash Dybala, chaos would ensue.
And it duly has. The spark Tevez provided the Old Lady during his fruitful goalscoring years, the capacity to summon a piece of wizardry out of nowhere, has been replicated. Dybala, after netting in Juve’s 3-1 success over Empoli, has netted four goals in as many outings.
Against Fiorentina, after the hosts had levelled via Juan Cuadrado minutes after Josip Ilicic had stunned the J Stadium with a 2nd minute spot-kick, the Argentine took the game by the scruff of the neck.
Thriving as the link between the midfield and Mario Mandzukic, Dybala fashioned the decisive strike of the evening, latching onto Paul Pogba’s deft through ball and prompting Ciprian Tatarusanu off his line. Mandzukic, lurking as cold-blooded predators often do, dispatched the loose ball after the Fiorentina No.1 could only claw the ball into the Croatian’s vicinity.
The baby-faced South American concluded his mesmeric display with a goal of his own, profiting from Davide Astori’s ill-judged clearance to round Tatarusanu and prod into an unguarded net.
Key to Juve’s title surge will be keeping Dybala away from the treatment room.