Serie A roundup: Derby d'Italia and Mario's penalty record (2)

Angelo Palmeri, 16. september 2013, 08:55
Udinese - BolognaFoto: LaPresse/Valter Parisotto/Scanpix
Eestis elav itaallane ja meeletu jalgpallifänn Angelo Palmeri analüüsib Õhtulehele Itaalia meistriliiga kolmandas voorus toimunut. Kuigi Palmeri oskab natuke ka eesti keelt, on need kokkuvõtted inglise keeles. Sellest ei maksa heituda ja neid kokkuvõtteid tasub lugeda, sest Palmeri tunneb taustu ja teab, kuidas kodumaal toimuvat selgitada.

The Italian top-flight Matchday 3 saw a bunch of clubs packed on top: Juventus (the title-holders), Napoli (the runners-up), Fiorentina (the last-year competitor for Champions League third spot), Roma (who changed coach once and again in 3 season) and Inter (classified 9th last season after a catastrophic spell with former coach Stramaccioni).

Where are AC Milan?

They are late as has happened often at seasons' kick-off under gaffer Massimiliano Allegri.

A loss in the 'fatal Verona' on Matchday 1, marked already the gap with the top group.

Samal teemal

One week later they managed to get rid relatively easily of Cagliari (3-1) and grab the first three points of 2013-14. Notwithstanding the bad start, it won't be an easy job to underestimate AC Milan as in the past two seasons they have always managed to come back.

Probably Allegri's game is not the most attracting one, however he has always managed to get his act together in the end and reach the set target. This was the main topic AC Milan CEO Galliani could spend with owner Silvio Berlusconi to avoid sacking.

In the light of this, AC Milan were due to pay a visit to Torino FC, a side coached by the expert Giampiero Ventura. Probably unknown to most of the audience here (out of curiosity: he was a coach at Pisa in Serie B when a young Damiano Quintieri – Nõmme Kalju - made his debut and only appearance in that club in 2008-09) Ventura is one of the most brilliant Italian coaches and probably one of the most underestimated if not neglected by the bigger clubs.

He took over AS Bari from Antonio Conte (Juventus coach) and after a brilliant season managed to make Bari stay in Serie A for a second term in a row, something in Bari they hadn't seen for about 10 years.

When critics pointed out whether his game was same as Conte, he had a laugh saying that he already did that at Pisa and maybe it was Conte who took inspiration from him.

After Bari sank back to Serie B, he traveled the boot up to Torino to join forces with the 'granata' club. The Serie B season is a triumph as Torino were promoted to Serie A collecting 83 points.

The Torino-Milan clash was one of the 'classics' offered by Serie A last weekend, just the other face of the Torino-Milano cities challenge.

In fact, few hours earlier, Inter and Juventus were due to square up in San Siro. A re-vitalized Inter which underwent the Walter Mazzari's cure and offered very good performances against Genoa (2-0) and Catania (3-0 away) and the two clean sheets, something that didn't happen very often last season.

Juventus is the usual solid army: rock defence (and when not enough there is someone with the likes of Gigi Buffon guarding), midfield duo Vidal-Pogba, with the French talent already on the spotlight for excellent displays; active flanks and a 'strange-couple' in front as Vucinic and Tevez, proving to work well together.

What everyone did expect from such a clash offered so early during the season?

Probably the confirmation that Inter are on the mend and that Juventus are still the mean squad that won the previous two 'scudetti' conceding very little to any opposition.
Which answer did we get then?

Probably both considering the final result and the way it developed: 1-1.

Games like this are like a chess challenge: it takes a bit of time before making any move, every step is thoroughly thought through and the least you want to do it is a mistake that would give an advantage to your opponent.

Inter showed some difficulties in bringing the ball into the box: many mistakes in Juve's half helped visitors to launch several quick counteroffensives. It was a matter of mistakes in the last passes that prevented Juve from hurting the 'nerazzurri'.

Remarkable the defensive work made by Tevez, recovering on the midfield line to bring pressure on the Inter midfield: a kind of work that Conte demands and expects from his strikers.

Once the Inter frenzy cooled down, Juventus started to take control of the game developing ball possession and pushing Inter in their half for the remaining fifteen minutes of the first half.

A job that almost paid off at 31' when, in one of his penetrations into the box, Pogba found himself free to shoot at Handanovic close to the first post: surprisingly his finish was weak and not well coordinated and the Slovenian keeper could deflect over the touchline.

The most remarkable thing in this chance is the ball sent in by 'maestro' Pirlo: a perfect long ball that arrived where it exactly had to go! With few emotions and a lot of tactical display from both side, the ref sent both team to the dressing rooms.

On the resume, it was noticeable how Mazzarri wanted to prevent Pirlo from moving freely by creating a sort of 'cage' around him: at least 3 men ready to take the space away from him in the second half.

The turn of the game is when Mazzarri replaced Taider (a midfielder) with Icardi (a pure striker): it's the sign that he wants to bravely try and win the game. And it is something new compared to Napoli's Mazzarri, the one who risked nothing and wouldn't have risked such a move in such a game. His attitude is awarded when the young Argentinian smashed it past Buffon: it's his 4th goal to Juventus, the previous three when he was at UC Sampdoria.

San Siro exploded as it's normal due the bitter rivalry existing between the two clubs. However it's a joy that lasts just three minutes as Juventus comes quickly back into the game with Vidal, free to tap it in from within the box. The pride of the champions immediately strikes back and, once awake, the 'bianconeri' show clear signs of having been metaphorically offended by the Inter brave attitude and try to bring home the three points. A miracle by Handanovic on a Vidal's header (87') and a miss by Pogba (89') are the last emotions of a game that woke up too late.

Who could be more satisfied of this draw?

Both. Inter should be because considering what last season was, this draw is a confirmation that Mazzarri is on the right path. Probably a win would have excessively boosted his side's ego and provoke a similar counter effect as last year when they came back from Juventus Stadium with a 3-1 win (the first ever loss of Juventus in their brand new home).

Juventus should be too because Inter were ahead at fifteen minutes to the end , and losing a Serie A game ahead of the Champions League debut is never a good way to prepare for this competition, even though your opponent will be FC Copenhagen.

Same situation few hours later for AC Milan: a delicate away game to Torino ahead of the Champions League debut against Celtic FC, the new home of Finnish striker Teemu Pukki.

With Ventura wits, AC Milan found hard to make anything good in the first half of the Kaka's re-debut game. The Brazilian midfielder left Real Madrid to go back to Milano after 4 years: he moved to Madrid in the same Summer when Brazil visited Tallinn for the 100-years friendly game against Estonia.

Incredibly, he was sold 65m by AC Milan and costed zero for his return.

If this market operation was ever pre-planned, Galliani should be given an award for.

Obviously several issues over the real form of Kaka' arose immediately after his costless re-purchase: is he still the same Kaka'?

Well, as usual, only the pitch can give the answer, and for now is 'no'. Not a brilliant first half for the wonder boy who made once Berlusconi say he would be the ideal husband for any woman (and if he says so...). Ricky left the pitch in the second half following an injury that apparently will keep him away from the games for about a month.

However this was the least as up to 88' , AC Milan were losing another game away: 2-0 thanks to goals by D'Ambrosio and the international Cerci. The latter is one of the key-man of Ventura's game: Alessio flourished under his guide and managed to get a spot in the national team at the Confederations Cup in June.

The way Milan managed to come back into the game it is a struck of luck Allegri can latch onto until fair weather will be back: first Muntari is lucky when a shot of his is deflected into goal, then Milan are awarded a penalty.

Obviously someone with the likes of Mario Balotelli (20 penalties in a row scored in official games) is very unlikely to miss. Mario indeed didn't make any mistake from the spot and AC Milan can concentrate on Champions League relatively calmly: on resume the brilliant SSC Napoli will pay a visit at San Siro as the top-of-the-table side considering the 2-0 win against Atalanta that gave them full points, the only one in Serie A after Matchday 3 waiting for Roma playing tonight.

The win in San Paolo Stadium developed in the second half when Rafa Benitez, also worried by the Champions League tie (Napoli will take on Borussia Dortmund), finally decided to send in Marek Hamsik.

Napoli are not the same without their most representative player. Marek has developed into an all-rounder midfielder: he can break the opposition manoeuvre, accelerate the action and either finish it or serve the decisive assist.

The latter he did when delivered to Higuain for the opener. The other signing from Real Madrid, Callejon, rounded the result up to 2-0: already 3 goals scored by the Real Madrid 'leftover' as many have too hastily labelled the Spanish player.

With 5 points gap from Napoli, AC Milan will be called to not lose further ground.

The rest of the matchday was played on Sunday. Lazio got easily rid of Chievo with a 3-0 win: quite remarkable that they managed to score 3 goals out of the 3 chances they created on build-up during the first half.

Fiorentina was called up to keep the pace with Napoli in the game against Cagliari.

Montella's side had a lot of troubles before managing to break the tie thanks to a goal by Borja Valero. It would have been a little relief for the Florence club as the Viola were blighted by injuries: first Cuadrado left the pitch due a problem with his shoulder, then Mario Gomez picked up a serious injury at his knee ligament that will keep him away from the pitch for at least two months.

These are huge blows for Montella who has to reinvent his line-up, formation and eventually build-up. On top of this, Pinilla netted the equalized to fully ruin the Viola afternoon.

Newly promoted Livorno made sensation by beating Serie A regular Catania 2-0 with two goals from Paulinho, a player that might end up at a bigger club. The only Sicilian side in Serie A are now bottoming the table with 0 points together with another newly promoted: Sassuolo.

The latters need a special mention. Sassuolo is the smallest city represented in Serie A: about 40,000 people. They had never played in Serie A before and even though they belong to the province of Modena, they play in the stadium of Reggio Emilia, 242km away.

They have managed to score their first Serie A goal ever (the name in history is Simone Zaza, a young forward whose 50% owner are Juventus) however they haven't managed to grab a single point yet.

They got close on Sunday as in the last fifteen minutes they had several chances to equalize (Verona was leading 1-0) however, as old rule of football says, if you don't score they will to you: Verona scored the 2-0 and closed the challenge.

A positive note for Sassuolo and all Italian football, it was the return into activity of former AC Milan defender Acerbi: just some months ago he was diagnosed a testicle tumour, on Sunday he played the entire game. He has certainly won even if his side lost.

In Udine, Udinese managed to grab a late draw thanks to the never-ending Toto' Di Natale. The Italian topscorer of 2010 and 2011, managed to make it even with Diamanti's delicious free-kick in the clash against Bologna.

Diamanti, as Cerci, is one of the many Italian players who managed to flourish away from the spotlights of the big metropolitan clubs and earn caps in the National team.

The Sunday program was completed with an interesting Genova derby (called 'Derby della Lanterna' as referred to the Genova big and old lighthouse dominating the gulf).

A derby in Italy is always special. In Roma it is worth a season, ask Roma fans who lost it in the Coppa Italia final last season. In Milano no one wants to lose. In Torino Juventus are just accustomed to be superior to FC Torino.

Genova is nonetheless, especially when both clubs table situation before kick-off is quite dreary: one point for Sampdoria and zero for Genoa. The experienced coach Rossi on one side and the rookie Liverani on the other.

In the end Genoa managed to score first, control the game, contain Samp's initiatives and score more: 3-0 away the final result. Important to remark the 'away' note (Samp-Genoa) as Genoa never won before this way.

Tonite Serie A will close the Matchday 3 with Roma travelling to Parma: Rudi Garcia's side have the chance to keep up the pace with Benitez's Napoli (21:45 EEST).


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