It was the matchday 19 in Italy’s top league and all the teams were playing their ultimate matches for the first round of the league. Little would any of them have imagined about the enchanting affair it was going to be. Out of the 10 fixtures scheduled for the day, nine have already been played as Juventus await to host Napoli in the late kick-off.
League leaders AC Milan were reduced for a nail biting 4-4 draw by the surprise package Udinese. Max Allegri’s men, coming into this game after a crucial away victory over Cagliari, were reckoned the outright favourites to win the tie but the events for the 90 minutes at San Siro were hard to fathom.
The visitors, inspired by their enigmatic captain Antonio Di Natale who intrigued two refulgent moments in the game courtesy his lustrous finishes, were actually in command during the second half where they were leading the hosts 3-1 with 20 minutes to hold on to the lead.
Earlier, Pato netted one in to take the hosts to terms in the stoppage time of the first half after they were left stunned when Di Natale chipped in a shot to meet the rebounded ball from the post.
In a dramatic turn of events during the second half, Milan staged their comeback as substitute Antonio Cassano delivered straight impact providing Pato with a formidable assist to take the Brazilian’s goal tally for the day to two after Udinese defender Mehdi Benatia made a blunder of the season placing a sublime header into his own net.
At 3-3 with less than ten minutes to play, it looked as if Milan would steal a late winner to strengthen their lead at the top. But Zebrette winger Alexis Sanchez had other plans.
In what could be termed the closest opportunity for Milan to claim the winner, the Chilean won the ball from Robinho, ran for his life all the way down to the opponent’s box and embodied a strong character with a lateral ball across to the unmarked winger Denis on the right flank who put the visitors again upfront as San Siro went submerged into shock.
And just when Francesco Guidolin’s side appeared to have found answers for their inconsistent away form, Zlatan Ibrahimovic once again showcased why he is ranked one of the best players in the world. All the Swede needed to do was tap in the ball that was left dead after a lapse in defence but it was the moment in clock that alleviated the impact of an otherwise simplest of goals.
The final result that reads 4-4 allows Milan to enjoy a clear advantage over the opponents but they will need to get their act together when they face Lecce next, who have recently troubled the bigger times in the league.
Inter Ride High on Form
Milan’s cross-city rivals Inter, under the new coach Leonardo, seem to have rediscovered the lost agility among the squad. The defending champions were facing the Sicilian outfit Catania who are currently struggling to maintain a place above the relegation zone.
After a goalless first half which lacked any creativity and tenacity, the Nerazzurri were put on the back-foot in the 71st minute through an Alejandro Gomez goal. It did not, however, take long for the visitors to respond as veteran Esteban Cambiasso scored two in quick succession to put his side in authority.
With his brace, the Argentine has now scored three of his team’s last five goals in two matches. The other two have apparently been scored by his Brazilian teammate Thiago Motta which makes Inter strikers Eto’o and Milito’s jobs questionable.
It was a calamitous day for the city of Rome as both their top division teams—Roma and Lazio—got bettered by their opponents. Both started their respective matches as favourites and were anticipated to close in the gap at the top of the table to AC Milan but that was not happening.
The Giallorossi travelled to the city of Genoa to meet Domenico Di Carlo’s Sampdoria who were recently in news for offloading star playmaker Antonio Cassano. Having finished fourth last season, they were expected to build on the rich vein of form but so far have they done little to replicate the form of the previous season.
Roma therefore on a spree of three back-to-back wins were reckoned to at least earn a point out of this away encounter and were put into lead by the Bosnian striker Mirko Vucinic inside the first twenty minutes.
It was a collective blunder in the second half by the Brazilian duo of centre back Juan and goalkeeper Julio Sergio that allowed Sampdoria to step back into the proceedings. Sergio was given the marching orders for avoidable antics and in came a fellow Brazilian keeper Doni. It was too much to ask from a second choice goal-keeper to keep a penalty strike out and Nicola Pozzi was not to miss on the golden opportunity.
With fewer players on the field, Roma lost the hold over the game and both the midfield and defence was exploited time and again by a charged up Sampdoria unit. Their efforts were not to go fruitless as midfielder Stefano Guberti found the back of the net with less than five more minutes to play. Ranieri’s men much expectedly could not find the equaliser and were much deservedly left devoid of any points.
The highlight of the match remained the sending offs of two Sampdoria players in the last three minutes which made the team end the game with even fewer players than their opponents, much assuredly they would not mind it. Federico Macheda made his way into Serie A as a substitute in the second half. Much is desired from Kiko and it would be interesting to see how impactful can he be to recuperate Sampdoria’s fortunes.
Roma’s arch city rivals Lazio—currently sitting second on the table—were shocked at home by a promoted Lecce side 1-2. Edoardo Reja’s team never looked in contention and were rightfully undone by the Salentiani, who are currently battling into the bottom pot of the Serie A table.
Skipper Stefano Mauri registered himself on the scoresheet for the home side after goalkeeper Fernando Muslera’s own goal allowed the visitors to take the lead. Muslera’s Uruguayan compatriot Carlos Grossmuller found the winner for the last season’s Serie B champions.
Lecce head coach Luigi De Canio was reportedly under the radars but this win should shelve all the concerns over his future with the club.
Viola Stage a Brilliant Comeback
Ever since Cesare Prandelli went on the national duty to rebuild the Italian team, his former club Fiorentina have struggled to stabilise. Sitting in the bottom half of the table, they hardly look a team that represented Serie A into the Champions League only a season ago.
Their woes were to worsen as they saw themselves being two goals down at home to another promoted side Brescia at the half time mark. It required a miracle for Sinisa Mihjalovic’s men to seal any points from the game, let alone win it.
However, the story was to unfold in an entirely unfathomable fashion during the second half as Viola executed a herculean comeback to find three goals and eventually all important three points from the home match. The win should put their confidence to another level and may resurrect their campaign that is currently in a pitiful state of affairs.
Star striker Alberto Gilardino, Argentine international Mario Santana and one of the new signings Adem Ljajic from Serbia scored for the home side after Alessandro Diamanti and Cordova had put Brescia in front.
Cesena 0-0 Genoa
Chievo 0-0 Palermo
Parma 1-2 Cagliari
Will Serie A battle go down the wire?
Impact On League Table
Though a number of enthralling encounters providing the highest entertainment quotient makes it best matchday in Serie A this season so far, it is hardly expected to alter the standings much.
Though Milan dropped points at home, they are still sitting comfortable at the summit with both Lazio and Roma losing on opportunity to lessen the gulf.
The late kick-off between Juventus and Napoli will decide which of the teams maintain their place in the top four of the table along with Milan.
The biggest gainers for the week are undoubtedly Inter. The five-time champions appear to be a freshened up unit under the new manager Leonardo and are expected only to get better from this point. The next few rounds of matches would be decisive for the fortunes of the top teams crossing swords for the most coveted Italian glory—the Scudetto.
The article was also published at http://krazzy-sports.blogspot.com/, a blog on football, cricket and more.