Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Serie A Wk 17: Review

Wednesday 20 December
Lazio 0-2 Inter
Inter demonstrated their title credentials once more on Wednesday night with an impressive 2-0 win at Lazio which was secured despite playing for the entire second half with 10 men. On the same ground on which Scudetto rivals Roma were demolished 3-0 in the Eternal City derby on December 10, Inter proved more determined opponents, clinching their 10th successive league win which gives them the title of Campioni d'Inverno (Winter Champions). They had to do it the hard way, however, following another moment of stupidity from temperamental striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. After Esteban Cambiasso had given Inter a 39th-minute lead, Ibrahimovic picked up his second yellow card of the night and a subsequent red by kicking the ball away after being pulled up for offside. Inter had to scrap their way through the second half but they were good enough to do just that before doubling their advantage late on when Marco Materazzi headed home.

Torino 1-2 Roma
A fortuitous goal from captain Francesco Totti put Roma on course for a hard-fought away victory against 10-man Torino. Previously in-form Torino were unbeaten in five Serie A matches coming into the game, but their hopes of extending that run were effectively ended when defender Ivan Franceschini was dismissed for a deliberate handball in the penalty area only 24 minutes in. The usually reliable Totti was unable to give his side the lead with the resulting penalty kick, which was well saved by Christian Abbiati. But Totti's luck changed eight minutes before half-time when Alessandro Mancini's long-range strike deflected off him to give Torino goalkeeper Christian Abbiati no chance. It was not until 10 minutes from time that Roma were able to double their advantage, with Mancini on target with a clinical right-foot finish. Torino refused to admit defeat and Alessandro Rosina pulled a goal back with an 89th-minute header, but it proved to be no more than a consolation and Alberto Zaccheroni's side.

Palermo 4-0 Ascoli
Palermo returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion at the Stadio Renzo Barbera as they inflicted an 11th defeat of the season on winless basement club Ascoli. Mark Bresciano got the Sicilian outfit off to a flying start with a goal inside the first quarter of an hour while captain Eugenio Corini doubled the lead with his seventh goal of the season early in the second period. Giovanni Tedesco made it three six minutes from full-time before Ciro Capuano sealed the win in injury time to rub salt into Ascoli's gaping wounds. The Rosanero desperately needed a result to boost confidence following the 4-0 thrashing at Roma on Sunday, a performance that saw President Maurizio Zamparini accuse coach Francesco Guidolin of "trying to ruin a great squad."

Milan 3-0 Catania
Milan registered their first win in four Serie A matches by brushing aside the challenge of high-flying Catania at the San Siro. The Rossoneri went into the match just three points above the drop zone, but proved too strong for the visitors, eventually winning with ease thanks to a Kaka double and another Alberto Gilardino goal. The Brazilian playmaker got the ball rolling after just four minutes and the victory was sealed with two goals in the final eight minutes, the first one coming from Gilardino, who netted twice in a 2-2 draw at Fiorentina at the weekend, the last coming in the final minutes. The defeat handed Catania a stark dose of reality following their impressive start to the season after promotion in the summer. The Sicilian outfit arrived at the San Siro in fourth place but returned south well beaten

Cagliari 0-2 Fiorentina
Two goals from Luca Toni helped Fiorentina stretch their unbeaten run to seven matches in Serie A and marked an unhappy start to Franco Colomba's time in charge of Cagliari. The former Livorno coach was handed the reins on Tuesday in place of Marco Giampaolo, who was sacked last weekend following the defeat to Udinese. But goals in either half from Toni ensured the points left Sardinia with Fiorentina, who continue to battle the effects of the 15-point deduction meted out for their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal. The Viola have moved up to 15th following the result, one point and one place behind their opponents who have won just once in their last eight league matches

Sampdoria 4-1 Livorno
Sampdoria came from behind impressively to demolish Livorno 4-1 at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Fabio Quagliarella was the Samp hero again with two fine second-half goals, sealing a third win in the last four games for Walter Novellino's side. Luca Vigiani had given the visitors a 12th-minute lead, but Daniele Franceschini equalised in the 25th minute and a penalty from Francesco Flachi after half-an-hour saw the home side go into the break ahead. Quagliarella's eighth and ninth goals of the season were as special as his previous seven, and the three points they earned set Samp up for an enjoyable end to 2006.

Chievo 3-2 Reggina
Chievo pulled off a thrilling victory against Reggina that confirms they are back on form and have every chance of securing another season in top-flight football. Nicola Amoruso put the visitors from Reggio Calabria ahead after 17 minutes only for Chievo to equalise when Paolo Sammarco found the net nine minutes later. Just before the interval Federico Cossato put the home team in front but Francesco Modesto struck late in the second half to level the scores for Reggina. There was a sting in the tail for the visitors, though, as Simone Tiribocchi struck a late winner with a smashing volley for Chievo who have now taken 10 points from a possible 15 to pull away from the relegation zone.

Atalanta 1-2 Udinese
A last-gasp goal from Antonio Di Natale secured 10-man Udinese three important points against surprise packages Atalanta. Fernando Tissone put the home side in the lead early in the second half only for Raffaele De Martino, who would later receive a red card, to equalise for Udinese minutes later. A draw looked to be on the cards until Di Natale struck late on to seal an important three points for a team that had high hopes this season but had only won two of its previous 10 matches

Empoli 1-0 Siena
Empoli edged local rivals Siena in the Tuscan derby between teams who have exceeded expectations so far this season. The deadlock was broken early in the second half when Francesco Marianini opened the scoring for Empoli with what would prove to be the only goal. Siena could not conjure up an equaliser and had to concede defeat to Luigi Cagni's men, who have had an excellent calendar year for a club of their modest stature. Empoli started the year in relegation trouble but had an excellent second half to the 2005-06 campaign and have started well this season. If they maintain this form in 2007 they could secure their Serie A status with something to spare

Messina 1-1 Parma
Messina halted their run of five straight defeats with a draw at home to fellow strugglers Parma. Both goals came in the second half, Arturo Di Napoli handing Bruno Giordano's side the lead, before Stefano Pioli's Gialloblu levelled through a spectacular Daniele Paponi scorpion kick moments later to give them only their fourth point out of 27 on their travels. The draw does little to help either side, with Parma still third from bottom and two points from safety, and Messina two places and three points better off.

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