Saturday, 23 December 2006

Serie A Wk 18: Review

Saturday 23 December
Inter 2-1 Atalanta
Inter equalled the all-time Serie A record for consecutive wins on Saturday, but were made to work hard for the honour after coming from behind to beat dogged Atalanta. Cristiano Doni stunned the San Siro faithful with a goal after 16 minutes, leaving Roberto Mancini's men with plenty to do in their quest to match the record of 11 straight league wins set by Roma last season. But a strike from Brazilian Adriano calmed Mancini's touchline jitters midway through the second period, while an own goal by Simone Loria inside the last 20 minutes ensured Inter a seven-point cushion at the top of the standings heading into the winter break.

Roma 2-0 Cagliari
Roma maintained their pursuit of Serie A leaders Inter with a routine victory over Cagliari at the Stadio Olimpico. Rodrigo Taddei put the hosts ahead after five minutes and Alessandro Mancini doubled their advantage 11 minutes into the second half. The win means the Giallorossi remain seven points behind Inter heading into the Christmas break. Cagliari only threatened sporadically as new coach Franco Colomba presided over his second successive defeat since succeeding Marco Giampaolo.

Siena 1-1 Palermo
Palermo have had a memorable 2006 but were somewhat fortunate to sign it off with a draw against a Siena side that dominated much of the game. Fabio Simplicio gave the visiting Sicilians the lead four minutes before the break but the hosts hit back almost immediately through Leandro Rinaudo. Siena had the better of the second half but were unable to find the winner and coach Mario Beretta was banished from the sidelines in the closing seconds as the frustration showed

Udinese 0-3 Milan
A Kaka-inspired Milan cruised to a comprehensive victory over Udinese at the Stadio Friuli. The Brazilian star produced a virtuoso midfield display to put the game out of Udinese's reach before half-time. He handed the Rossoneri the lead after 31 minutes with a coolly-taken penalty after he had been hauled down in the area by Giampiero Pinzi. And the visitors doubled their advantage just four minutes later when Alberto Gilardino scored with a stunning acrobatic volley. The imperious Kaka was withdrawn just seven minutes into the second period, but the damage was already done. But there was still time for Milan to score a third, though, as Ricardo Oliveira took advantage of some casual defending from the home defence to seal the three points late on. Milan remain in the bottom half going into the Christmas break but are just six points away from a Champions League position

Fiorentina 4-0 Messina
Fiorentina continued their march up the Serie A table with a 4-0 demolition of woeful Messina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Goals in the first half from Luca Toni, Alessandro Potenza and Fabio Liverani, plus a fourth from the red-hot Adrian Mutu after the break, gave the Viola their 10th win of the season. Cesare Prandelli's men extended their unbeaten run to eight matches in the process, although the dismissal of the visitors' Marco Zoro on the stroke of half-time certainly helped their cause. The two teams went into the game separated by goal difference alone, but Fiorentina's lowly position in the table is due more to their pre-season 15-point deduction for their part in Calciopoli than their results.

Catania 4-2 Sampdoria
Catania regained fourth place in Serie A from their opponents Sampdoria with a 4-2 win at the Stadio Angelo Massimino. The Sicilians kept their nerve against a determined Sampdoria with Gionatha Spinesi's hat-trick, sealed just three minutes from time, finally killing off the Genoa-based side's resistance. Spinesi had put Catania ahead after seven minutes but Angelo Palombo equalised a quarter of an hour later. The home side regained the lead through Fabio Caserta after 36 minutes, but Daniele Franceschini brought Samp back on terms before a Spinesi penalty in first-half stoppage time gave Catania the lead at the break. Samp pushed for an equaliser, but were caught on the break with Spinesi's strike giving Catania fourth place to end the year and taking his personal goals tally for the season to 11.

Parma 1-3 Lazio
Parma continued their slide down Serie A after slumping to a 3-1 home defeat against 10-man Lazio. After Sebastiano Siviglia's early dismissal, Igor Budan doubled the visitors' misery by firing the Gialloblu ahead on 18 minutes. But goals by Guglielmo Stendardo, Goran Pandev and Tommaso Rocchi were enough to give Lazio all the points as they climbed to fifth in the table. Parma, meanwhile, were booed off the field by their own fans after failing to win for the ninth consecutive game in the league and slipping to 19th place. Their last three points came way back on October 29, a 3-1 home win against Atalanta.

Reggina 4-1 Empoli
Reggina climbed to their highest position of the season with an emphatic victory over in-form Empoli. Walter Mazzarri's side had the game sewn up by half-time, with goals from Julio Cesar Leon, a double from Nicola Amoruso and Rolando Bianchi putting the hosts 4-0 up at the interval. Substitute Luca Saudati pulled one back for the visitors from the penalty spot midway through the second period, but it was not nearly enough to halt the home celebrations in Reggio Calabria. With the handicap of an 11-point deduction for Calciopoli, Reggina have it all to do to defend their top-flight status. A bad year for the club got even worse on Wednesday when they suffered their second defeat in four days but they avoided an unwanted festive hat-trick in some style, and moved up a place to 18th in the standings in the process

Ascoli 3-0 Chievo
Sasa Bjelanovic scored twice as Ascoli finally registered their first Serie A victory of the season at the expense of nine-man Chievo. The Croatian striker - who had a loan spell at Chievo back in 2003 - took his tally to seven for the season with goals in the 14th and 37th minutes after his strike partner Michele Paolucci had opened the scoring eight minutes in. Chievo's hopes of staging an unlikely comeback were effectively ended when Nigerian youngster Victor Obinna was dismissed five minutes before the break after a reckless challenge and Salvatore Lanna was also shown a straight red card for serious foul play in the final minute to ensure there would be no festive cheer for Luigi Del Neri's side. The victory was not enough to move the home side off the foot of the table, but it did allow them to close the gap on the fourth-bottom Flying Donkeys to five points heading into the winter break

Livorno 1-1 Torino
Livorno and Torino both remain locked together in the Serie A table and they could not be separated in a draw at the Stadio Armando Picchi. Gabriele Cioffi's first Serie A goal gave the visitors a surprise lead midway through the first half. Livorno reacted well, though, and after having what seemed like a legitimate goal disallowed, fans' favourite Cristiano Lucarelli did finally find the back of the net just after the hour mark. Torino ended the game with 10 men after Simone Barone picked up his second caution of the day. But for all the home side's attempts, they could not break down a stubborn Torino defence for a second time and had to settle for a share of the spoils, despite being the better team.

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