Saturday, 22 March 2008

Serie A Week 30: Saturday Review

Roma reduced Inter's lead of Serie A to four points for a few hours at least with a 2-1 defeat of Empoli. AC Milan returned to winning ways to keep the pressure on fourth-placed Fiorentina, who beat Lazio, while there was another defeat for Palermo.

Ten-man Roma kept up the heat on Serie A leaders Inter, but were made to fight all the way for a 2-1 win over struggling Empoli. Defender Christian Panucci headed home the winner minutes after Simone Perrotta was sent off to close the gap on the Nerazzurri to four points. Former Empoli man Max Tonetto had put Roma ahead only for Sebastian Giovinco to bring his club level five minutes after the restart. But despite playing for more than half an hour with an extra man, the visitors could not find a second equaliser and remain second bottom.

Fiorentina beat 10-man Lazio 1-0 to maintain a four-point lead over fifth-placed AC Milan. Having earlier hit the crossbar, substitute Giampaolo Pazzini struck late on to give the hosts three points, capitalising on Massimo Mutarelli's 37th-minute dismissal. The result cements the hosts' position in fourth - the last Champions League qualifying spot - but dents Lazio's quest for a place in the UEFA Cup.

Alexandre Pato scored the only goal of the game to seal a good performance from AC Milan, who finally got back to winning ways against Torino. Having lost their past two games on the trot, including an embarrassing defeat at home to Sampdoria midweek, Milan were desperate to make up the four-point gap on fourth-placed Fiorentina. Brazilian youngster Pato grabbed the winner in the 66th minute to prove that Milan can still maintain their push for a Champions League spot despite the absence of his compatriot and star playmaker Ricardo Kaka, while Toro are in a relegation scrap following three consecutive defeats.

Palermo ended a difficult week on a bad note after losing 3-2 at home to Genoa. President Maurizio Zamparini announced his intention to step down in midweek and subsequently launched a scathing attack on coach Francesco Guidolin for his methods and attitude. His criticisms may have had some substance as the Sicilian side lost 2-1 to Parma on Wednesday, despite having a numerical advantage for 42 minutes. And they capitulated again at the Renzo Barbera, even though they took the lead midway through the first half. Amauri scored from the penalty spot after 24 minutes but the advantage lasted barely five minutes before Lucho Figueroa equalised. In the space of 11 second-half minutes, Omar Milanetto and Abdoulay Konko gave Genoa a comfortable lead. Amauri grabbed his second at the death but there was to be no repeat of the 3-3 draw between these sides earlier in the season.

Daniele Franchescini's injury-time equaliser rescued a point for Sampdoria and kept heartbroken Cagliari rooted to the foot of Serie A after a 1-1 draw. Pasquale Foggia's strike just before half-time had set the visitors on their way to a fifth victory in seven Serie A games, which would have dragged them from the bottom of the table for the first time in nearly four months. But after Daniele Conti hit the post in a chance to make it 2-0, Franchescini's late header earned a point for Sampdoria, though they fall to seventh place behind Udinese. Samp now have 46 points, seven behind fourth-placed Fiorentina but only one behind Udinese in the final UEFA Cup qualification spot. Cagliari remain bottom, now only three points from safety.

Udinese boosted their chances of bagging a European slot with a comfortable 2-0 victory at relegation-threatened Livorno. Defensive errors were to blame for both of the goals and star strikers Fabio Quagliarella and Antonio Di Natale were quick to pounce on the mistakes. Quagliarella opened the scoring in the 19th minute before Di Natale sealed the victory two minutes after half-time. The win lifted Udinese above Sampdoria and into sixth spot in the table while Livorno, having won only one of their past 15 games, are now just a point above 18th-placed Reggina.

Reggina left it late to earn a well-deserved point from a 1-1 draw against Napoli to claw their way a little closer to safety in Serie A. Franco Brienza struck two minutes into stoppage time to ensure a share of the points after Roberto Sosa thought he had done enough to win it for Napoli with a goal 14 minutes from time. A point was the least the struggling hosts deserved after they dominated for large periods during a hard-fought but at times scrappy match at the Stadio Granillo.

Massimo Maccarone's late double strike lifted Siena eight points clear of the relegation zone, while Hector Cuper's first defeat as Parma coach leaves them just two points from the drop-zone. Maccarone scored from the penalty spot with two minutes of normal time remaining after he was brought down by Damiano Zenoni, before making sure of the win with his a right-footed 12-yard strike four minutes into injury time. Andrea Gasbarroni hit the post in the first half for Parma, who remain winless on the road this season.

A tired-looking Atalanta and Catania created little in a goalless draw at the Stadio Atleti d'Azzurri. A missed penalty from Cristiano Doni in the 25th minute was the closest either side came to scoring, but a goal would have flattered Atalanta who along with their opponents seemed exhausted after completing their third game in six days. The draw allows the Sicilians to move a point further away from the bottom three while Atalanta remain inside the top half of the table thanks to their seventh home draw of the season.

[Saturday 22 Mar] - [Inter v Juventus]

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