Our man in Italy Kris Voakes reports on all the main Week 20 action in Serie A, focusing on a number of controversial decisions that have put the officials in the headlines.
Inter went back to the top of Serie A on Sunday night, but their 1-0 victory over Sampdoria at San Siro came at a cost in a bad-tempered fixture.
The Champions had momentarily lost their lead after Saturday evening's win for Juventus over Fiorentina, but Adriano's close-range effort in first-half injury-time restored their three-point advantage. However, L'Imperatore will now miss the next three Serie A games after video evidence showed him punching Doria's Daniele Gastaldello in the stomach moments before his match-winner.
The Nerazzurri will also have to do without central defensive partners Walter Samuel and Cristian Chivu after both failed to finish the game. Both pulled muscles in their right legs and will be out for at least two weeks, although Samuel is thought to be a big doubt for the Milan derby on February 15th. Their losses mean Inter have a real injury crisis on their hands, with Marco Materazzi, Maxwell and Nicolas Burdisso all sidelined due to injury or illness. Another man on the missing list against Catania on Wednesday night will be coach Jose Mourinho, who faces a one-man touchline ban after being sent to the stands by referee Domenico Celi after he asked the official if he was too scared to punish Sampdoria after a weekend of refereeing controversy.
Juve’s 1-0 success, given to them by Claudio Marchisio’s 21st minute strike, was marred by doubts over two decisions by officials which helped turn the game against Fiorentina. First, referee Massimiliano Saccani failed to spot a foul by Olof Mellberg on Viola striker Stevan Jovetic which would have yielded a 10th minute penalty. Then Alberto Gilardino netted what looked a fair equaliser for the away side, only to be foiled by an offside flag. Video replays later showed that Gilardino was indeed being played onside by Marco Marchionni.
Further refereeing decisions were questioned in Sunday afternoon’s big game between Bologna and Milan, but the real headlines were made by Kaka’ and David Beckham as the Rossoneri recorded a handsome 4-1 victory.
Milan conceded a soft penalty inside eight minutes when Paolo Maldini and Philippe Senderos combined to sandwich Bologna’s Christian Amoroso as he burst into the box. Capocannoniere Marco Di Vaio converted to record his 15th goal of the season. But within 10 minutes Milan were ahead as Clarence Seedorf fired in a near-post shot under the body of Francesco Antonioli and then Kaka’ scored from the spot after Gianluca Zambrotta had been brought down by Davide Bombardini.
Gaby Mudingayi then saw red after mistiming a challenge on Alexandre Pato as the Brazilian broke clear. Mudingayi had already been booked, leaving referee Paolo Tagliavento little option. Within minutes Kaka’ tied the game up with a wonderful 20-yard left foot strike. The fantasista was clearly delighted to have put the furore over his potential €120million move to Manchester City behind him, as the famed smile returned to his face and countless banners lauded his loyalty to the Rossoneri. Last week’s “I belong to money” this week became “I belong to Milan.” He was later given an ovation by all four sides of the sold-out Renato Dall’Ara when substituted by Ronaldinho. His is a talent nobody in Italy wants to see go abroad.
David Beckham then showed everybody in the ground why Milan want him to stay beyond March 9th when his two-month loan deal from LA Galaxy is due to end, turning in a virtuoso second-half performance. First up he scored his debut goal in Serie A, drilling home at the near post from 12 yards after Seedorf had fed him from Pato’s break. Then he made further opportunities for substitute Filippo Inzaghi and for Kaka’, whilst all the time providing solidity on the right ahead of Zambrotta and deputy Luca Antonini. Whilst his famed crossing ability has rarely been in evidence so far in Italy, his positional sense and discipline has won him many new fans.
Both Roman sides were involved in big away wins as Cagliari stunned Lazio with a come-from-behind 4-1 win at the Olimpico and Roma came away from Napoli with an impressive, if controversial, 3-0 scoreline. Tomasso Rocchi had given the Biancocelesti a third minute lead, but by half-time they were three goals down. Jeda struck two to put the Sardinians in front before Robert Acquafresca added one from the spot and Alessandro Matri’s superb low header made the game safe. There was still time though for Lazio to miss two dubious penalties. Rocchi and strike partner Mauro Zarate were the guilty men who missed the opportunities to put the home side back in the game.
Roma’s win at the San Paolo came off the back of Philippe Mexes’ header which the referee’s assistant failed to spot was offside. They added further goals through Juan and Mirko Vucinic as Napoli failed to deal with the aerial threat. The result puts the Giallorossi within three points of the Champions League positions, a far cry from their early-season position of 18th.
Other winners included Palermo, who recorded a 3-2 triumph over struggling Udinese. After the game Zebrete president Giampaolo Pozzo gave coach Marco Giampaolo another public vote of confidence, claiming he saw an improved performance from his side despite the result which leaves them having collected only three points from a possible 33. Chievo’s Vincenzo Italiano hit a 93rd minute winner at Reggina which resulted in the Amaranto replacing coach Bepi Pillon with his predecessor Nevio Orlandi as they slumped to bottom spot.
In a packed midweek fixture list Juve could go top of the table if they win at Udinese and Inter go down to Catania at the Massimino. Meanwhile, Roma could go fourth if they beat in-form Palermo at the Olimpico and Milan record a home win against Genoa. There’s another six-pointer at the bottom as Nevio Orlandi’s first game back at the helm with Reggina is a long trip to 18th-placed Torino.