Our man in Italy Kris Voakes reports on all the main Week 23 action in Serie A as Inter stretch their lead over city rivals AC Milan ahead of the Milan derby next weekend.
Inter extended their lead to seven points in another action-packed weekend of Serie A football which saw a rejuvenated Roma steam-roller Genoa on their continued quest for Champions League qualification.
The Champions got the weekend action underway with a convincing 3-0 victory at Lecce on Saturday, thanks mainly to star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who settled any early nerves with his 14th league goal of the season. Luis Figo and Dejan Stankovic added late goals to throw down the gauntlet to Milan ahead of their late game against basement boys Reggina.
The Rossoneri couldn’t match their neighbours’ endeavours, labouring to a 1-1 draw at San Siro having gone behind to a splendid left-foot strike from Milan old boy Davide Di Gennaro. Kaka’ struck an equaliser from the spot midway through the second half but moments later was helped from the field after sustaining a foot injury which will keep him out of action for three weeks. It means the Brazilian will not only miss his country’s clash with Italy in London on Tuesday night, but also the Milan derby on Sunday. With Il Diavolo trailing by eight points in the title race, Kaka’s loss is a huge blow to any outside chance they now have of claiming their first Scudetto in five years.
Milan fall behind Juventus into third place after the 10-man Bianconeri recorded a late win at Catania thanks to unlikely hero Christian Poulsen. Vincenzo Iaquinta stole all the early headlines by giving Juve the lead in the 11th minute and then 60 seconds later picking up a second booking to leave his side a man short. The Elefanti equalised early in the second half thanks to Takayuki Morimoto, but Poulsen’s 91st-minute winner means they have now gone seven matches without a win, continuing their record for having dreadful form after Christmas in Serie A. A 12-match run without a win in the opening months of 2007 left them scrambling for survival after an impressive start and last year they had a similarly difficult finale after a 10-game winless streak. Walter Zenga will be desperate to get his side back to winning ways before they slide further from their current position of 14th.
The weekend’s most impressive display came from Roma as they demolished Genoa at the Olimpico with three fantastic goals. Cicinho started and finished a fabulous one-touch move which involved Matteo Brighi, Rodrigo Taddei and Francesco Totti but within a minute the full-back twisted his knee when clearing the ball and faces a spell on the sidelines. Gian Piero Gasperini was then sent from the Genoa dugout after a show of dissent towards referee Gianluca Rocchi, leaving him to look on from the stands as Daniele De Rossi broke from his own half before floating a fantastic cross to Mirko Vucinic to plant a left-foot volley high into the net. Roma’s dominance was briefly threatened when Taddei committed a ridiculous foul on Domenico Criscito when already on a yellow card but before long it was 10 against 10 as Giuseppe Sculli also picked up a second booking. Substitute Julio Baptista struck a third superb goal a minute from time, cutting inside two men before unleashing a 20-yard right-foot rocket into the top corner.
At almost the same moment as Baptista was wrapping Roma’s win, Alberto Gilardino scored the only goal as Fiorentina climbed into fourth place with victory over Lazio. The Viola are a point ahead of Roma and Genoa in the chase for a spot in the new Champions League qualifiers in August. Palermo completed the weekend’s action with a 2-1 win against Napoli at the Barbera. They were two up inside 15 minutes thanks to Giulio Migliaccio and Fabio Simplicio but Marek Hamsik pulled one back with a great curling effort just before half-time to leave the Rosanero hanging on. After two successive defeats the Sicilians are now back up to 7th as they look to qualify for the Europa League after a two-year absence from European competition.