Our man in Italy Kris Voakes rounds up the main Week 28 action in Serie A, looking back at how Inter, Juventus and Roma reacted to their European exits last week.
The recovery has already begun. After England's clean sweep in the Champions League in midweek, Serie A's 20 clubs served up 34 goals and entertainment galore to hit back at the peninsula's newly-recharged critics.
Roma were the only European losers to drop points as they lost a lead, and a man, before coming from behind to steal a point from Sampdoria at the Marassi. Julio Baptista bounced back from his embarrassing midweek performance against Arsenal to score two goals, including the game-saving penalty, taking his tally against the Blucerchiati this season to four in two games. January signing Giampaolo Pazzini had looked set to take the headlines after his ninth goal in 10 games for his new club had completed his brace and given the home side the lead. The Giallorossi were dealt a further blow when Marco Motta was sent off for two bookings, but Baptista bailed them out from the spot after Marco Padalino took a handful of Max Tonetto's shirt in the area.
Inter and Juventus maintained the status quo at the top with home victories. Inter recorded a 2-0 win over Fiorentina thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s double which included a stunning 25-yard free-kick measured at 109km/h. That result restored their seven-point lead which Juve had narrowed after coming from behind with a stunning Saturday night show against Bologna. Trailing to Massimo Mutarelli’s first goal in Rossoblu, the Bianconeri were driven on by virtuoso displays from Sebastian Giovinco and Alessandro Del Piero to record a 4-1 win.
Vincenzo Iaquinta levelled the scores for La Vecchia Signora before a magnificent curling right-foot finish from Giovinco. The Sorcerer himself then trumped his apprentice with a pair of goals after neat footwork to complete the victory. Though the three points were matched by Inter the following night, the manner of Juve’s victory, particularly in respect of the performances of Giovinco and Del Piero, seems to have created a new confidence around Turin. Tactician Claudio Ranieri is now talking up the possibility of his side recording 10 out of 10 victories in their Serie A run-in as they attempt to overhaul the Nerazzurri.
There were big winners elsewhere as Milan and Palermo each racked up five-goal hauls to back up vital victories in week 27. The Rossoneri followed last week’s Pippo Inzaghi-inspired win over Atalanta with a Pippo Inzaghi-inspired 5-1 victory in Siena. The on-form veteran couldn’t quite match his Atalanta hat-trick, but his two goals took him to a career tally of 300. Strike partner Alexandre Pato also struck twice in a one-sided game, but it wasn’t all sweetness and light for Il Diavolo as Christian Abbiati and Ricardo Kaka’ both failed to finish the game. Half-time sub Kaka’ managed only 26 minutes on his comeback from injury after receiving a knock to his recently heeled left foot. More serious was the cruciate knee ligament injury sustained by Abbiati which will rule the goalkeeper out for six months, ending his season and threatening his participation in the opening stages on the next campaign.
Edison Cavani was one of 10 Serie A players to score twice over the weekend as he helped to ruin Gigi De Canio’s return to management with Lecce in Palermo’s 5-2 win. Simone Tiribocchi equalised twice for the strugglers, but Cavani’s double, added to goals from Fabio Simplicio, Fabrizio Miccoli and Simon Kjaer were enough for the Rosanero to record back-to-wins after last week’s success at Fiorentina.
Roberto Donadoni’s return to club management was slightly more successful than De Canio’s as his new Napoli charges fought back from Bernardo Corradi’s first-half goal in Reggina to secure a 1-1 draw through Ezequeil Lavezzi. The weekend’s other two-goal heroes were Sergio Floccari, scorer of both Atalanta goals in a 2-0 win over Torino, and Sergio Pellissier, who helped Chievo record a surprise 3-0 victory away to 10-man Lazio which lifts the Flying Donkeys up to 16th.