Sunday 27 January 2008

Serie A Week 20: Sunday Review

Inter's lead at the top of Serie A is now five points after the Nerazzurri earned a point at Udinese. Elsewhere, Fiorentina won the Tuscan derby, Alexandre Pato's brace helped Milan, Juve secured their first three points of 2008 and Napoli are beaten with two late goals.

Serie A leaders Inter were held to a goalless draw by Udinese to bring an end to their eight-match winning streak. However, coach Roberto Mancini will be relieved his men kept their unbeaten league record intact after playing for 70 minutes with 10 men following the dismissal of Cesar at the Stadio Friuli. And despite the result, Inter hold a five-point cushion over Roma at the top of the standings with opponents Udinese a distant fifth.

Juventus kept their faint Serie A title hopes alive by bringing to an end 10-man Livorno's fine unbeaten run on Sunday evening. David Trezeguet bagged a brace either side of an Alessandro Del Piero strike as the Bianconeri bounced back from successive draws to close the gap on leaders Inter to 10 points. Erjon Bogdani pulled a goal back, who had Daniele De Vezze sent off early in the second half as they tasted defeat for the first time since October. The loss halted a nine-match unbeaten streak which had lifted Giancarlo Camolese's side four points clear of the drop zone following a woeful start to the season.

Fiorentina left it late to maintain their push for Champions League qualification as they won 2-0 to deny Tuscan rivals Empoli a much-needed point in their fight for survival. Adrian Mutu and Giampaolo Pazzini struck in the final four minutes as La Viola recorded their fifth league win in a row to move four points clear of fifth-placed Udinese.

New AC Milan sensation Alexandre Pato scored twice as the Rossoneri saw off red-hot Genoa 2-0 at the San Siro. Brazilian Pato, who only recently made his debut, nodded the first home in the 65th minute and the visitors' task was made all the more difficult shortly after that when goalkeeper Rubinho was dismissed. The hosts made good use of their numerical advantage as Pato struck again eight minutes from time to help Milan climb into seventh place. Carlo Ancelotti's side are still 10 points behind fourth-placed Fiorentina, who occupy the last Champions League qualifying spot, but Milan have two games in hand.

Struggling Cagliari ended a run of six defeats with two goals deep in stoppage time helping them to secure a 2-1 victory over Napoli. Already missing star Manuele Blasi, Cagliari looked like making it seven straight losses when they fell behind to Marek Hamsik's 58th-minute goal. But Alessandro Matri levelled three minutes into stoppage time with a spectacular long-range effort and Daniele Conti headed in the winner a minute later. Napoli had not won since a December 9 defeat of Parma and headed to Sardinia after reports surfaced of a row between club President Aurelio De Laurentiis and coach Edoardo Reja. The two men have masterminded Napoli's return to Italian football's top flight but De Laurentiis was alleged to have threatened to sack Reja in the wake of last weekend's 2-2 draw with Lazio, although he later played down the spat.

A second-half fightback from Reggina saw them come from 2-0 down to earn a point from a 2-2 draw at Atalanta. Goals from Claudio Rivalta and Antonio Langella had put the home side in command before Luca Vigiani and Edgar Baretto struck to earn a vital point for Reggina, who climb out of the relegation places as a result.

Rolando Bianchi endured an ignominious debut for Lazio after being sent off five minutes after coming on in the second half of the Roman club's scoreless draw with Torino. Toro also played with a man down after losing Simone Barone on the stroke of half-time, but the Biancoceleste were not able to capitalise on the short time they had an extra player on the pitch. Bianchi, who moved from Manchester City earlier this week, started on the bench but was introduced on the hour mark only to earn two yellow cards in five minutes. The result leaves Lazio in 14th place, three points clear of the drop-zone, while Torino are 16th in the standings.

Catania and Parma battled out a disappointing goalless stalemate in Sicily which does little to boost either side's flagging season. Neither side established any supremacy in a poor first half which was largely spent in the middle third.

[Saturday 26 Jan] - [Sunday 27 Jan]

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