Sunday, 20 April 2008

Serie A Week 34: Sunday Review

Inter extended their lead at the top of Serie A to six points with a win over Torino while Alessandro Del Piero and Ricardo Kaka scored hat-tricks for Juventus and AC Milan. Elsewhere, there were crucial wins for Cagliari, Catania and Sampdoria on a day that saw ten red cards including four at Parma-Napoli.

Inter took a significant step towards a defence of their Serie A title on Sunday night with a hard-fought win over Torino. The victory moved Roberto Mancini's side six points clear of second-placed Roma - who were held to a draw on Saturday - with four games of the season remaining. Julio Cruz scored the only goal of the game in the 30th minute, heading Mario Balotelli's corner past Alberto Fontana from point-blank range. The home side battled hard but, for all their possession, were rarely able to test Julio Cesar in the Inter goal. Gianni De Biasi, who led Torino into Serie A two years ago, was back in charge of the team for the third time following Walter Novellino's sacking on Monday, and aiming to keep them in the top flight. But just four points now separate the Turin side from the relegation zone.

Milan are still in the hunt for fourth spot and the final Champions League qualifying place after a resounding 5-1 victory over relegation threatened Reggina. A Ricardo Kaka hat-trick that included two first half penalties and late strikes from Filippo Inzaghi and Alexandre Pato made it an easy afternoon for the hosts at the San Siro. Reggina's hopes were briefly raised when Edgar Barreto scored with an outstanding long-range effort but the result leaves the Amaranto bottom of the league and one point from safety. Milan's victory takes them four points behind Fiorentina.

Alessandro Del Piero turned back the clock with a stunning hat-trick as Juventus dismantled Atalanta 4-0 at the Stadio Azzurri D'Italia. Del Piero served notice of his intentions by setting up the opener for Nicola Legrottaglie in the first minute of the game and the diminutive forward made it 2-0 with a deft volley just five minutes later. Juve's all-time top scorer added his second 11 minutes before the break and completed his treble after 65 minutes as the third-placed Turin giants moved another step closer to sealing a place in next season's Champions League. Atalanta's third defeat on the spin ends their slender hopes of claiming an automatic place in Europe, with the Bergamo club now 14 points off the final UEFA Cup berth with just four games remaining.

Sampdoria exacted sweet revenge on Udinese with a resounding 3-0 win that adds real strength to their bid for a European place. They were quick out of the blocks at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, with Antonio Cassano and Claudio Bellucci putting them two goals ahead at half-time. The latter added a second from the penalty spot after the break, with Tomas Zapotocny sent off for the visitors. For sixth-placed Samp, the result strengthens their grip on the UEFA Cup spots, with a four-point cushion over Udinese in seventh. The last Champions League qualifying spot may also not be out of reach, although there are four points there to make up. The visitors are now four points behind their opponents in seventh place.

An action packed encounter at Stadio Ennio Tardini saw Parma go down 2-1 to Napoli, in a game which included four red cards. Igor Budan gave the home side the lead from the spot on 22 minutes, before Maurizio Domizzi levelled things up with another penalty three minutes into the second half. Marciano Bogliacino completed the turnaround for the visitors when he grabbed the winner on 71 minutes. Parma's McDonald Mariga was the first player to be dismissed on the stroke of half-time, before a frantic final 15 minutes descended into farce. Napoli's Walter Gargano and Parma's Giulio Falcone both saw red on 75 minutes, and were followed down the tunnel just four minutes later when the hosts were reduced to eight men following Andrea Gasbarroni's indiscretion. The defeat leaves the home side just one point above the drop zone.

Cagliari gave their Serie A survival hopes a major boost with a 2-0 victory over basement boys Empoli despite finishing the game with nine men. A goal in each half from Robert Acquafresca and Michele Fini moved the home side five points clear of the bottom three and pushed their opponents a step closer to the trapdoor. The Sardinians could even afford to have both Fini, for whipping his shirt off in celebration, and Francesco Pisano sent off. Despite the defeat, the Tuscan visitors moved a place up into 19th and one point from safety.

Catania's hopes of avoiding relegation received a major boost as they completed a 1-0 home victory against nine-man Lazio. The key moment of the match, and possibly Catania's survival fight, arrived in the 34th minute when Luciano Zauri was shown his second yellow card in as many minutes for hauling down Giuseppe Mascara in the area. From the resultant spot-kick Catania top scorer Gionatha Spinesi made no mistake, scoring his seventh league goal of the season. Lazio had managed just one win on their league travels this season and were never likely to find a way back into the match once midfielder Ousmane Dabo was needlessly sent off after his objections earned him a second caution after felling Giacomo Tedesco. The victory lifts Catania five points clear of the drop zone with four games to play, while Lazio are a further five points better off.

Ten-man Genoa kept alive their hopes of claiming a place in Europe next season with a 1-0 away win at Siena. Former Siena player Abdoulay Konko scored the only goal of the game on 24 minutes to ensure a second win in succession for Genoa, who did well to hold on for the win after Gaetano De Rosa saw red for a professional foul 10 minutes before the interval. The three points leave Genoa eight points off the second and final UEFA Cup berth with four games left, while 13th-placed Siena stay eight points clear of the danger zone and will have to wait a little longer to make certain of playing top-flight football next term.

[Saturday 19 Apr] - [Sunday 20 Apr]

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