Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just One Scudetto: Matchday 3 - Return of the Tinkerman

Lots to catch up on with two rounds of fixtures in Serie A, the start of the Champions League and of course the Azzuri in World Cup qualification action. So no messing around - let's get straight to it. Avanti!

Since my last update, Luciano Spalletti has parted company with Roma to be replaced by Claudio Ranieri, following a home defeat to the Tinkerman's former club Juventus. Juve have got off to a fantastic start with three wins from three, adding another win in the eternal city against Lazio (locals will be hoping the visitors didn't throw some spare euros in the Trevi). Diego seems to be proving himself the signing of the summer for Juve, already looking set to more than justify the €24.5 million they paid Bremen for his services. As for Ranieri, he's made an immediate impact, overseeing Roma's first win of the season away to Siena thanks to a last-minute goal from John Arne Riise.

Juve are joined at the top of the table by the two teams from Genoa. Adding to first day wins, both teams won by the single goal in games at Atalanta (three defeats from three for them), Sampdoria also beating a decidedly shaky looking Udinese, and Genoa coming out 4-1 winners over Napoli in an interestingly officiated tie that saw three red cards and two penalties. Stats fans will be interested to know that table toppers and leading scorers Genoa have got their eight goals from eight different players.

Spreading the goals around is something Udinese haven't achieved, with six of their seven coming from just one man, Antonio Di Natale. He pulled them back from behind for the second time this season scoring a hat-trick in the 4-2 home win against Catania. Napoli's goals have been shared between Marek Hamsik, who's scored in every game, and new signing Fabio Quagliarella - who scored twice in the 3-1 home win over Livorno. One win from three however hasn't gone much way to convince anyone about Donadoni's managerial capabilities.

Fiorentina are still unbeaten following up their opening day draw with two 1-0 home wins against Palermo and Cagliari. Cagliari have yet to add to their solitary point having lost 3-1 at home to Siena. Chievo have chalked up their first win with a 2-0 win at struggling Bologna, a very good result following their previous match - being beaten 2-1 at home to Lazio, from a goal up and the visitors playing the last half hour with ten men.

Of course the biggest match so far this season has been the Milan derby in which Inter (as the away side) ran out 4-0 winners. The result, though, said more about how much Leonardo has to learn rather than how good Inter are. The key moment of the game was Gatusso's dismissal and the events surrounding it. Severely exposed in midfield, Gatusso was clearly carrying an injury, however in the time it took Clarence Seedorf to get it together to put his boots on to replace him, Gatusso commited a second bookable offence and was off - already two goals down there was no way back for the Rossaneri.

Inter followed this result with a 2-0 home win against Parma. It wasn't straightforward for Mourinho's men as Parma held their nerve for 70 minutes looking to emulate Bari's opening day draw at the San Siro. In the end, tiredness got the better of them and they were fortunate not to be on the end of a bigger (if undeserving) scoreline. Inter's goals came from Eto'o and Milito (I may be using this line a lot this season). Milan, however, could only battle out a goalless draw against the other promoted side Livorno.

Parma became the first of the new boys to register a win with their 2-1 win over bottom placed club Catania who remain pointless. Bari are still unbeaten haven't picked up draws against Bologna and at Palermo to add to their opening day heroics.

A ray of brightness has come Milan's way though in the shape of the Champions League; in a replay of the 1993 final, Pippo Inzaghi (who else) scored twice to beat Marseille 2-1. This tie was just one part of an Italy v France extravaganza in the Champions League - Fiorentina going down by the single goal at Lyon and Juventus drawing 1-1 at home to in-form Bordeaux. Match of the day should have been Inter v Barcelona - but in the end, though, it turned into what it always was: an early stage league fixture with either side so eager to show that they got the better end of the Eto'o/Ibrahimovic deal they forgot to go about winning the thing. A tame 0-0 resulted. Lazio, Roma and Genoa are in Europa League action tonight.

On the international stage, the World Cup holders were eased towards qualification by two goals from a Milan defender. However the defender in question was Kakha Kaladze playing for Georgia and putting it past his own goalkeeper twice in the space of 12 minutes to hand the tie 2-0 to the visitors. Italy relied on their own players for the same scoreline at home to Bulgaria four days later - Juve's Grosso and Iaquinta on the scoresheet there. Just a point from their next game away to the Republic of Ireland on October 9 will be enough to see them through as winners of Group 8.

Well I'm off to Italy myself for a week so by the time I write my next update there will have been three rounds of fixtures including a rare midweek card. The nearest match to me will be Bari v Cagliari next Wednesday - given that neither side have won yet and only managed three goals in their six so far it hasn't really filled me with enthusiasm to drag Mrs. S the 80-odd km to watch a game from behind a running track. I'm sure a local bar will be carrying something more entertaining.

A più tardi!

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