Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fulmine a San Siro

It should have been the goal that blasted the Serie A battle back open. Francesco Totti struck as sweet a left foot strike as you will ever see to give Roma the lead over Inter in their top of the table fight on Wednesday night. Instead, the Nerazzurri clawed their way back with ten men to get a draw which keeps them nine points clear.

The game started sluggishly but once Roma got ahead it sprung to life. Bobby Mancini committed his subs early and paid the price when Maxwell was stretchered off leaving his team with ten men. However, the referee evened that up by harshly sending off Phillipe Mexes. Then Roma lost a man through injury too, leaving them with nine.

Eventually, with suitable huff and puff, Javier Zanetti struck an equaliser through a forest of legs. The San Siro went nuts but the neutrals stamped the ground in disgust. Roma will never have a better chance to narrow the gap on the top of the table team than that.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Inter rattled?

Following hot on the heels of their disaster in Liverpool, could Inter's failure to win against Sampdoria constitute a crisis? Even Bobby Mancini hinted as much in his recent interviews. For a side used to winning at a canter it throws a slender lifeline to their opponents.

The only side who can credibly take advantage are Roma who, nice coincidence, will play them on Wednesday night. If the Giallorossi could somehow sneak a win it would close the gap to six points which, while still significant, might give some hope of a genuine title fight.

Roma beat my beloved Viola, of course, on Sunday. I didn't see much of the game, I confess, but I did see the highlights. Obviously it is not an offence in Rome for Totti to stand in the line of a shot in an offside position in front of the goalkeeper. Churlish, moi? Worse news that Adrian Mutu picked up an injury and could be out for some time.

Elsewhere it was goalfest as Torino and Parma drew 4-4 and Genoa thumped Udinese 5-3. Italian football boring? Give me a break.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Firenze Sogna

Tonight is the night when a little dream can come true. Fiorentina take on Rosenborg in Florence with the prize dangling at the end of it a trip to Goodison Park to take on Everton.

I have followed the Viola for too long to think they will do the job with ease. However, having won the first leg 1-0 it would be a real shame to throw it away. I want my trip down to Liverpool to see my boys in action. Here is hoping.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Matrix unplugged

Remember the old Marco Materazzi? The pre-World Cup 2006, total-liability version? Well he was back in force on Tuesday night. He saw red leaving Inter with ten men for the majority of their Champions League clash with Liverpool. They lost 2-0, seriously compromising their chances of progress. Same old Inter, I am inclined to say.

Yes, Matrix's sending-off was harsh but after his first soft yellow (and one for Chivu) he should have got the idea. Instead, sadly, no. It has left the Nerazzurri with a mountain to climb.

Roma did better against Real. Their 2-1 win at least gives them half a chance of progressing. I was disappointed they didn't push to try to get a third. However, maybe they gave as much as they could. They have a couple of weeks to focus on the return game. I believe they will score in Madrid, don't know if they will score enough, mind you...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

That's one in the bag

Well, Inter really don't need to worry any more about the Scudetto after the weekend's events. They brushed past Livorno while Juve did them a big favour in beating Roma. You've got to hand it to Claudio Ranieri. He has put the Bianconeri in with a decent shout of finishing in second place in their first season back in Serie A.

Down the table a bit, Milan could not break down a solid Parma side and their draw allowed Fiorentina to rebuild a gap in fourth place thanks to an Adrian Mutu wonder strike against Catania. Udinese also won, making the fight for that last Champions League spot pretty tasty.

Elsewhere, it was the Antonio Cassano show as Samp won the Genoese derby by a single goal. Honestly, if the boy from Bari could just focus on his football he would be a real bonus to both club and country...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Torna presto Ronie!

I know, I know that I have poked fun at him in the past. I think I called him the "Lord of the Pies" and I definitely joked that he could no longer jump off the ground. However, I would not have wished a career-ending injury on Ronaldo.

It looks like the end of the road after he collapsed in a heap against Livorno on Wednesday night. I know he fought back before but I really wonder if he can manage it again. It is a big blow to Milan who - while they have Pato and Paloschi for the future - could have done with his experience in the big games to come.

Perhaps I am wrong and he can defy the odds and come back again. However, when a player has suffered as many serious injuries as he has, it is hard to believe he can really be a force to be reckoned with ever again.

Monday, February 11, 2008

In praise of the little guy

In these days of global brand positioning - whatever that means - it is worth pausing to remember that, for the time being at least, even footballing giants need somebody to play against. So, for all this talk of taking the game around the world, you still have to be able to beat the minnows in your own back yard. And if those tiddlers happen to give you a fright from time to time - so much the better.

I thought this while watching Siena, Reggina, Catania and - to a lesser extent - Udinese at the weekend. Siena gave Milan a hard time only to be sunk by the Rossoneri's latest wonderkid Paloschi. On Saturday night Reggina played so cautiously for the first half I nearly switched off but in the second period they were enterprising and aggressive only to lose out to Roma. It was a similar story for Catania against Inter. Up until the Nerazzurri went ahead it was a good game.

Elsewhere, Fiorentina contrived to throw away a win (or Atalanta battled to the death, depending on your viewpoint). It means a midweek win over Livorno would put Milan into fourth place and back into the Champions League points. Apart from one setback - also at Atalanta - they are the form team of Serie A at the moment...

Monday, February 04, 2008

You know when you've been Pato-ed!

What did I say about playing badly but winning? Me and my big mouth. On Sunday night Fiorentina played one of their best games of recent times and, guess what? They got beat.

Little Pato came off the bench, scored the winner, then hobbled off injured. It would be fair to say few Stranieri have had a bigger impact in a shorter period of time in Serie A. If he keeps going like this he could be amazing.

The game itself started magnificently and then fizzled out. But in the second half it was the Viola who gave everything for the win. However, if you don't put the ball in the net, etc. They were punished by Pato just as they ran out of steam. Also, Kalac was in impressive form - I think it could be a long time until we see Dida back between the sticks.

Elsewhere, what to say about the penalty Inter got against Empoli? If it had been given to Juve we would never have heard the end of it. OK, the Nerazzurri might have won anyway but it did give them a hell of a hand - until Empoli missed their consolation spot-kick.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Brescia beats Govan

I love these lifestyle choice stories. I am sure I remember one when Florin Raducioiu (or however you spell it) was torn between somewhere grim in the UK and Espanol. It was his wife, I think, who said don't be so bloomin' stupid - we're off to Barcelona you eejit!

So, Andrea Caracciolo snubbed the Glasgow Rangers to go to Brescia. He even went down a division rather than head to Ibrox. Admirable? Foolish? Understandable?

In Glasgow he would surely have got plenty of goals. He would also have got a team virtually guaranteed Champions League football every year. He would have got to share a curry with Barry Ferguson.

Instead, he went back to the team where he first made his reputation. There he gets a side struggling to get back to Serie A but he will get pasta like his mamma used to make every day.

Now, which one would you have chosen?