Sunday, November 30, 2008

Waking the dead

Why did it take three goals conceded to wake Milan from their slumber on Sunday night? The Rossoneri were bossed out of the game for most of the match at Palermo. They only started to push their pink opponents back when the fixture was way beyond them. Don't they realise there is a Scudetto there to be won?

It was so lacklustre from Carlo Ancelotti's men without Kaka. Clarence Seedorf tried his best but they were crushed by the best Palermo performance of the season. Fabrizio Miccoli sparkled, Fabio Liverani pulled the strings and big Mo Carrozzieri looked unbeatable at the back. Not to mention some brilliant saves by Marco Amelia. Hats off to Palermo for a great display but, really, was this the best Milan could muster?

Elsewhere, Inter continue to win without really putting their stamp on the championship. They are now six points clear but have yet to look totally convincing. They were too strong for Juve but then they lost at home to Panathinaikos. It is starting to appear the old conundrums of the Mancini days have not been resolved by Mourinho.

Finally, Roma's revival continued thanks to an impressive second half against Fiorentina. I thought my boys were going to do something after a decent first 45 minutes but they fell back as the game went on. There are still too many elementary mistakes from the Viola to become real title contenders. The Giallorossi, on the other hand, look like they could be set for one of their famous winning streaks. However, they must have let the leaders get too big a gap already.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Feel my pain

Fiorentina tumbled out of the Champions League - not through lack of effort but rather through lack of clinical finishing in front of goal. They lost at home to Lyon in a game which underlined their main failing in Europe - not turning their chances into goals.

It was a good game and the French were a good team but I felt the Viola were worth at least a draw. The trouble is they shunned opportunities with too much regularity. Zdravko Kuzmanovic, in particular, hit one shot nearer to the corner flag than the goal when put clean through.

It is a skill which Fiorentina have lacked all season. They can put the opposition under pressure for long spells but (apart from the second half against Udinese) fail to turn it into goals. Against a sharp finishing side like Lyon it was always going to spell trouble.

So, there is only the UEFA left to play for. It seems a little hollow. However, until we get more experienced and battle-hardened in the Champs League it is probably about our level. Unless we lose to Bucharest, of course, in which case there is nothing...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Juve - the Real deal?

It is never easy for those of a purple persuasion to write about Juventus without bias. The old enemy has caused us so much hurt over the years that it is impossible to put to one side. Any sort of dispassionate analysis becomes difficult.

However, I think it is fair to ask the question - having come through their mini-crisis - just how good are the Bianconeri? Their fans have lurched from despair to downright delirium in the past few weeks. Back to back wins over Real Madrid and a massive league recovery have put some of the old swagger into their stride. Heck, they're nearly as loathsome as they used to be.

It is hard, of course, to dislike Claudio Ranieri. He is such an amiable chap that it is impossible to grudge him his success. His critics brand him too nice to succeed. That may be true. At the moment, however, he is doing a pretty good job with a team which - I would argue - is not really all that good.

Yes, Del Piero has found pinpoint precision with his free-kicks. Yes, Pavel Nedved is up for the fight - when was he ever found wanting in that regard? And, yes, big Amauri has proved an astute signing. But what about the likes of Molinaro, De Ceglie, Chiellini, Marchionni, Sissoko and the rest? Don't try to tell me they are world class.

Still, the proof of the pudding is out on the field of play. For all my reticence, Juve are going great guns. If they beat Genoa on Thursday night they could pull level with Inter. Then, no matter how much I might dislike it, the Hunchbacks will be back on top of the belltower where they feel they rightly belong.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Grazie Roma Part 2

We take our pleasure in small victories these days. Italian football has become like the annoying yappy little dog at the heels of the English Super Debt League. We know that the war will be lost, but there is still the odd glorious battle. Like last night in the Stadio Olimpico.

Despite the global millions poured into the game maybe some national characteristics do hold true. Roma were written off, derided and on the ropes. Then they produced their best performance of the season. Remind anyone of Italy 1982 or 2006?

That they defeated Chelsea was truly sweet. That it was Christian Panucci - old "Mad Dog" himself - that scored the opening goal was joyous. That Francesco Totti gritted his teeth to captain the side was admirable. That Mirko Vucinic skipped away from Jon Obi Mikel was a delight.

So many Giallorossi revived their reputations it would be impossible to mention them all. But I thought Matteo Brighi had one of his best ever games for the club. And even the sometimes annoying David Pizarro was in fine form. A night to remember.

Of course, let's not get too carried away by one win. The collective spending power of the We Owe Billions League is unlikely to be defeated in the long-term. However, that doesn't mean we should not savour these tasty little treats every time they come along.