Archive for September 16th, 2007

Serie A day 3 – Juve-Udinese – Totò di Natale strikes again

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Striker Antonio Di Natale is having quite a week. First, he scores two goals in an important Euro 2008 qualifier for Italy. Then, returning to his club team for the week-end, he has the audacity to score on the World’s best goalkeeper (and Azzurri teammate) and bring Udinese an excellent away win on Juventus soil. Buffon and Di Natale were joking at the end of the Ukraine game Wednesday, with Gigi warning Totò he would not let him score against him in the Juve-Udinese clash. At the end of the day, the joke was on the Bianconeri who couldn’t overturn the early 2nd half deficit, and were perhaps overly destabilized by the injury to in-form Mauro Camoranesi in the 1st period.

Juve-Udinese 0-1 final score

The first half at the Stadio Olimpico of Turin was a pleasant spectacle, courtesy of the good performance of both teams. The Bianconeri, inspired by an excellent Alessandro Del Piero (in much better form than what we’d seen in the game vs. France, also because he was back to his natural second striker role), dominated possession, and repeatedly pounded at Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic‘s doorstep. On the other end, Udinese was well organized in defence, limiting the attacking verve of the Bianconeri and rapidly setting off the counter-attacks, ready to feed their speedy attacking trio Asamoah-Quagliarella-Di Natale.

Rotten luck for the Juve captain todayThe first set of chances were all Juve’s: starting with David Trezeguet (looking for his 100th personal tally in Serie A) who headed narrowly wide a good cross by Giorgio Chiellini. Then, cue the Alessandro Del Piero show, as the Juve captain began dangerously flirting with Udinese’s woodwork. First, a close-range attempt stamped on the post (Del Piero was in offside position though), then later another post, this time on a 20m sverwing free kick shot. That would be the beginning of Del Piero’s bad luck today, because despite his best efforts (in between posts, the Juve captain even had the chance to send a chip narrowly over following a great Nedved assist) the ball would just refuse to enter the net.

The bad news were only starting for Juve though, because at the 30′ minute mark their right midfielder Mauro Camoranesi was forced off the field, complaining about a muscle strain. Off the Italo-Argentine, in Antonio Nocerino (coming from some very good performances in the pre-season). Alas, Camoranesi’s substitute was in a very bad day of form, and the cause of many of Juve’s lost balls throughout the game. Fortunately for the Bianconeri, most of Udinese’s turnovers were blocked by an attentive Juve defense, led by the experience of Jorge Andrade and the impeccable timing of youngster Domenico Criscito (the best of Ancelotti’s men today).

Antonio Di Natale celebrates his goal with Fabio QuagliarellaThe half thus ended on a 0-0 scoreline, but coach Pasquale Marino‘s troops wasted very little time after the restart to poke their first stab into Juve’s heart. A great through ball was fed by Gökhan Inler to Andrea Dossena on the left wing, who had eluded Nocerino’s marking. The midfielder immediately centered for Antonio Di Natale, Nocerino’s presence nullified the offside trap, and the Udinese striker had little trouble in delicately lobbing Buffon with a precise header. 1-0 for Udinese.

Juve was in shock, and manager Claudio Ranieri decided to make a few changes. However, the ‘Tinker Man’ wasn’t in his best of inspirations today, and inexplicably took off David Trezeguet to put in out-of-form Vincenzo Iaquinta facing his old club. If this was a game in which a dead accurate goal scavenger was needed, it was certainly Trezeguet. Ranieri also inserted the more offensive Tiago for Cristiano Zanetti, but even that move proved to be a flop: due partly to the Portuguese lack of adaptation to Juve’s game so far, and partly because of the lack of offensive options at the front.

Oh ‘Tinker Man’, what on earth are you doing?As the Bianconeri were desperately going for the equalizer, they left acres of space at the back, music to the ears of Udinese’s strike force. Ghanaian striker Gyan Asamoah had the perfect chance for the nail in the coffin, as he eluded the offside trap and Birindelli‘s marking and went all alone for the run on the right wing. His close-range effort however hit the post dead-on and rebounded away (someone must have put a magnet in both the ball and that post today). Juve had one final chance to equalize in stoppage time, as they obtained yet another free-kick close to the box. Skipper Del Piero armed his magic right foot, but guess what? He was once again denied by the woodwork (the crossbar this time). Clearly not Juve’s day.

On a sidenote, one of the match’s highlights did not take place on the pitch, but in the stands: a Juventus fan, who had thrown an exploding flare onto the field (thereby giving a big scare to a large part of the public), was reported and held back by surrounding supporters, who then waited for the stewards’ arrival to escort the man out of the stadium. A great example of the new effectiveness of stadium authority in Italy, which before the tragic death of policeman Filippo Raciti in February could only count on city police to keep order inside the stadiums.

Full Serie A matchday nº3 summary later today.

 Juventus F.C.
Udinese Calcio
GOALSCORERS: 48’ Di Natale (U)
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Birindelli, Andrade, Criscito, Chiellini – Camoranesi (30’ Nocerino), Zanetti (56’ Tiago), Almirón, Nedved – Del Piero, Trezeguet (56’ Iaquinta). (bench: Belardi, Legrottaglie, Molinaro, Palladino). Coach: Ranieri.
UDINESE (3-4-3): Handanovic – Zapatocny, Zapata, Coda – Mesto, Inler, D’Agostino, Dossena (85’ Lukovic) – Quagliarella, Asamoah (64’ Floro Flores), Di Natale (85’ Pepe). (bench: Chimenti, Ferronetti, Sivok, Emerenko). Coach: Marino.

Serie A day 3 – Saturday bears no good news for Lazio & Milan

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Scudetto contenders AC Milan and Champions League hopefuls SS Lazio could not obtain more than 1 point in their respective matches Saturday, for Serie A’s game nº3 of the 2007-08 season. With the Champions League campaign about to begin (Milan will play Portuguese club Benfica on Tuesday, while Lazio will be travelling to Greece to play Olympiakos), it seemed as if both clubs had their minds elsewhere this week-end, worrying about their European cup preparation. In Milan’s case, it also didn’t help that coach Ancelotti decided to give half his team a round of rest, due to accumulated fatigue from international call-ups. 

Serie A day 3 - Saturday scores

In the Lazio-Empoli match, some interesting data concerning the goalkeepers: Lazio coach Delio Rossi fielded Uruguayan 21-year old Fernando Muslera, while his colleague Gigi Cagni decided to go with experience, and started Daniele Balli (age 40) in net. The Empoli keeper effectively turned out to be a second manager on the field: encouraging his teammates to shoot from the distance, and constantly repositioning his defence. On a sidenote, can you imagine if Rossi had decided to start Marco Ballotta instead? We would have had an age 40 vs. age 43 keeper showdown. I guess formaldehyde does wonders for player conservation in Italy… :)

Fernando Muslera and Guillermo Giacomazzi challenge an aerial ballAnyways, back to the game: the first half saw Lazio exhibit a slow and predictable gameplay, something that did as little to create chances as to finish them. Their opponents on the other hand (a very endeavoring Empoli team) were in full effort mode, dynamic and constructive albeit severely lacking in accuracy when it came to the finish. As a result, the first fraction of play had little to produce in terms of scoring chances, despite an asphyxiating ball possession dominance for Empoli.

In the 2nd half, the Lazio coach decided to re-ignite his team’s verve and inserted Mourad Meghni for Simone Del Nero. The half-time speech seemed to have sunk into the Lazio players, who immediately came knocking on Empoli’s doorstep. First an opportunity by Tommaso Rocchi, then Goran Pandev, forced the Empoli keeper to some quick reflex action, but Balli was ready to parry the shots away. A few minutes later, Pandev almost obtained a one-on-one chance in the clear, missing the control by a few centimetres.

At the 60′ minute mark however, the game reverted back to the pace of the first half, and the spectators of the Stadio Olimpico did not see much else happening. Ah, except a missed penalty call for the visitors, when following a great Vittorio Tosto cross, Empoli striker Luca Saudati had his shirt pulled by Emílson Cribari, causing him to miss the close-range header. A legitimate penalty claim for Cagni’s team, who in terms of scoring chances had the biggest regrets at the end of this game.

For Lazio this was the 3rd draw of the season in as many games, and the 2nd goalless result. Empoli managed to obtain their first point in the table.


SS Lazio
 Empoli F.C.
LAZIO (4-3-1-2): Muslera – Behrami, Stendardo, Cribari, Zauri – Mudingayi, Ledesma, Mutarelli – Del Nero (46’ Meghni) – Pandev (70’ Makinwa), Rocchi (78’ Tare). (bench: Ballotta, Scaloni, De Silvestri, Manfredini). Coach: Rossi
EMPOLI (3-5-1-1): Balli – Raggi, Vanigli, Marzoratti – Buscè, Moro, Marchisio, Giacomazzi, Tosto – Vannucchi (78′ Giovinco) – Saudati (84’ Volpato). (bench: Bassi, Piccolo, Rincon, Abate, Antonini.) Coach: Cagni


In the other match, Milan’s march in Serie A suffered another stop Saturday: after the draw against Fiorentina on day 2, Ancelotti’s team could not obtain more than 1 point against Siena. The team coached by Andrea Mandorlini has yet to obtain their first victory in Italy’s top league, altough they almost achieved their goal tonight against the European champions. However, both teams would have to settle for a 1-1 draw.

The AC Milan team that stepped onto the Artemio Franchi stadium today was quite unique: Ancelotti had a long look at his roster, and decided to give usual starters Oddo, Jankulovski, Pirlo, Kakà, and Inzaghi a rest in light of the team’s Champions league fixture Tuesday. While this was a sensible move in terms of turn-over (all those players were just back from a busy week of international duty), in terms of play Milan’s midfield suffered enormously from Pirlo and Kakà’s absence. Exploiting Milan’s lack of luster, the Siena players interpreted the game to perfection.

The first few minutes of the game actually were to Milan’s favor, as the Rossoneri obtained two back-to-back opportunities that would have been transformed into goal every other day of the week, had it not been for the exceptional reactivity of Siena keeper Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos. On the wrong end of the equation, Milan striker Alberto Gilardino (once again a shadow of his former self today) who had his shots denied by the Greek keeper. Eleftheropoulous had some repeat business a few minutes later on Cristian Brocchi‘s close-range effort, but once again was ready to parry away.

Alessandro Nesta is showing his determination after the equalizerOn the other end, Siena’s team was perfectly in place: a tight defence ready to block the Rossoneri, then immediately set up the offensive players for a fast counter. On loan winger from Juventus Paolo De Ceglie was often giving a hand to the attacking duo Maccarone-Bucchi, and the 3 players had plenty of real estate to work in, when Milan’s Cafu and Favalli were pushing too deep up their wing. At the 24′ minute mark, surprise: long-range effort by Bucchi, Dida fumbles the save and Kaladze‘s cover isn’t any better. Massimo Maccarone (in offside position at the moment of Bucchi’s shot) doesn’t need an invitation: sidestepping Milan’s nº1, he blasts the ball into the net avoiding Kaladze’s late tackle on the line.

At the restart, Ancelotti was forced to modify his team and come up with a back-up plan: off Gattuso, in Inzaghi. Formation change also: 4-3-1-2 with the hope that two strikers (Inzaghi and Gilardino, supported by playmaker Seedorf) would be better than one. Not so. Siena decided to re-define the term “catenaccio” today, with central backs Achille Loria and Daniele Portanova literally locking up Gila and Inzaghi and throwing away the key.

When the last of Milan’s chances (a close-range Massimo Ambrosini blast cleared off the line by David Jarolim) still refused to give them a goal, all hope seemed lost for Ancelotti’s men. Some higher power still cares for the Rossoneri though: deep into stoppage time, a corner-kick swung into Siena’s box couldn’t be cleared by the defence, and the ball dropped to the feet of Alessandro Nesta. The Milan defender armed a powerful blast below the bar than even Eleftheropoulos couldn’t get to. 1-1 the final score, and rendez-vous in Europe where luck will hopefully hold a better future for both teams.


AC Siena
 AC Milan
GOALSCORERS: 24′ Maccarone (S), 91’ Nesta (M)
SIENA (4-3-3): Eleftheropoulos – Rossettini, Portanova, Loria, Grimi – Jarolim (88’ Codrea), Vergassola, Galloppa – De Ceglie, Maccarone (74’ Corvia), Bucchi (55’ Frick). (bench: Manninger, Alberto, Ficagna, Locatelli). Coach: Mandolini.
MILAN (4-3-2-1): Dida – Cafu, Nesta, Kaladze, Favalli (61’ Jankulovski) – Gattuso (46’ Inzaghi), Emerson (65’ Ambrosini), Brocchi – Gourcuff, Seedorf – Gilardino. (bench: Kalac, Bonera, Simic, Digao). Coach: Ancelotti.