Archive for December 6th, 2007

Coppa Italia Round of 16 – Empoli Beat Juve in Leg 1, but Iaquinta Keeps Bianconeri Alive

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Coppa Italia Tim Cup 2007-08

For Juve, this was a “mini-Champions League” match, as the Bianconeri milieu had dubbed the Coppa Italia for the 2007-08 season. Unfortunately for Ranieri, the cup adventure was brought to a brutal halt Wednesday night, as his team conceded its 3rd defeat of the season in the first leg of the Round of 16. For a large part of this match the Bianconeri were only a pale copy of the solid and determined formation who’s been delighting Serie A fans in the Italian league so far, while Empoli (led by on-loan Bianconero Sebastian Giovinco), was well-organized through most of the 90 minutes. The only time the home team capitulated was when Iaquinta came on to score his late goal in the second half, a goal which is keeping Juventus alive.


Coppa Italia Round of 16 - Leg 1 - Empoli 2-1 Juventus

If you were to called tonight’s team a “Juventus nº2″ you would make Ranieri very mad, because the Bianconeri coach refused that terminology for his starting players. However, when big stars such as Buffon, Trezeguet, and Nedved aren’t even on the match sheet, it’s hard to find alternative tags to be quite honest. Someone who was there tonight was capitan Del Piero however, back to a starting role after his benching in the past two games. To assist him in the Juve front, youngster Raffaele Palladino, back to a striker’s role. In midfield, Ranieri proposed Marco Marchionni and Hasan Salihamidzic for wing support, with Tiago and ex-Empolese Sergio Almirón. On the other end, Alberto Malesani gave his on-loan Juve players (Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco) the chance to lead up the assault on the old lady, by fielding the pair behind Ighli Vannucchi and the lone striker Nicola Pozzi.

The match took quite a long time to pick up, probably due to the cold temperature at the Stadio Castellani tonight. Del Piero did get on the scoreboard in minute 3, and that would have probably contributed to making this game exciting right from the start, but his goal didn’t count because play was stopped. Then a minute later some good passing between Giovinco and Pozzi set up the latter for a shot, wide.

Eventually 20 minutes in, the home team took the lead: Giovinco launched a pass from midfield for Antonini, eluding the guard of Marchionni and Almirón, the Empoli midfielder went for the cross and found Nicola Pozzi, whose header hit the crossbar and bounced over the line. Was it really over? The Juve player protested the call, but for the linesman there was little doubt and referee Farina let the goal stand. 1-0 Empoli. Knowing Juve, one would have expected the Bianconeri to set off an immediate reaction. However, this was a different ‘Old Lady’ team tonight, and the only real shot worth the highlights reel was a Nicola Legrottaglie effort from 20m. 1-0 Empoli at the break.

In the 2nd half, the Italian expression “piove sul bagnato” (litterally “it’s raining on a wet field”, which could be translated to “from bad to worse”) took perfect meaning very early in the half, because Empoli went 2 up: exploiting a fast counter-attack and Vannucchi’s well-weighted ball, Ignazio Abate (yet another U-21 Azzurrino) found the space to beat Emanuele Belardi for the second time. 2-0 Empoli, but even more rain for that metaphorical wet field was to come: in minute 61 the Bianconeri had to play the rest of the match 10 vs. 11, when Almirón earned 2 yellow cards in quick succession (foul on Giovinco, yellow, one word too many to the referee, ‘nother yellow).

At this point, Ranieri decided it was time to bring in the heavy artillery: out Palladino, in Iaquinta. Good move, because in minute 81 Del Piero skilfully took a fast free-kick for the ex-Udinese striker, who reduced Empoli’s lead. All in all, not too bad of a result for the Bianconeri, but they will have to do a lot better in Turin on January 16th.

 Empoli F.C.
[Match Highlights]
Juventus F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 20’ Pozzi (E), 51’ Abate (E), 81’ Iaquinta (J)
EMPOLI (4-3-2-1): Bassi – Raggi, Vanigli, Pratali, Antonini (76’ Marzoratti) – Abate, Marianini, Marchisio – Vannucchi, Giovinco (88’ Moro) – Pozzi (46’ Volpato). (bench: Balli, Rincon, Tosto, Saudati). Coach: Malesani.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Belardi – Birindelli, Legrottaglie, Criscito, Grygera (65’ Molinaro) – Marchionni (68’ Nocerino), Tiago, Almirón, Salihamidzic – Del Piero, Palladino (65’ Iaquinta). (bench: Vanstrattan, Boumsong, Pasquato, Esposito). Coach: Ranieri.

Serie A Matchday 12 (rescheduled) – Inter sink Lazio, Roma hangs on in Pursuit

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Serie A

Limited luck for Roma tonight. In the catch-up games of Matchday 12 of the Italian Serie A, the Gialorossi did win their match vs. Cagliari (double by Taddei) but they were also hoping their Lazio cousins would do them a favor and stop Inter-”bulldozing tank”-nazionale. In vain. The Nerazzurri got rid of the Biancoceleste obstacle with 3 unanswered goals, recording win nº10 in 14 games for Roberto Mancini and keeping Inter at +3 on their Giallorossi rivals.

Note: Again, sorry for the delay on the reports, I’m getting ready for Xmas holidays in Italy at the end of the week  :wink: .

Serie A Matchday 12 - Lazio 3-0 Inter, Roma-Cagliari 2-0


These are days marking an era for Inter: the Nerazzurri have an entire section of their team out injured, are forced to start a 20-year old with no Serie A experience, and pair up two center-backs who have never played together before. Yet, Roberto Mancini’s team keeps winning. Not only that, they are winning BIG! With center midfielders now a rare commodity with the Nerazzurri (Stankovic, Cesar, Figo, Vieira, Dacourt unavailable), it seems that Mancio has to be jumping through hoops trying to find solutions on who to pick. Today, the incumbent task landed on Cambiasso and Pelé (the Portuguese youngster whose longer name is Vítor Hugo Gomes Paços) and the pair did their job admirably.

Zlatan scores goal nº1 on a penalty kickAll that Inter needed today, were two well-adjusted corner-kicks against a Lazio team who, despite having top quality in the striking department, have many problems of their own in defense. On the first set piece, referee Antonio Damato conceded a rather generous P.K. for a Guglielmo Stendardo tug on Nicolas Burdisso. Zlatan Ibrahimovic transformed. On the second corner, Lorenzo De Silvestri forgot all about Maicon: 33 minutes on the clock, 2-0 Inter, match virtually over.

In the 2nd half, Delio Rossi inserted Aleksandar Kolarov for Stendardo (not in the greatest shape physically), a move which changed very little in the momentum of this match. This was the opportunity for the “less utilized” Nerazzurri to show their stuff, and Pelé, Suazo, and Jiménez responded to the call. The Portuguese U-21 showed some good skills (despite a few messed up passes), while the Chilean international almost scored a wonder goal early in the second period (double sombrero on two Lazio defenders and ensuing shot well over the bar).

It also helped that Esteban Cambiasso was as solid a pillar as you can get in midfield, breaking down any Lazio initiative and even setting up David Suazo for goal nº3 in the 54th. The Honduran striker left his place to Hernan Crespo minutes later, but had left his mark on a match which was now dead and buried. Nevertheless, with Suazo’s dangerous speed now gone (as much as the 3 points by then), the Lazio players could now play with a bit more confidence. Ironically, the Biancocelesti produced their best opportunities in the last 30 minutes, through Tommaso Rocchi notably on which a superb Julio Cesar had to intervene. The match ended on yet another last-minute appearance by Marco Materazzi (eventually, he’ll have a full 90 minutes in him) and a missed chance by Santiago Solari, but Inter had its job well wrapped up by then.



F.C. Internazionale Milano
[Match Highlights]
S.S. Lazio
GOALSCORERS: 21’ pen. Ibrahimovic (I), 33’ Maicon (I), 54’ Suazo (I)
INTER (4-3-1-2): J.Cesar – Maicon, Burdisso, Samuel, Maxwell – Zanetti, Cambiasso, Pelé (85’ Materazzi) – Jiménez (75’ Solari) – Ibrahimovic, Suazo (61’ Crespo). (bench: Orlandoni, Cordoba, Chivu, Cruz). Coach: R.Mancini
LAZIO (4-3-1-2): Ballotta – De Silvestri, Stendardo (46’ Kolarov), Cribari, Zauri – Mudingayi, Ledesma, Manfredini – Mauri (64’ Meghni) – Pandev (75’ Makinwa), Rocchi. (bench: Muslera, Scaloni, Baronio, Vignaroli). Coach: D.Rossi



Totti’s back, Taddei is backer (or “more back”, or… well you get the point). For the Brazilian winger that’s 3 goals in 2 games, and a key recovery for Luciano Spalletti who will now have a variety of players to choose from, all in top form, for his high-speed pursuit to Internazionale. The Nerazzurri are still 3 points away in top spot, but with a Roma team like this this chase could last for a very very long time.

Totti tries to escape the marking of BiancoIn the line-ups, the biggest news was obviously to see Francesco Totti on the field from minute 1. The Roma captain had stayed on the bench for 90 minutes against Udinese last week-end, but tonight got to star as the lone striker in the Roma set-up, with Mirko Vucinic being fielded on the left wing for a change. Completing the attacking quatuor: Amantino Mançini on the right and Rodrigo Taddei in the center, in the unusual vice-Perrotta role. The Brazilian winger (now turned center playmaker) will prove to be a key contributor to the Giallorossi victory tonight, and not only because of the goals he scored. On the other end, Nedo Sonetti chose a more defensive than usual formation, with Diego López’s unavailability forcing the Cagliari coach to pick Francesco Pisano and Joe Bizera as center-backs. In attack, Pasquale Foggia was supporting Robert Acquafresca as the lone striker.

Roma’s start to the match was overwhelming, almost as if the Gialorossi wanted to lock this match and throw away the key within the first 5 minutes. With 3 minutes on the clock, Taddei exchanged passes with Totti, and shot wide. In the next 2 minutes Vucinic had another two great chances, especially the second one in which the Montenegrin striker got through on goal, dribbled the keeper, and shot wide with an empty net!

Vucinic through on goal, tries to beat a rushing out MarruoccoThen, Cagliari woke up, and like their Gialorossi opponents produced two chances almost back-to-back. First, Michele Ferri shot a powerful effort narrowly wide in the 9th, then on the ensuing corner (Doni got a touch on Ferri’s shot) Alessandro Budel stamped the ball on the crossbar from 25 yards out. With 10 minutes on the clock and already a total of 4 very close opportunities, this match was promising to be a goalfest.

Unfortunately for show, the rhythm dropped somewhat in the ensuing minutes. Roma were being a little too over-confident, trying too many backheel passes (which usually ended up in the ball being intercepted) and the speed and movement of their players considerably in intensity. All that until minute 28, in which Rodrigo Taddei took things into his own hands (or in this case, head): exploiting a David Pizarro free-kick from the right wing, the Brazilian player was left all alone and powered a header where Vincenzo Marruocco could not reach. 1-0 Roma.

5 minutes later, Roma were up by two: some quick passing set up Mançini through on goal, one-on-one with Marruocco. The keeper managed to block, but the ball rebounded to Taddei 14m out, and his finish left little chance to Caglari’s last line of defense. 2-0 Roma.

Effectively, with Roma now defending a double lead, this match had little left to offer in terms of emotions. In fact, we had to wait until minute 63 when Totti left his place to Ludovic Giuly, resulting in veritable standing ovation for the Roma captain. The same happened 15 minutes later for the substitution of Taddei (out for Cicinho). The match thus ended with 2 goals for Roma and 0 for Cagliari, despite the visitors had a good chance to reduce the lead through Foggia in the 72nd (excellent save by Doni on that occasion). Mançini then hit the crossbar with 4 minutes to go, the 3 points were in the bag for the Giallorossi.



A.S. Roma
[Match Highlights]
GOALSCORERS: 28′, 36′ Taddei (R)
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni – Panucci, Mexès, Juan, Tonetto – De Rossi, Pizarro – Mançini, Taddei (77’ Cicinho), Vucinic (87’ Brighi) – Totti (63’ Giuly). (bench: Curci, Ferrari, Barusso, Esposito). Coach: Spalletti
CAGLIARI (4-4-1-1): Marruocco – F.Pisano (46’ Matri), Bizera, Bianco, Agostini – Ferri, Conti, Budel, Mancosu (62’ Fini) – Foggia; Acquafresca (73’ Larrivey). (bench: Koprivec, Canini, Del Grosso, Magliocchetti). Coach: Sonetti