Archive for March 2nd, 2008

Juventus 2-3 Fiorentina: La Viola 93rd Minute Winner, Bianconeri From Bad to Worse (Serie A Matchday 26)

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Juventus vs. Fiorentina (Serie A)

Serie AThere are many ways I could start this game report. I could say that the last time Fiorentina won on Juventus soil was over twenty years ago, when Roby Baggio was still wearing the Viola shirt. I could also say that, compared to 1994 (when Juve came back from a 0-2 scoreline to tie the game, and then win it with a marvelous Del Piero volley), this time it was Fiorentina coming back from behind and beating the Bianconeri 3-2. I could even praise Cesare Prandelli who (unlike Ranieri) got his substitutions spot on today, with Papa Waigo turning scorer and provider and Osvaldo clinching the win. I could say all that.

But I will not. As a Juve fan, I am super pissed our team obtained only 1 point in the last 3 games… as a Juve fan, I am pissed at the substitutions the manager made today… and as a Juve fan, I am pissed at the final result. But the show must go on, so let’s get this over with.

Osvaldo goal, Buffon beaten, 3-2 Fiorentina

Serie A Matchday 26 - Juventus 2-3 Fiorentina

The start of this match was pretty much to the advantage of the visitors, with Zebina and Molinaro having a lot of trouble with the Viola 3-man attacking formation. In particular, the added contribution of Martin Jorgensen really gave Fiorentina the extra edge up front, and it was no coincidence to see the Dane involved in La Viola’s first goal. Massimo Gobbi celebrates. 1-0 Fiorentina.unable to create space on the wings, and the absence of Pavel Nedved, the incumbent task of creating magic was left to Alessandro Del Piero. Even he however, was not being very fortunate (before the Viola opener, his great assist delivery for Trezeguet had been headed over the bar by the Frenchman). Meanwhile, Fiorentina continued to push and getting close to the 2-0 tally: Riccardo Montolivo put Buffon’s reflexes to work, and forced the Azzurri nº1 to deflect the ball onto the post.

Unexpectedly, during Juve’s toughest moment of the match, the Bianconeri pulled level. Following a corner-kick, the Fiorentina keeper missed his clearance, the ball stayed in the box eventually rebounding to Momo Sissoko. The Malian midfielder attempted a bicycle kick (seems to be his specialty this month), but this time instead of hitting an opponent in the shoulder, he struck the ball and managed to send it out of Frey’s reach. 1-1 in minute 28, and so it remained until the break.

Sissoko’s bicycle kick ties the game for JuventusIn the second period, the home team decided to be a little more creative: Zebina and Molinaro were now giving their support on the wings, and what do you know? The goal came precisely from an accurate cross of the Italian wing-back. The recipient: Mauro Camoranesi, ready to slam a powerful volley from close-range onto Frey’s first post. 2-1 Juve in minute 57.

This is when the substitution carousel begun. Prandelli substituted Ujfalusi with Pablo Osvaldo (instructing Jorgensen to shift into right-back position), then put on Papa Waigo for Santana. In counterpart, Ranieri decided to play it safe and remove both Camoranesi and Del Piero, for the more defensive (and fresh) Antonio Nocerino and Vincenzo Iaquinta. See, in my opinion doing something like this will always come bite you in the ass later: these defensive substitutions work in the final 10-15 minutes of the match, but if you apply them with over a half hour left on the clock, you are running a big risk if the other team ties.

Papa Waigo levels the match once again. 2-2.And so they did. Following an Osvaldo lost ball which ended up playing pinball with the Juve defense, Papa Waigo was left with space inside the box to fake Molinaro, then beat him between his legs into Buffon’s far corner. 2-2. Whopee for the Senegalese player, who scored his second goal in two games, and boo for the Juve backline.

Double boo in fact. In the last minute of stoppage time, when a draw seemed to be the generally accepted result (neither team had shown any significant desire to win it), Fiorentina made their last bet and won big. Another defensive mistake sent Papa Waigo in the clear on the right wing, ready to deliver a hard cross towards Osvaldo in the middle. Diving header (à la Batistuta) and 3-2 Fiorentina.

La Viola should be happy: they now are just one point from 3rd spot in the Serie A standings. As for Juve, these last 8 days have probably been their worst of the entire 2007-08 season.

Osvaldo celebrates his goal


Juventus F.C.
[Match Highlights]
 ACF Fiorentina
GOALSCORERS: 18’ Gobbi (F), 29’ Sissoko (J), 57’ Camoranesi (J), 76’ Papa Waigo, 93’ Osvaldo (F).
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Zebina, Legrottaglie, Grygera, Molinaro – Camoranesi (66’ Nocerino), Sissoko, C.Zanetti, Palladino – Del Piero (71’ Iaquinta), Trezeguet. (bench: Belardi, Birindelli, Stendardo, Salihamidzic, Tiago). Coach: Ranieri.
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Ujfalusi (61’ Osvaldo), Kroldrup, Gamberini, Gobbi – Kuzmanovic, Donadel, Montolivo – Santana (66’ Papa Waigo), Pazzini, Jorgensen. (bench: Avramov, Dainelli, Pasqual, Da Costa, Cacia). Coach: Prandelli.


Milan 1-1 Lazio: Rossoneri Distracted by Champions League, Poor Show at the San Siro (Serie A Matchday 26)

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Serie A - Milan vs. Lazio

Serie AChampions League preparation wasn’t the same ballpark game for Milan, as it was for Roma: while the Giallorossi will be travelling to Madrid with a confident feeling, the Rossoneri will be coming from a rather bleak week of Serie A matches: 1-1 vs. Catania Wednesday, same score vs. Lazio today. Granted, Milan will be playing their second leg vs. Arsenal at home, defending a good 0-0 result obtained at Emirates stadium (while Roma will have to keep a potentially troublesome Madrid away goal in mind), but absences in the roster may be starting to take their toll on Ancelotti’s team. They certainly did today.

Cristian Ledesma (left) attempts a challenge on Alexandre Pato

Serie A Matchday 26 - Milan 1-1 Lazio

For today’s match-up, AC Milan had two objectives: keep their forces fresh for Wednesday’s fixture against Arsenal, while staying close to Fiorentina in the Serie A standings. In other words: win with the least amount of effort against Lazio. Easier said than done for Carlo Ancelotti, when players like Nesta, Kaká, and Pirlo aren’t even on the team sheet. The Milan coach was thus forced to field a rather unique 4-3-1-2 formation, with Gennaro Gattuso, Emerson, and Yoann Gourcouff providing thickness to the midfield, and Clarence Seedorf supporting strikers Alexandre Pato and Alberto Gilardino. On the other end, Lazio manager Delio Rossi emulated the tactics of his Rossoneri colleague, fielding Goran Pandev supporting the Rolando Bianchi/Tommaso Rocchi duo, and the Dabo-Ledesma-Behrami trio in midfield.

Emílson Sánchez Cribari (left) and Alexandre PatoRather unsurprisingly, the first half of the match was (litterally) quite painful to watch. No scoring chances, and sometimes even no playing chances worthy of that name. Without Pirlo, Milan proved essentially incapable of finding vertical space for their strikers, a situation usually by the velocity and agility of Kaká. Whoops I forgot: he wasn’t there either. And as far as expecting Gourcouff to step into the Brazilian’s shoes, well… keep dreaming. Not today.

To make matters worse (for Milan and for play), in minute 25 Clarence Seedorf picked up a knock and was forced off. Fortunately for Ancelotti, the injury was of a muscular nature and should not prevent the Dutchman from missing the Arsenal match, but it effectively meant that for today, the last glipmse of playing elegance disappeared from the field. What about Pato? He was playing well, trying his best to make something out of nothing, but it is rather hard when you have zero playable passes made to you. What about Lazio? Worse than Milan: slow movements, slow counters, speculative long-range attempts. 0-0 at the half.

Alberto Paloschi tries to get rid of his Lazio markersHow to change the situation in the second period? Ancelotti attempted the all-or-nothing strategy: off with Jankulovski and Emerson, replaced by Digão (Kaká’s younger brother) and Massimo Ambrosini. The age average of the Milan players dropped considerably (~25), and if you count the entrance of Alberto Paloschi in the first half (on for Seedorf), the Rossoneri ended up playing with a 4-3-3 line-up, and a 61-year cumulative age for their striking trio (Pato-Paloschi-Gilardino). Youngn’s on the field

But were the youngn’s… good’ones? Nope. The period between minutes 51 and 55 saw Zeljko Kalac wearing the hat of miracle worker, as he stopped in quick succession shots by Rocchi (twice) and Pandev. Good shots. In fact, I really couldn’t distinguish if that was Kalac today or the fusion of Buffon, Cech and Casillas into one über-keeper. Unfortunately, there was little the Aussie international could do when a delightful Lazio collective move (stemming from Dabo to Rocchi inside the box) was finalized by Rolando Bianchi with a sliding flick of the boot. 1-0 Lazio in minute 54.

Rolando Bianchi celebrates after giving Lazio the leadThe reaction of AC Milan was almost immediate, and you may call it ‘youth rage’: Gourcuff finally pressed the ‘ON’ switch and provided an excellent assist for Pato in the middle, but the Brazilian youngster’s effort was wide of the mark. Intensity dropped somewhat after that, and one had to wonder whether it was going to revert to its previous first half level, or if the Rossoneri were going to fight for survival here, in their home stadium…

Give it the name you want (fighting spirit or lady luck), the draw eventually arrived: in minute 66 following a corner-kick delivery, Sebastiano Siviglia upended Kakha Kaladze inside the Lazio box, causing a penalty kick. Massimo Oddo transformed the spot-shot, and brought Milan level. 1-1.

Massimo Oddo celebrates, his 66th minute penalty kick has just tied the gameFortunately for their supporters (as well as neutral spectators who don’t particularly enjoy passes going nowhere), the tying goal revitalized Milan who were now pushing forward in numbers. Pato was playing cat & mouse with the Lazio backline and showing off his skills, Paloschi was showing off his energy, while Gilardino was showing off… well nothing. A ghost. The Rossoneri really had the chance to go for the kill, when Lorenzo De Silvestri picked up a straight red for preventing a flash Pato counter-attack, but alas they did not seize it. In the remaining 6 minutes, 10-men Lazio entrenched into their box and kept the opponent at bay.

At the end of the day, the 1-1 final scoreline will be a good result for Lazio and a mediocre one for Milan. Milanisti worldwide, do not despair though: you should get some consolation in the fact your keeper had an awesome match today.  In fact, in the last month Kalac has turned his status of benchwarmer into that of ‘insurance policy with excellent payouts’. Under these terms, who the hell needs Dida? Hopefully, the gloved giant will repeat his performance on Wednesday, and keep Milan’s doorstep safe from Adebayor & colleagues. We shall see.

Valon Behrami (left) steals the ball from Alberto Paloschi


A.C. Milan
[Match Highlights]
S.S. Lazio
GOALSCORERS: 54’Bianchi (L), 66’ pen. Oddo (M)
MILAN (4-3-1-2): Kalac – Oddo, Bonera, Kaladze, Jankulovski (46’ Digão) – Gattuso, Emerson (46’ Ambrosini), Gourcuff – Seedorf (36’ Paloschi) – Pato, Gilardino (bench: Fiori, Maldini, Gianola, F.Inzaghi). Coach: Ancelotti.
LAZIO (4-3-1-2): Ballotta – De Silvestri, Siviglia, Cribari, Radu – Dabo (60’ Mudingayi), Ledesma, Behrami (89’ Rozenhal) – Pandev – Bianchi (76’ Manfredini), Rocchi (bench: Muslera, Kolarov, Meghni, Tare). Coach: Rossi.