If football games lasted only 45 minutes, Palermo would have a great deal more points than Juventus. By now, it should be fairly common knowledge that the Bianconeri’s second-half ‘goal productivity’ is what’s keeping them among the top Serie A teams in the current rankings. However, Sunday night’s away game to Palermo took this characteristic to the extreme: indeed, such was the difference between Palermo’s energetic first 45 minutes (and Juve’s associated slumber) and the Bianconeri’s ‘stop-me-I’m-on-fire’ reaction in the second half.
Unfortunately for Juve (and unlike many previous times this year) the 90th minute delivery did not arrive: instead, it was the Palermo side that found the unlikely 3-points-worth tally, through a late Mattia Cassani long-range drive which left Gigi Buffon completely dumbfounded. A big slap in the face for Juve who, on account of their second half performance, certainly deserved a little bit more out of this game.
Tactically, Palermo manager Stefano Colantuono had a few experiments in store for this match, especially in defense where Leandro Rinaudo resumed his center-back role and Mattia Cassani occupied the right-back position. Juventus set their stall at the Renzo Barbera with Mauro Camoranesi returning to his usual position on the right wing, leaving Antonio Nocerino and Momo Sissoko to pull the strings in the centre.
The Bianconeri’s plan appeared to be that of keeping Palermo’s ambitions at bay, and then to hit back on the counter. A good idea when you have speedy players like Camoranesi and Nedved, but a bad one when you’re left trailing by one only 11 minutes after the kick-off. With Roberto Guana battling for the ball in midfield, the sphere eventually slipped to Amauri: Juve’s defence was caught out with lax marking as the Brazilian (and perhaps future Azzurro) striker had time to compose himself, before pulling out of his top draw a curling right-footed drive that surprised Gigi Buffon into the top right corner. Great stuff, and 1-0 Palermo.
At this point everything changed for Juve, with Ranieri’s side now having to chase the game, and Nedved also coming off worse in an aerial challenge with Guana. There was a big scare for both players, as the Czech winger and Italian midfielder collided heads and had to be stretchered off to the hospital, but fortunately it was nothing too serious. On came Vincenzo Iaquinta and Giovanni Tedesco.
It was not all doom and gloom for Juve though, with their captain Alessandro Del Piero providing some inspiration and David Trezeguet certainly not lacking commitment. However, the Bianconeri soon found their chances limited to shots from distance, struggling also to cope with Palermo’s dangerous counter-attacks. Juve were eventually made to pay the price of this, when in the last minute of stoppage time a Fabio Caserta cross from the left found Amauri’s header, and the Palermo striker beat Buffon for the second time. 2-0 Palermo.
After the break, Claudio Ranieri decided to use up his last two substitutions in a desperate attempt to turn around the game: enter Hasan Salihamidzic and Tiago, exit Nocerino and Grygera. Tiago almost immediately had to seek the help of medical staff, following a knock to the head, and it seemed as if the Pavel Nedved injury, bad luck was truly persecuting the ‘Tinker Man’ today.
Nevertheless, the introduction of some fresh legs had its effect as Juve began to threaten with greater ease the opposition’s 18 yard area. Juve multiplied their offensives, and soon reaped the rewards: Sissoko charged forward through the centre, got rid of 3 players before being brought down, and in the process caused the ball to rebound kindly to a predatory Alessandro Del Piero. The Juve captain did not give goalkeeper Fontana a second chance: a dribble on Rinaudo, followed by a cool finish brought Juve back into the game. 2-1.
The same then happened 20 minutes later, when ‘Pinturicchio’ latched onto a David Trezeguet deflected header (receiving a pass once again from Sissoko) and scored his 13th goal of the Serie A season. 2-2, and Juve definitely back in the game.
From then on it was all Juve: with the Bianconeri dominant and missing a flurry of chances, the most notable of which a Del Piero post on set-pieces (Fontana was absolutely stunning on the ensuing Trezeguet rebound) and Trezeguet shot narrowly wide in the 84th. In the end however, it was Mattia Cassani for Palermo who eventually scored the winner: a 26m left-footed howitzer that left no chance to Buffon, and felt like a really cold shower for the Bianconeri. 3-2 Palermo and game over, probably more than enough to avenge the 0-5 trashing of their previous encounter.
|GOALSCORERS: 11’, 45’ Amauri (P), 52’, 71’ Del Piero (J), 88’ Cassani (P)|
|PALERMO (4-2-3-1): Fontana – Cassani, Rinaudo, Barzagli, Balzaretti – Guana (23′ Gio.Tedesco), Migliaccio – Jankovic (81’ Zaccardo), Simplicio (17′st Bresciano), Caserta – Amauri. (bench: Agliardi, Biava, Cani, Miccoli). Coach: Colantuono.|
|JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera (46’ Salihamidzic), Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro – Camoranesi, Sissoko, Nocerino (46’ Tiago), Nedved (23′ Iaquinta) – Del Piero, Trezeguet. (bench: Belardi, Birindelli, Stendardo, Marchionni). Coach: Ranieri.|