Archive for March, 2008

Inter Milan vs. Juventus Preview – Derby d’Italia Kicks Off Saturday Night, San Siro Stadium Gets Ready For Another Epic Showdown

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Derby d’Italia - Inter vs. Juventus

To quote Guardian blogger Paolo Baldini, this fixture represents a match between “the Proud and the Usurpers; the Honest against the Defrauded; the Champions against the… eh… actual Champions. Don’t let those pretenders from AC Milan or Roma tell you otherwise – from the moment Juventus sealed promotion back to the top flight [...] Italy has been counting down towards one game, and one game only“.

After the first round last November, which ended 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico of Turin, the Derby d’Italia between Juventus and Internazionale is back. Saturday, the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza of Milan will be the host to one of the most intense derby matches in Italy. Two teams not from the same city but who are very much bitter rivals, and also have the highest goals total in Serie A history.

Inter Milan vs. Juventus (Serie A)

Derby History

This game, Baldini says, is about much more than just league standings:

Journalist Gianni Brera coined the term Derby d’Italia in 1967 to describe a fixture, between Italy’s two most successful sides at the time (in terms of domestic titles), which was characterised by at least as much passion and animosity as any cross-city derby.

The history of the tie is thick with intrigue and bad blood. After a pitch invasion in 1961, the league initially awarded one such derby to Inter, only for an appeal board to overturn the decision and order a replay. Inter sent out a youth team in protest, which was duly thrashed 9-1, much to the chagrin of Sampdoria striker Sergio Brighenti. He would have been capocannoniere (top scorer) for the season had it not been for the six Juve’s Omar Sívori scored that day. He would also have been Italy’s entrant for the 1961 Ballon D’or, which Sívori subsequently won.

Far-right National Alliance member Domenico Gramazio has to be restrained in the Italian parlament, after coming to blows with Massimo Mauro, a deputy of the ruling Democrats of the Left and a former player with JuventusMore recently Italy’s parliament had to be suspended in April 1998 when two deputies came to blows over Juventus’s (effectively title-deciding) 1-0 win at the Stadio delle Alpi, where referee Piero Ceccarini denied Inter a penalty for Mark Iuliano’s block on Ronaldo before awarding one to Juve seconds later. Back on the pitch, Paolo Montero punched Luigi Di Biagio in the face in December 2000, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then playing for Juventus, took a swing at Iván Córdoba and headbutted Sinisa Mihajlovic in 2005.

And then, of course, we have Calciopoli. Inter stand accused by many Bianconeri fans of stealing both their titles and their players, despite the fact Juventus were desperate to cut their wage bill after relegation and actually received quite fair prices for Ibrahimovic (£16.7m) and Patrick Vieira (£6.5m). Conspiracy theorists, meanwhile, have pointed to the fact Telecom Italia – the company who caught out Luciano Moggi – were at the time run by Marco Tronchetti Provera, president of Inter’s sponsor Pirelli.

A view shared by Goal.com’s Carlo Garganese, who maintains “Inter and Juve have developed into the bitterest of enemies since the Calciopoli crisis in 2006 [guaranteeing] that there will be an explosive atmosphere at San Siro Saturday night“.

InternazionaleInter are continuing to stutter as we enter the final quarter of the Serie A season. On Wednesday night they could only manage a 1-1 draw at Genoa, having been forced to play more than half of the game with 10 men, following Pelé’s sending off. As it happened however, the draw turned out to be a positive result, as Roma lost 3-2 to Lazio in the capital derby, thus enabling Inter to extend their lead at the top of the table to 7 points.

With just 9 games of the season remaining this advantage should be enough for Inter to retain the Scudetto, however their poor recent performances suggest that it will not be a walk in the park. Inter arguably have a much harder run-in than Roma, as they still have to play Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio away, as well as Juventus this weekend.

JuventusAs for Juventus, they are virtually guaranteed of a place in next season’s Champions League (with just 9 games remaining they hold a 9-point cushion over 5th-placed Milan), and have recently recovered from a recent poor run (when they picked up just 1 point in 3 games) by obtaining 7 points in their next 3 clashes. However, like Inter, Juve have been far from impressive recently. Last Sunday they required an 88th minute winner from substitute Vincenzo Iaquinta to overcome Napoli 1-0, while they also looked bereft of ideas in midweek as they drew 0-0 at second-from-bottom Empoli.

Nevertheless form will count for nothing coming into this game, and Juve will be pumped up to the maximum to gain revenge over the team that most Juventini blame for Calciopoli. When the two sides drew 1-1 in Turin in November it was a feisty, and at times violent game. Luis Figo broke his leg following a challenge from Pavel Nedved, while Giorgio Chiellini dished out some real rough treatment to ex-Bianconero Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

.

Lega CalcioA Game of Numbers

On top of being one of the most anticipated derbies of the Serie A season, Internazionale vs. Juventus also currently holds the record for being played the highest number of times in Italian league history: Saturday will see the fixture reach an historic 150th match milestone. So far, history seems to favor the Bianconeri who have won the fixture 70 times, against only 42 times for Inter and 37 draws. These numbers are (expectedly) very different of course, if one considers solely the 74 matches played at the San Siro stadium, Inter home soil: in that category, the Nerazzurri lead with 32 wins, 24 draws and 18 defeats.

Statistics: Inter-Juventus
(as of January 30, 2008)
.
Total nº of games
Juve Wins
Draws
Inter Wins
Juve Goals
Inter Goals
Serie A
149
70
37
42
218
180
Camp. Federale
27
8
7
12
36
46
Camp. di Guerra
2
1
0
1
2
2
Coppa Italia
28
13
7
8
44
33
Supercoppa Ita.
1
0
0
1
0
1
Total
207
92
51
64
303
262

Staying on the subject of numbers, this match will also be very special for the two team captains, Javier Zanetti and Alessandro Del Piero.

Javier Zanetti, age 34The Inter skipper will be capping his 418th Serie A match (excluding playoff games) with the Nerazzurri jersey, thus surpassing Sandro Mazzola at nº3 in the all-time caps records with Inter Milan (Giuseppe Bergomi still leads that ranking with 519 matches, followed by Giacinto Facchetti, 475).

Alessandro Del Piero, age 33As for the Juventus captain, Del Piero would reach Gaetano Scirea at the top of the all-time all-competitions leadership of most-capped players in Juventus history. Indeed, Saturday’s match against Inter would make this Del Piero’s 552th match with the Bianconeri and 360th in Serie A (his other matches include 35 caps in Serie B, 45 in Coppa Italia, 6 in Supercoppa Italiana and 106 in international competitions).
.

Tactical Showdown

Goal.com gives us the ins & outs of who should step on the field Saturday night.

Inter are without the injured Olivier Dacourt, Walter Samuel, Ivan Cordoba, Cesar and Dejan Stankovic, while Pelé is suspended following his red card against Genoa. Juventus will have to make do without long-term injury victims Jorge Andrade and Marco Marchionni, while Cristiano Zanetti is also sidelined.

Inter’s predicted line-up for Inter-Juventus (March 22, 2008)In addition, Inter coach Roberto Mancini will probably have to do without Brazilian winger Maxwell (who picked up an ankle injury in the Friday training session). The 4-3-1-2 formation predicted by La Gazzetta dello Sport should feature Dejan Stankovic, Patrick Vieira, and Javier Zanetti as the first midfield line, right behind playmaker Luis Jimenez and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Julio Cruz.

Juventus’ predicted line-up for Inter-Juventus (March 22, 2008)As for Juve coach Claudio Ranieri, his doubts should mostly be regarding his midfield: one possible solution being Mauro Camoranesi in a central role (and Hasan Salihamidzic on the right wing), and the alternative the insertion of Antonio Nocerino (thus reverting Camoranesi to the wing). In either case, Momo Sissoko will feature in the starting eleven, behind what should be strikers Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet.

.

Form Guide
.
Inter Milan
2/03
(Serie A)
Napoli-Inter
1-0
08/03
(Serie A)
Inter-Reggina
2-0
11/03
(Champions League)
Inter-Liverpool
0-1
16/03
(Serie A)
Inter-Palermo
2-1
19/03
(Serie A)
Genoa-Inter
1-1
.
Juventus
26/02
(Serie A)
Juventus-Torino
0-0
02/03
(Serie A)
Juventus-Fiorentina
2-3
09/03
(Serie A)
Genoa-Juventus
0-2
16/03
(Serie A)
Juventus-Napoli
1-0
19/03
(Serie A)
Empoli-Juventus
0-0

.

Duels to Watch

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter) vs. Giorgio Chiellini (Juve)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Giorgio Chiellini stareOne of the main spectacles of the match will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s duel with his former Juventus colleague Giorgio Chiellini. When the pair faced each other in Turin in November they repeatedly clashed off-the-ball, with Chiellini clearly winning the battle both on a physical and footballing level. Ibrahimovic will be keen for revenge, while also attempting to prove that he can perform against the big sides.

Julio Cesar (Inter) vs. Gianluigi Buffon (Juve)

Julio Cesar vs. Gianluigi BuffonMore of a “long-range” duel if you will, but one nonetheless to consider. At the moment, these two gloved superheroes can safely be tagged as the best two goalkeepers the Serie A has to offer (with Sebastien Frey a very close third). It will be very interesting to see who will make the difference on Saturday, at keeping their team’s net safe from the hungry hungry strikers.
.

Kick-off is on Saturday March 22, 20:30 CET. Que le meilleur gagne!

Lazio 3-2 Roma: Biancolesti Win the Derby della Capitale, Roma Distanced 7 Points From Inter Milan

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Lazio vs. Roma (Serie A)

Serie AAhh… Lazio-Roma. Traditionally called “Stracittadina” (or conventionally “Derby della Capitale“), these derbies are always full of excitement: Laziali and Romanisti go crazy for them, because on top of providing plenty of entertainment (to neutral watchers as well), Stadio Olimpico bragging rights for the entire season are at stake. Last night’s derby however, was particularly important to the Giallorossi because it was meant to maintain Roma’s 5-match unbeaten streak (since the Juventus loss) and keep them close to Inter for the Scudetto race, something which (unlike what Totti may think) is still important to Roma supporters.

Before the match, there was a 24-point difference in the Serie A standings between Lazio and Roma: the teams who stepped onto the Stadio Olimpico of Rome tonight can be said to have very different season objectives at the moment. For the Giallorossi, with Champions League qualification almost guaranteed, the Scudetto race is still very much alive despite the 6-point differential between them and league leaders Inter. For Lazio however, the possibility of remaining out of Europe next season very much a reality, the Biancocelesti are currently left struggling even for a tiny UEFA Cup spot. In derbies however, everyone knows that league standings don’t mean squat and indeed, the victor tonight was not the strongest team on paper.

Serie A Matchday 29 - Lazio 3-2 Roma

Tactically, Lazio manager Delio Rossi decided to field a 3-man attacking formation tonight, with Rolando Bianchi in the center supported by Tommaso Rocchi and Goran Pandev on the sides. As for Roma, Spalletti opted once again for the speed of Cicinho and Marco Cassetti in the backline, while replacing Amantino Mançini with Mirko Vucinic as one of the playmakers.

Lazio began the match at full swing, immediately occupying the space on the wings and creating more of it with constant overlaps from the backline. The first chance of the match was to the favor of the Biancocelesti: minute 7, an Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick almost surprised Doni, forcing the Brazilian keeper to tip a sneaky ball onto the crossbar. The ball rebounded to Pandev who sent it back across for Bianchi, but the ex-City striker missed it by a hairbreadth. Spalletti had his first shiver of the night.

Goran Pandev in action during Lazio-RomaShivers however turned into jumps of jubilation, when at the half-hour mark Roma went ahead. With Vucinic trying to pierce through the Lazio defense, the ball was deflected shortly inside the box and it seemed as if Valon Behrami would have no trouble whatsoever in neutralizing the danger. The Swiss midfielder however rushed his clearance, not seeing Rodrigo Taddei in front of him: the ball hit the Roma winger on the shoulder, rebounding out of Ballotta’s reach straight into the bottom-left corner of the goal. 1-0 Roma in rather comical fashion, but the Giallorossi would take it.

The ‘visitors’ (for administrative purposes) lead would last less than 15 minutes however, because Lazio really turned on the style just before the break, and provided an equalizer in true Calcio-champagne fahion: all in one-touch combinations, Rocchi got through on the left wing, sent in a low cross for Kolarov inside the box. Doni got a hand to it, but could not deflect it further away than Goran Pandev onto the second post, and the Macedonian international simply had to apply the finish with an open net. 1-1 at the break.

In the second half, news of the Inter Milan draw vs. Genoa had gotten to the Stadio Olimpico (given the Lazio-Roma match had started 45 minutes later, for reasons still obscure to me), something which revitalized the motivations of Francesco Totti & friends. Not even a minute had passed when a good set-up by the Roma captain put Simone Perrotta in shooting position, but the midfielder’s effort was wide of the mark. Lazio replied with Pandev (short-range shot wide) before Totti eventually found the way of the goal in minute 51, but saw his tally (rightfully) called off for offside.

Tommaso Rocchi (right) celebrates his 2-1 penalty kick with Valon BehramiIn minute 55, Kolarov found Doni’s woodwork once again as his 26m-set piece effort beat the Roma wall but not the post. Just a minute later however, Lazio would take the lead: on a Kolarov (him again!) cross from the left wing, Bianchi and Juan went to challenge the ball, resulting in both players tumbling to the ground. Replays were rather unclear on the episode, but it seemed as if the Roma center-back had pulled the Lazio striker down, and for referee Emidio Morganti that was enough to indicate the 12-yard spot. Tommaso Rocchi stepped up to take the spot-shot, and with what virtually was one of the worst penalty kicks I’ve seen in my entire life (no really, it was almost as if he intentionally tried to miss it), put his team ahead. 2-1 Lazio.

There was really no time to catch your breath in this match hover, because 4 minutes later Roma were level once again. A high ball forward was masterfully controlled by Vucinic, setting up Totti, then Simone Perrotta for on-run finish from 16 yards: ball into the bottom-right corner, out of Ballotta’s reach. 2-2, and true spectacle at the Olimpico.

10 minutes from the end, Totti had the opportunity to clinch the match running off towards the Lazio box on a counter, but instead of serving it to Vucinic the Roma captain decided to go for the dribble, prompting Ledesma to intercept and a good Roma chance to vanish. A few minutes later, Behrami’s diagonal shot was wide and it seemed as if this match would end on a tied scoreline, satisfying neither team really and keeping Inter’s lead on Roma unchanged.

Valon Behrami’s strike has just given Lazio the 3-2 victory over RomaUntil the 93rd minute, when this happened: controlling the ball on the right wing, Pandev managed to invent a splendid assist for Stefano Mauri on the left, who then immediately counter-crossed it to the opposite end. Both Doni and Juan simply stood to watch as the ball crossed the Roma box, eventually landing to Valon Behrami about 3 meters from the goal line, ready to poke the ball into the net. An enormous goal for the Swiss international, which sent the entire Biancocelesti supporters section into rapture. 3-2 Lazio and game over.

On top of the disappointment for losing the derby, Roma now see Inter Milan’s lead increase to 7 points. Such a shame, the week had started off so well with the win over AC Milan… A nice note of the evening hover: before the match started, the entire Olimpico stadium (Biancocelesti and Giallorossi alike) paid tribute to Gabriele Sandri, remembering the Lazio supporter who tragically died while travelling to an away game in November 2007.

After this loss, Roma’s distance to first-ranked Inter Milan is now 7 points. With 9 matches left in the league, have Roma’s hopes for a fourth Serie A title vanished? Tell us what you think in the comments section.

Francesco Totti during the pre-match homage to Gabriele Sandri

.

S.S. Lazio
LAZIO-ROMA
3-2
[Match Highlights]
A.S. Roma
GOALSCORERS: 30′ Taddei (R), 44′ Pandev (L), 58’ pen. Rocchi (L), 61’ Perrotta (R), 92’ Behrami (L)
LAZIO (4-3-3): Ballotta – De Silvestri (66’ Mutarelli), Siviglia, Cribari, Kolarov – Dabo (73’ Mudingayi), Ledesma, Behrami – Pandev, Bianchi, (72’ Mauri), Rocchi (bench: Muslera, Rozehnal, Meghni, Tare). Coach: D.Rossi
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni – Cicinho, Mexès, Juan, Cassetti (88’ Panucci) – De Rossi, Aquilani – Taddei (66’ Giuly), Perrotta, Vucinic (83’ Mancini) – Totti (bench: Curci, Ferrari, Brighi, Pizarro, Mancini). Coach: Spalletti

.

Italian Players Around the World (17/03)

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Continuing my weekly article inspired by Gazzetta dello Sport, here are the performances of all Italian soccer players operating in foreign European leagues.

Giuseppe Rossi celebrates after scoring his penalty-kick, Villareal lead 2-0 over Zaragoza

Based on Gazzetta’s info, there are currently 22 Italians playing in first divisions abroad, and 10 of them stepped on the field this week-end.

The table below includes the team the player belongs to, their opponents for the week, the number of minutes they played, their contribution (goal, assist), and the final score of the game.
.

ENGLAND
Player Team Opp.
mins.
Contrib.
Score
Carlo Cudicini Chelsea @Sunderland
90
/
1-0
.
SCOTLAND
Massimo Donati Celtic @Motherwell
/
/
PP.
.
GERMANY
Luca Toni Bayern M. @E.Cottbus
90
/
0-2
.
SPAIN
Fabio Cannavaro Real Madrid @Deportivo
90
/
0-1
Giuseppe Rossi Villareal Zaragoza
28
1 goal
2-0
Christian Abbiati Atl. Madrid Levante
90
/
3-0
Gianluca Zambrotta Barcelona @Almeria
(susp.)
/
2-2
Enzo Maresca Sevilla @Valencia
(bench)
/
2-1
Morgan De Sanctis Sevilla @Valencia
(bench)
/
2-1
Emiliano Moretti Valencia Sevilla
90
/
1-2
Stefano Sorrentino Recreativo Murcia
90
/
4-2
Damiano Tommasi Levante @Atl. Madrid
(injd.)
/
0-3
.
FRANCE
Fabio Grosso Lyon @Monaco
90
/
3-0
Flavio Roma Monaco Lyon
(injd.)
/
0-3
.
HOLLAND
Graziano Pellè AZ Alkmaar @Utrecht
45
/
2-2
.
BELGIUM
Roberto Mirri Mons Z.Waregem
(susp.)
/
3-0
Alessandro Pistone Mons Z.Waregem
(injd.)
/
3-0
.
SWITZERLAND
Stefano Razzetti St. Gallen @Young Boys
(bench)
/
0-3
Andrea Guatelli FC Zürich @Aarau
(bench)
/
0-1
.
POLAND
Stefano Napoleoni Widzew Łódź @R.Chorzow
45
1 goal
1-1
Joseph Oshadogan Widzew Łódź @R.Chorzow
(N/A)
/
1-1
.
RUSSIA
Ivan Pelizzoli Lok. Moscow R.Kazan
(N/A)
/
0-1

 

Heroes of the week

Not many protagonists this week, but those that did make an impact share a common characteristic: they both came off the bench to score a valuable goal. I am talking about Rossi (just back to full fitness from injury) and Napoleoni.

Giuseppe Rossi, age 21In the Spanish Liga this week-end, Villareal were hosting Zaragoza. Things started off pretty well for the Yellow Submarine, when a 10th-minute free-kick by Nihat gave them them a 1-0 lead. In the second half, Giuseppe Rossi came on for Tomasson in minute 62, and just 2 minutes later the home team obtained a penalty-kick. The ex-Man Utd striker stepped confidently, and sent the keeper the wrong way for the 2-0 (and final) scoreline. Rossi now totals 11 goals in the Pichichi race (way behind of Sevilla’s Luis Fabiano and his 22 tallies).

Stefano Napoleoni, age 21Then for the first time in this segment, our travels take us to usually-neglected Polish league, or “Orange Ekstraklasa” as they call it back there. One of this week-end’s match-ups featured Widzew Łódź playing hosts to Ruch Chorzów, a game which saw ex-Tor di Quinto striker Stefano Napoleoni start off from the bench. The young Italian however made an appearance after the break, and immediately went to work: his 46th-minute goal puttting his team in the lead and sending the home fans into rapture. Celebrations were short-lived however, because Ruch Chorzów equalized just 5 minutes later.

Luca Toni, age 30Finally a small stop in the Bundesliga, for mCalcio habitué Luca Toni. No goals for the ex-Fiorentina striker this week, and what’s even worse is that Bayern Munich suffered a shock defeat at the hands of last-ranked Energie Cottbus on Saturday. A two-goal defeat I might add! Luca did manage to obtain a penalty-kick in minute 28 (with the score 1-0 for Cottbus at that point), but Franck Ribéry saw his low effort saved by the home keeper.

Serie A Matchday 28 – Week-end Review + GOALS of the Week (2007-08)

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Week-End Reviews

Here are the results and summaries for matchday 28. Full Video Highlights here.

Italian Calcio Blog week 28 review

Italian Calcio Blog

.

GOALS of the WEEK

HOOOLY COW was this week rich!!! I had to make a really painstaking effort in the goal selection, because at least half (I’m not kidding) the goals scored this week-end deserve a mention. I’ll put the entire list here, but give links to only the top 5 (you can look for the other ones yourselves). But boy… can Serie A be wonderful sometimes huh?   :mrgreen:

First the no-link list:

  • Di Natale‘s nice control and low finish (Udinese-Lazio)
  • Kaká‘s left-footed instep volley (Roma-Milan)
  • Giuly‘s sliced scissor-kick (Roma-Milan)
  • Mutu‘s slamming finish from outside the box (Fiorentina-Genoa)
  • Padoin‘s dribbled finish after a great backheel set-up (Atalanta-Empoli)
  • Acquafresca‘s blast from 25 yards (Cagliari-Torino)
  • Cozza‘s inswinging free-kick  (Reggina-Siena)

Now for the Top 5:

This week, the goal-of-the-week award goes to Reginaldo. It was really difficult selecting a winner this week, plenty of talent everywhere. However this goal I think was exceptionally difficult to score, on account of the way the Brazilian winger strikes it: off balance & on the run. Yet he manages to put it where the keeper will never reach it. Top top stuff.

Also ironically, this is the only goal I could not find a decent link to. Maybe that will change in the next 24 hours (hoping a Parma supporter gets busy) but until then, scroll to minute 03:27 of the following:


.

Results Summary

.

Serie A – day 28
Udinese – Lazio
2 – 2
Roma – Milan
2 - 1
Atalanta – Empoli
4 - 1
Cagliari – Torino
3 - 0
Fiorentina – Genoa
3 - 0
Inter – Palermo
2 - 1
Livorno – Parma
1 – 1
Reggina – Siena
4 - 0
Sampdoria – Catania
3 - 1
Juventus – Napoli
1 - 0

Juventus 1-0 Napoli: Enter 88th Minute, Hammer Falls on Napoli (Serie A Matchday 29)

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Juventus vs. Napoli (Serie A)

Serie AOne thing can be said for sure about Juve: they may not blow you away with their spectacular plays, but in terms of stubbornness they are second to no one. And they have the stats to prove it: 13 goals scored in the last 5 minutes of play, and 39 goals out of 49 scored in the second half. That’s a staggering 79.6%, and a figure which just keeps getting better and better as the Serie A league progresses!

This time, Juventus took ‘only’ 88 minutes to pierce Napoli‘s defences which, in all honesty, were well-organized for much of the first half and good part of the second. Eventually however, the Azzurri suffered the energy drop in the last portion of the match, which coupled with Juve’s increasingly attacking formation ultimately resulted in the visitors’ demise. The executioner for Juve this time? A certain Vincenzo Iaquinta, the Bianconero who has developed a specialty at coming off the bench and scoring vital goals for the Bianconeri. His last-gasp goal today re-establishes a “safety zone” in the standings for Juve, maintaining Fiorentina at -4 points and sending Milan at -8.

Vincenzo Iaquinta celebrates his match-winning goal against Napoli

Serie A Matchday 28 - Juventus 1-0 Napoli

With many key pieces of the Bianconeri chessboard missing (Cristiano Zanetti and Mauro Camoranesi in midfield, but more importantly the double absence of Nicola Legrottaglie and Jonathan Zebina in defense, suspended), Juventus manager opted for a 3-man backline for this one, with Stendardo center-back, and Chiellini/Grygera supporting him on his sides. The 5-man midfield was composed by Salihamidzic and Nocerino on the wings, Sissoko and Tiago to provide interdiction, with Nedved supporting the two strikers Del Piero and Trezeguet. Marek Hamsik attempts a shot in the Juve-Napoli gameOn the other end, not many surprises for Napoli: with Zalayeta out of action until the end of the season, the new striking partner for Lavezzi would resurrected main-main Emanuele Calaio, while Pazienza and Garics filled in for Blasi and Mannini at the heart of the Azzurri midfield.

The new line-up took its time to be assimilated by the Bianconeri, also because tactically Napoli were almost playing by heart: containing the wing runs of Juve, then setting up their dangerous counter-attacks. Marek Hamsik started off the festivities in the Buffon-zone (diagonal effort in minute 21, deflected into corner), György Garics ended them before the break. The Hungarian-born Austrian international had the golden chance to put the visitors ahead, but his 45th minute effort while almost one-on-one with the Juve nº1 ended shamefully wide of the mark (with Lavezzi openly voicing his disappointment).

David Trezeguet shows his disappointment after missing a chance in the Juve-Napoli gameAs for Juve, their main first half attempts originated from the feet of Pavel Nedved (over the bar) and Alessandro Del Piero (off-target free-kicks). David Trezeguet was trying to put his exceptional target man abilities to good use, but found he had a rather unwelcome bodyguard keeping him in check: Fabiano Santacroce. 0-0 at the break.

In the 2nd half, since Juve were having a tough time getting some effective penetration, they attempted the long-range solution: Nedved first, then Del Piero (once again from set-pieces) took their chances, but their efforts were respectively parried away and narrowly wide. This prompted Ranieri to modify his tactics a tiny bit, inserting Cristian Molinaro and Vincenzo Iaquinta for Salihamidizic and Nocerino, and shifting to a 4-3-3 formation.

Tiago Mendes in action against NapoliThe new team shape seemed to make Tiago quite happy, because the Portuguese international multiplied his activity on the offensive front, obtaining two very good chances for Juve to open the lead. On the first one, his accurate long-range attempt found the hand of Gianello deflecting into corner, while on the second (collecting a deflected shot by Del Piero) his aim was just inches away from the crossbar. Juve were piling on the pressure.

Napoli attempted to react timidly through Ezequiel Lavezzi (Buffon was vigilant), but at this time it was obvious the visitors were running out of juice. Momo Sissoko (right) fights for possession of the ball against Michele PazienzaMomo Sissoko was absolutely everywhere in midfield, stealing balls and intercepting passes, while the added push of Molinaro on the left wing turned out to be a decisive factor for the last quarter. In minute 82, Garics spectacularly almost headed the ball into his own net (attempting a dangerous backpass to Gianello), while 5 minutes later the noggins of Stendardo and Iaquinta came very close to providing the winning solution for the Biancoeneri.

All this was only the prologue however, the Iaquinta’s final touch in minute 88. With Lavezzi being dispossessed of the ball inside the Napoli half, a left-wing cross from Nedvd found Del Piero inside the box. The Juve captain chested the ball, and without letting it drop to the ground volleyed it towards the center for a well-positioned Vincenzo Iaquinta. The ex-Udinese striker cleverly avoided Maurizio Domizzi’s tackle, then slotted the ball out of Matteo Gianello’s reach. 1-0 Juventus at the death. Some last-minute drama Bianconeri supporters are pretty much used to by now…

The Napoli players show their disappointment for letting a good point slip away in the final minutes vs. Juventus

.

Juventus F.C.
JUVENTUS-NAPOLI
1-0
[Match Highlights]
 S.S.C. Napoli
GOALSCORERS: 88′ Iaquinta (J)
JUVENTUS (3-4-1-2): Buffon – Grygera, Stendardo, Chiellini – Nocerino (59’ Molinaro), Tiago, Sissoko, Salihamidzic (59’ Iaquinta) – Nedved – Del Piero, Trezeguet (92’ Birindelli). (bench: Belardi, Birindelli, Castiglia, Ariaudo). Coach: Ranieri.
NAPOLI (3-5-2): Gianello – Santacroce, P.Cannavaro, Domizzi – Garics, Gargano, Pazienza, Hamsik (63’ Bogliacino), Savini (81’ Contini) – Lavezzi, Calaiò (71’ Sosa). (bench: Navarro, Grava, Dalla Bona, Montervino). Coach: Reja

.