Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

It’s been a fabulous week to be a Lecce supporter, a fantastic win in the capital in week 19 against Lazio was backed up with a courageous performance on Sunday evening against league leaders Milan to earn a 1-1 draw and instill some new found belief in their fight for Serie A survival.

For 49 minutes of Sunday evening’s match it looked like the Salentini were hopelessly out of their depth. Milan dominated possession with only the heroics of goalkeeper Antonio Rosati keeping the score-sheet blank. Then Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich produced an incredible piece of skill to score one of the goals of this or any other Serie A season. Flanked by two Lecce defenders, he managed to unleash a left foot strike of such venom that the ball flew past the helpless goalkeeper and into the roof of the net to give the visitors the lead. Lecce fans feared the worst and decided to vent their anger in the direction of Antonio Cassano as Milan’s new signing started to warm up below them - Cassano was born in Bari, the Salentini’s big Puglian rivals . But coach Luigi De Canio’s team did the opposite of what everyone expected and threw off the shackles in an attempt to get back into the game, Uruguayan midfielder Carlos Grossmüller, the star of the show in the capital just seven days earlier, was replaced by Guillermo Giacomazzi,the club captain relegated to a seat on the bench after his dismissal against Bari in week 18. With a point to prove, the 33-year-old added some much needed bite to the home sides midfield which seemed to galvanise his teammates as they pressed for an equalizer. Rosati remained inspired between the posts as the visitors tried to exploit the gaps in the home sides defence but with just eight minutes remaining, a Giacomazzi corner was smashed home by Uruguayan midfielder Rubén Olivera to send the Via Del Mare into ecstasy. The contrast between the coaching staff could not have been more different as De Canio and his colleagues embraced each other in unbridled joy, his opposite number Massimiliano Allegri looked on in sheer disbelief that his side had thrown away two precious points in their quest for the Serie A championship. Two weeks ago it looked as though the Puglian’s were heading straight back to the second tier of Italian football but now there is hope, real hope that the great escape can become a reality. Next up for De Canios’s men, a trip to Tuscany to face Fiorentina.

Bari are losing touch with the rest of the clubs fighting for Serie A survival. A 2-1 defeat in Turin against Juventus was not that unexpected but time is running out for coach Gianpiero Ventura to try to avoid what looks at this moment, like an inevitable slide into Serie B. I Galletti certainly left Turin with their dignity intact, going down to goals from Alessandro Del Piero, a fabulous free-kick after 43 minutes and Alberto Aquilani after 79 minutes. Sandwiched in between this was a debut goal for Gergely Rudolph, signed from Genoa just 48 hours before this fixture, that briefly gave the visitors hope that they could salvage something from the game.  Bari now have three massive games coming up which will surely make or break their Serie A survival plans. Next week Napoli visit the Stadio San Nicola before a difficult away trip to Sardinia to face Cagliari is followed by a home fixture against a rejuvenated Inter side. Before any of this, the southerners visit Milan on Thursday in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia. In around three weeks time fans of the Puglian club may be resigned to the fact that their Serie A adventure has temporarily come to an end.

Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini has been venting his anger in the Italian press about the standard of refereeing after Sunday’s game away to Cagliari. This could only mean one thing, his team had lost the match. The patron has a point however, a bad day for the Rosanero started after 23 minutes when Alessandro Matri gave the home side the lead, pouncing on a ball that rebounded off the post. Replay’s suggested that the goalscorer was in an offside position earlier in the move but the goal was allowed to stand - a decision which infuriated the visitors. Worse was to follow just three minutes into after the re-start when a Daniele Conti shot was turned into his own net by Antonio Nocerino. Argentinean midfield superstar Javier Pastore pulled one back for the visitors three minutes later but the contest was effectively settled four minutes later as Davide Biondini’s shot on the edge of the penalty area was deflected past a helpless Salvatore Sirigu in the Palermo goal. A furious Zamparini, as is often the case when his team is defeated, used the Italian media to give examples of at least 13 times his team has been on the wrong end of refereeing decisions this season. The truth is, his team has lost vital ground in the race for Champions League places.

On Saturday night a miracle occurred at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples, Napoli failed to score in a Serie A home fixture for the first time this season. In fact, it was only the second time that they had failed to score in a Serie A fixture this term after a goalless draw against Fiorentina. The visitors were the better team in the opening 45 minutes with Italian international striker Alberto Gilardino proving a handful for the Vesuviani defence. After the break, the home side came back into the match but it was just one of those nights for strikers Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi, who just couldn’t unlock the visitors defence. The night was overshadowed by a sickening injury to defender Gianluca Grava who will now miss the rest of the season after damaging  cruciate ligaments in his left knee. Napoli now go to Bari in week 21 but before that, they have a home tie against Bologna on Tuesday evening in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia.

Catania striker Maxi Lopez scored his fifth goal of the season for the Sicilians in Sunday’s home fixture against Catania but it wasn’t enough to give the home side all three points against a spirited Chievo side, who grabbed a share of the spoils thanks to their chief marksman Sergio Pellissier, who notched up his seventh goal of the campaign. The home side took the lead on the half-hour mark through a penalty from Lopez after a handball by Chievo defender Andrea Mantovani who escaped with just a yellow card when many observers thought that the colour should have been red. It always looked like the islanders would need a second goal to close out the match, they didn’t and were made to pay 20 minutes after the interval when the evergreen Pellissier gave the visitors a deserved share of the points. Marco Giampaolo now takes his team to Parma in week 21.

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