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

‘Tales From The Heel’ is our Southern Italian Round Up, as Steve Mitchell wraps up the action from the weekends games involving those teams from everywhere south of Rome.

Lecce produced the upset of week 26 as they beat Juventus at the Via Del Mare to give themselves a huge boost in their fight for Serie A survival. Playing in front of their biggest crowd of the season, Luigi De Canio’s men rose to the occasion to beat the Bianconeri for only the fourth time in the clubs history.

De Canio must take a lot of the credit for masterminding the win. Banned from the touchline for an altercation in Sicily just seven days earlier, he out thought his opposite number Luigi Del Neri, setting up in a 4-1-4-1 formation that required penetrating runs from his midfield players. They didn’t disappoint as the Algerian Djamel Mesbah and on- loan Roma youngster Andrea Bertolacci, both grabbed their first goals for the Salentini. The dismissal of Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon after only 12 minutes for a deliberate handball outside of the area gave the home side the psychological advantage and they never looked likely to surrender the lead once Mesbah had latched on to a wonderful defence splitting pass from Gianni Munari on 33 minutes.

Four minutes after the break, Bertolacci put the Puglian’s in dreamland after fabulous work from lone striker David Di Michele, who was magnificent all afternoon. Their victory should have been by a wider margin, but Uruguayan midfielder Carlos Grossmüller, missed two glorious chances in quick succession, one of them when his team had a four on one situation as the visitors threw caution to the wind. The only black spot on a wonderful day for the southerners was the dismissal of midfielder Giuseppe Vives that brought numerical parity for the final 20 minutes of the game. Now Serie A survival is in Lecce’s own hands as the team heads north to Brescia for their biggest game of the season.

Cagliari left Milan on Saturday night fuming about the goal that gave their hosts Inter all three points in a suffocating fixture at the Giuseppe Meazza. The game was only six minutes old when the Sardinian’s conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position on the edge of their penalty area. After Inter striker Samuel Eto’o decided to pass and not shoot, the visitors seemed to lose their concentration and were not set up properly as Moroccan midfielder Houssine Kharja fired in a low shot. The ball cannoned off young defender Andrea Ranocchia and into the net but replays showed that the 22-year-old was stood in an offside position as the ball left the foot of Kharja. Referee Domenico Celi allowed the goal to stand to the astonishment of coach Roberto Donadoni and his players. With a bit more conviction in front of goal, the Sardinians would have grabbed a share of the spoils but strikers Robert Acquafresca and Nenê lacked the killer instinct as the home side tired during the second-half. The squad returned to Sardinia with their dignity intact and will now look to bounce straight back at home to Genoa next weekend.

Napoli were not at their best on Sunday evening against Catania but a 25th minute strike from Colombian midfielder Juan Zúñiga was enough to see off Diego Simeone’s men and keep up the pressure on Milan ahead of next Monday’s potential title showdown at the Giuseppe Meazza. With their mercurial Argentinean play-maker Ezequiel Lavezzi, sat in the stands after the club failed to overturn his three match ban after the spitting incident with Roma’s Aleandro Rosi in week 25, the Vesuviani had the perfect opportunity to take an early advantage after 11 minutes when they were awarded a penalty. Everyone in the stadium expected Uruguayan superstar Edinson Cavani to score his 21st goal of the campaign but he didn’t and a stunned Stadio San Paolo feared the worst.

Thankfully for the home side, just 14 minutes later, Zúñiga’s first ever goal for the club settled the nerves but the team looked tired after their European exploits last Thursday. Simeone, already under intense pressure after an indifferent start, had his boss Antonio Pulverentisat on the bench with him as talk of an early exit from the club looms large. The islanders got a first chance to try out their new signing, Argentinean striker Gonzalo Bergessio, who finally received international clearance  but he looked like a player who hadn’t had any first-team action  since the turn of the year and will surely improve as the weeks go on. Simeone decided to leave his other Argentinean hit-man Maxi Lopez on the bench, but after 64 minutes, he had no option but to throw him into the action. He will have spent most of the journey back to Sicily wishing he had played him from the start as his introduction seemed to galvanise the squad for the final quarter of the game but Napolihung on to claim three vital points ahead of the big clash with Milan. President Aurelio De Laurentiis stated on Monday that “we are only thinking about the return game against Villarreal”. Nobody in the city will believe a word of that.

Palermo lost on the road yet again and remain without an away victory since their 1-2 win in Cesena in week 13 . Against Bologna on Saturday evening, they succumbed in the cruelest of circumstances losing to a last minute goal from Daniele Paponi. It was harsh on Delio Rossi’smen who played for the last half-hour with ten men after Argentinean defender Santiago Garcia picked up his second yellow card of the match. President Maurizio Zamparinihas been surprisingly quiet since the defeat, his relationship with Rossi is hostile to say the least and next up for the Rosanero is a home game against one of the leagues most improved teams, Udinese.

Bari showed some battling qualities against Lazio in the capital on Sunday afternoon but were undone by a wonderful strike from the Biancocelesti’s mercurial Brazilian midfielder Anderson Hernanes after only six minutes. That they stayed in the match right up until the final whistle is a credit to new coach Bortolo Mutti and it was only some wayward finishing in front of goal that prevented them leaving the Eternal city with at least a point. The game is almost up for the Puglian’s who are surely just playing for pride for the rest of the season before their inevitable drop into Italy’s second tier. Next up for the Mutti’s men, a home game against Fiorentina.

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