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

Andrew Murray On November - 23 - 2011

Team Of The Week: Cesena Finally Win

A single moment of brilliance proved the difference-maker in Sunday’s clash between Bologna and Cesena. The early-season relegation battle looked to be heading for a 0-0 until Marco Parolo’s goal-of-the-season contender stunned the Dall’Ara crowd in the 84th minute.

Hosts Bologna went in as favourites thanks to a good run of form under new coach Stefano Pioli. The ex-Chievo coach had guided the Rossoblu to their first three wins of the season after taking over on October 4th and his side were coasting away from the relegation zone. Cesena, in contrast, hadn’t won all season and had accumulated just three points from 10 games.

All signs pointed to a home victory and it was Bologna who started on the front-foot. Andrea Raggi headed over from close range in the early stages and Marco Di Vaio was twice flagged offside when through on goal. Cesena slowly crept into the game, and Adrian Mutu struck wide from a through-ball minutes after a crossbar-skimming long-ranger from Parolo.

Di Vaio tried an overhead kick and Parolo hit another from range before the break, but the sides went into half-time at 0-0.  Bologna should have been 1-0 up shortly after but on-loan Genoa striker Robert Acquafresca fluffed his lines when one-on-one with Francesco Antonioli.

The tide soon turned into Cesena’s favour and the Seahorses finally started testing an unsure-looking Jean-Francois Gillet. The Belgian was lucky his flapping at an innocuous-looking Cesena corner didn’t cost his side a goal. He followed-up by needlessly palming an already off-target Mutu free-kick out for a corner but did better to tip another free-kick wide minutes later.

The game looked certain to end goalless when Panagiotis Kone wasted another good Bologna chance but Cesena broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion. Parolo saw Gillet off his line and launched the sweetest of strikes into the top corner from 25 yards out. The Seahorses were in raptures and the players celebrated wildly, knowing a much-needed victory was only minutes away.

Cesena held-out to record their first win of the season and a huge morale boost. They’re still bottom and four points from safety but they’ve finally got the win they’d been waiting all season for. It was a drab game that Bologna could’ve won if they’d taken their chances, but that won’t concern the Seahorses faithful too much.

This should be seen as a platform from which Cesena can build, but they have an exceedingly tough run of games ahead. Fixtures with Genoa, Juventus, Palermo, Inter and Atalanta await before the year’s end, none of which are easy games. The Seahorses could find themselves in an even deeper mire by the time the winter break comes around, and their next favourable fixture doesn’t come until January 15th against Novara.

Cesena’s biggest issue is that they’ve played (and dropped points to) Serie A’s weaker teams. Two points from clashes with Catania, Chievo, Siena and Cagliari is a poor record for a side that finished 15th last year and had a decent mercato. Week 10’s home tie with Lecce was the grimmest of them all. Lecce played 32 second-half minutes with 10 men after Luis Muriel’s sending-off but still escaped with a 1-0 win to spoil Cesena’s manager Daniele Arrigoni’s first game in the dugout.

In fairness, Cesena have also had to face high-flying Lazio, Milan and Napoli this season, but they’ve made things very difficult for themselves. Once known for their positive, attacking play, the Seahorses have scored just four goals this season. They couldn’t make the breakthrough against Lecce despite having 27 shot: a worrying stat if ever there was one.

Adrian Mutu must take his share of the blame. Cesena’s marquee summer signing, the Romanian was supposed to help take the Seahorses to the next level but he’s scored just once this season. Mutu is still a talented player: maybe Cesena expect too much from him, maybe the repeated suspensions and controversies have slowed him down, or maybe age is taking its toll. Either way, a player of Mutu’s reputation should be performing to a much higher standard.

The Romanian and his fellow forwards must step their game up. Fellow new-boy Eder hasn’t scored in 10 games while Jorge Martinez, Erjon Bogdani and Dominique Malonga have struggled in their fleeting appearances. Abdelkader Ghezzal, on-loan from Bari, has often been deployed on the wing but his performances have been abject.

Cesena have faired much better at the other end of the pitch. With 13 goals against they have one of the best defences in the bottom half and have conceded just one more goal than AC Milan. Part of this is down to the form of veteran ‘keeper Antonioli, who has been excellent since coming into the XI in October.

The Seahorses need to rediscover their attacking guile. They performed well on the first day of the season despite losing 3-1 to Napoli and continually asked questions of the Azzurri defence. If they can revive their attacking edge and coax some good form from Mutu & co., Cesena should be able to climb the table. They have a long way to do, but the gap isn’t insurmountable yet.

Hearteningly, Cesena haven’t been thrashed all season. They’ve been outplayed and sometimes comprehensively so, but they’ve never been beaten by more than two goals and refuse to roll over. This spirit, embodied by gritty midfielder Roberto Guana, will serve them well as long as their 42-year old goalie can keep maintain his high standards.

The Seahorses have a good squad, and players like Parolo have shown their capable of brilliant, match-winning moments. Mutu still has some class about him, and an on-form Antonio Candreva is an asset to any side. Steve Von Bergen has been solid at CB, while youngsters Malonga, Djokovic and Ravaglia have plenty of potential. The pieces are certainly there: all the manager has to do is forge them into a cohesive unit.

Arrigoni has a huge task ahead of him and it starts with Genoa’s visit this weekend. The Rossoblu are in patchy form and have only one away win to their name this season. A Cesena victory isn’t out of the question if they can ride the momentum gained from beating Bologna. They’ll need all the points they can get before the winter break.

Andrew Murray

Scottish football writer with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for all things calcio. Visit for more from Andrew.

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