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

Andrew Murray On November - 30 - 2011

Team Of The Week: Palermo’s Home Run Continues

Win one, lose one, win one, lose one. That’s the Palermo way at the moment. The Aquile are consistently inconsistent: they’ve alternated between wins and losses in each of their last six games and haven’t strung two wins together all season. They’re hopeless on the road and have failed to score a single goal, but they’ve been unbeatable at home with six wins from six.

On Sunday Fiorentina became the latest team to fall at the Renzo Barbera. Delio Rossi strode out to a warm welcome from the home fans but his emotional return was ruined after just 22 minutes. Fabrizio Miccoli burst through a gaping hole in the visitors’ defence and hammered his first goal since September home from just inside the area.

Palermo continued to push forward, but they were lucky to hold onto their lead. Fiorentina were denied what looked like a stonewall penalty when the ball struck Matias Silvestre’s arm, but nothing was given despite Alberto Gilardino’s vehement protestations.

A goal down at half-time, the Viola upped the tempo in the second half as they pushed for an equaliser. Alessio Cerci came close from range and Francesco Benussi, a surprise starter, did excellently to push a Riccardo Montolivo strike past the post. Cesare Natali missed his second good chance of the game by heading against the bar, and Fiorentina were made to pay for their wastefulness moments later.

The Viola conceded a foul 25 yards from goal and up stepped Josip Ilicic. The Slovenian took full advantage of Artur Boruc’s poor positioning to curl the ball over the wall and into the back of the net. Smart play from a man who hasn’t had the best of seasons for Palermo, but not one that Fiorentina’s Polish ‘keeper will want to remember.

The final whistle blew at 2-0 despite the away side continually prodding for a goal. In part, Fiorentina were the architects of their own demise. Miccoli should never have been allowed so much space for the opening goal, and Boruc was entirely culpable for the second. They were frustrated, their lack of patience shown by the amount of long shots they took in the second half, and Natali should have scored at least once.

That’s not to take anything away from Palermo. Eran Zahavi and Edgar Barreto spurned a couple of good chances to increase the Aquile’s lead and the front three were lively throughout the first half. They faded in the second half, but Miccoli’s injury-forced substitution after 42 minutes was always going to make things difficult for them.

Yes, Palermo’s goals came from Fiorentina’s sloppiness, but the Aquile showed plenty of cunning to take advantage of the situations. Miccoli was expertly positioned and finished perfectly, while Ilicic put the free-kick exactly where he needed to. Fiorentina gave these opportunities to Palermo, but they still had work to do in both situations and their cutting edge was impressive.

The Aquile will travel to Parma this weekend feeling hopefully. Their away form has been wretched so far, but they’ve faced stern opposition in Lazio, Milan, Roma, Juventus, Udinese and this year’s surprise package, Atalanta. Parma are no pushovers, especially at the Tardini, but they were poor in last week’s 2-1 defeat to 10-man Novara and they’ve already conceded 20 goals this season.

This is the best chance they’ve had to break their hoodoo all season, but Parma are difficult to predict. They’ve beaten Napoli but were soundly defeated by Novara and have already been thrashed by Milan and Fiorentina. Palermo fans can’t be disappointed with their season so far (the Aquile are currently fifth) but their incredible home run isn’t going to last forever. Sooner or later, Palermo are going to have to start winning away games.

Young coach Devis Mangia will know this better than anybody. Thrust into the position after Stefano Pioli’s sudden sacking this summer, the 37-year-old has been a cool, level-headed presence in Palermo’s dugout. For a man in his first major managerial position, Mangia is doing an excellent job and he’s learning quickly. Table-topping Juventus and champions Milan are the only two sides who’ve comprehensively outplayed Palermo all season, and Mangia’s fast-breaking football has produced some exhilarating moments.

But, most important of all, Mangia appears to have the full support of Palermo’s notoriously trigger-happy owner, Maurizio Zamparini. “He’s doing well, he reminds me of Delio Rossi,” said Zamparini after Sunday’s game. History suggests that it won’t be long before Zamparini changes his mind, however, and Mangia’s learning can’t slow if he wants to be Palermo manager for a decent length of time.

But Mangia is far from the only ace in Palermo’s pack. Ilicic, so often mediocre this season, produced an excellent performance against Fiorentina. His through-ball for the opener was inch-perfect and his free-kick was cleverly done. Playing behind the strikers clearly suits him more than the wide roles he’s had to occupy this season, and Mangia would be wise to keep Palermo’s most talented player in the trequartista role.

Miccoli, now 32, continues to entertain. Palermo’s captain already has four goals and three assists to his name this season, and his movement remains a real pest for opposition defences. Rosanero fingers will crossed for a speedy recovery for Miccoli, but they should soon have a fit Mauricio Pinilla to fall-back on. The powerful Chilean came off the bench on Sunday and his physical presence will be a big boost to Palermo as the season wears on.

New-boy Silvestre had an outstanding game on Sunday and has rarely put a foot wrong all season. The Argentine centre-back was Catania’s stand-out performer last season and should be a regular fixture in the Palermo XI for years to come. Having players as reliable as Giulio Migliaccio and Federico Balzaretti around will only aid his growth, even if the latter may depart for PSG in January.

Palermo’s home form has given them an excellent chance of challenging for a European place, and, sooner or later, they’ll break their barren away spell. Nobody expects them to remain unbeaten at home all season, but they’ll certainly remain in Serie A’s upper reaches barring a major collapse. In Devis Mangia they have one of the brightest managers in the league: lets just see if he’s given a chance to succeed.

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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