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

Last Wednesday, after Napoli striker Edinson Cavani had scored a dramatic injury time winner against Steaua Bucharest to send his team through to the knock-out stages of the Europa League, he stated that his last gasp strike was ” a miracle from God“. Fast forward four days then to another miracle, as the Uruguayan hit-man produced an incredible 20 metre strike to score the only goal against Lecce on Sunday afternoon and send the tifosi at the Stadio San Paolo into ecstasy and send his team to within three points of top-spot in the Serie A standings as we head into the winter recess. Meanwhile, it seems the Salentini are in for a bleak mid-winter. They currently sit second bottom in the table and their first outing after the Christmas break is a derby blockbuster at home to Bari - for all sorts of reasons, this has now become a must win game.

Both teams came into the contest decimated with injuries and suspensions to key players. The hosts lost the services of their inspirational captain Paolo Cannavaro and fellow defender Hugo Campagnaro, whilst Argentinean superstar, Ezequiel Lavezzi, was still recovering from his ankle injury picked up in the home game against Palermo. Lecce were also without their skipper Guillermo Giacomazzi and Uruguayan striker Javier Chevanton, who was serving the last of his four match ban.

Even by Napoli standards, this was dramatic, as just 30 seconds before Cavani’s stratospheric strike, his side could have been behind to a spirited Lecce side who are fighting for their lives at the foot of the table. As Daniele Corvia rounded Vesuviani goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis and sent the ball towards goal, it looked like the Puglian side were going to cause the shock of the season and grab all three points after a hard fought encounter, but somehow, Napoli defender Gianluca Grava, recovered his ground to make a incredible goal line clearance. Within a minute, the game was over and Cavani, already assuming god-like status in the famous old city, produced a dance of delight in front of his disciples as his team had once again, used “Mazzarri time” to snatch a dramatic victory.

On Saturday evening, Cagliari coach Roberto Donadoni suffered his second defeat since taking over in Sardinia as the islanders went down 1-0 at Cesena. In a tight and tense affair, the game was settled by a goal from Chilean midfielder Luis Jimenez after 18 minutes. The win eases the Bianconeri’s relegation fears whilst the Rossoblu sit just five points above the drop zone. First up for Donadoni’s men after the winter break is a home game against league leaders Milan. The tifosi will expect a much improved performance on what they witnessed at the Stadio Dino Manuzzi at the weekend.

Bari are still cut adrift at the foot of the Serie A table but fought back against the odds to earn a creditable 1-1 draw against Palermo at the Stadio San Nicola on Sunday afternoon. It all started so badly for Gian Piero Ventura’s men as they went down to 10 men after 32 minutes thanks to the dismissal of young defender Marco Rossi. The 23-year-old has had a month to forget - after just returning from a previous ban picked up against Sampdoria in week 15, he received two yellow cards in the space of 15 first-half minutes on Sunday to ensure that he will now have an extended Christmas break and be unavailable for his side’s big showdown against Lecce on January 6.

Things went from bad to worse for the Puglian’s just before the interval as Slovenian international midfielder Josip Iličić put the Sicilians in front. But credit to the home side who never gave up and came out for the second period with all guns blazing. They were rewarded just ten minutes after the re-start when Emanuel Rivas was brought down in the penalty area by big Romanian defender Dorin Goian - Andrea Masiello converted the spot-kick to give Bari a share of the points. Palermo were rocked by an injury to their captain Fabrizio Miccoli but it is not thought to be anything serious and he should be available for their game on January 6 at home to Sampdoria.

Catania’s Argentinean striker Maxi Lopez is back in the goals as he grabbed the winner in Sunday’s game against Brescia. The 26-year-old who had a blistering 2009-10 campaign has failed to replicate that form this term but a superbly taken goal after 34 minutes against the Rondinelle was an example of the quality he still has to offer Gli Elefanti. The 1-0 scoreline was a perfect tonic for coach Marco Giampaolo who saw his side bounce back from the mauling they received in Sardinia against Cagliari in week 16. The 43-year-old tactician has faced some severe criticism in the first-half of the campaign, but as he heads off on his Christmas holidays, his team lies just below halfway in the table with a trip to the capital to face Roma next up on January 6.

  • SG

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