Serie A Recap, Week 29: All eyes on Rome

Despite the battle for the top of the table that is raging in Milan, all eyes were focused on Rome for the Derby della Capitale this weekend.  Roma has beaten its city rivals in their past 4 encounters, and was hoping to make up some ground in its hunt for a place in next year’s Champions League.  Heading into Week 29, Lazio occupied fourth place in the table, and was narrowly clinging to the last Champions League spot, with Roma trailing them, before the Derby, by only 5 points.

AS Roma 2 – 0 Lazio

The one achievement Claudio Ranieri could boast during his brief reign on the Roma bench was his perfect record against city rivals Lazio.  His Roma beat Lazio 4 times out of 4.  Most recently, Roma soundly defeated the Biancocelesti in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals, advancing to the semis at Lazio’s expense.  Vincenzo Montella, Roma’s new manager, enjoyed great success as a player in the Roma derby.  In an historic performance, almost nine years ago to the day, Montella scored 4 goals in a 5-1 demolition of Lazio.  Francesco Totti scored the 5th in that encounter, and would again be wearing the captain’s armband for the Giallorossi tonight.  Totti would again dazzle the Stadio Olimpico crowd as Roma looked to make it a perfect 3 out of 3 in the Derby della Capitale this season.

Montella handed Jeremy Menez a rare start up front, partnered with Totti and Mirko Vucinic.  Daniele De Rossi and David Pizarro anchored the Roma midfield and controlled play well for most of the night.  Edy Reja countered with Hernanes, Mauro Zarate and Sergio Floccari as his strike force.  Both teams started well, but it was Roma that got the first real chance in the 4th minute, as a clever Totti backheel led De Rossi into the middle of the field.  He squared for Pizarro, and the Chilean maestro fired from 25 yards, but his shot crashed off the crossbar and out.  It was enough to give the Giallorossi an early boost in confidence though, as they continued to press in search of the opener.  For the remainder of the first half, play remained open, with few chances for either side.  The two capital clubs went into the half deadlocked at 0-0, but after the restart, Totti’s magic was all Roma needed to gain the advantage.

In the 69th minute, Pizarro gathered at midfield and pressed to the edge of the Lazio box before being fouled.  Totti stepped up to take the free kick and unleashed an absolute bomb that cut straight through the Lazio wall, past a helpless Fernando Muslera and into the back of the net.  Up 1-0, Roma did not look back.  They dictated play for much of the second half, as Lazio struggled to create chances.  The game devolved, slightly, as Lazio’s frustration began to show, and in the 88th minute Stefan Radu needlessly head butted Fabio Simplicio at the corner flag, earning him a straight red card.  Roma continued to press, and just a couple of minutes from time, caught Lazio on the break.  Another pretty play by Totti set up a streaking Simplicio for an easy tap in, but the Brazilian was brought down in the box for a penalty.  The Roma captain stepped up, again fired it past Muslera, and officially put the game out of reach for Lazio.  Cristian Ledesma took his frustrations out on the referee and was rewarded with a sending off.

This night belonged to Totti and Roma, as they picked up another 3 points and continued their climb up the table.  For Lazio, they cannot shake their poor form and have now fallen to 5th place, and outside the final Champions League place.

Brescia 1 – 1 Inter

Inter traveled to Brescia on Friday hoping to make up some ground on league leaders Milan.  These two teams played to a 1-1 draw in Milan earlier this season, and Brescia was determined to give their home crowd something to cheer about the second time around.  The home side started well and created some early chances.  Inter managed to absorb the pressure and got on the score sheet first, in the 17th minute, with a Samuel Eto’o goal, his 19th of the season.  Inter went into the half leading 1-0, and continued to press straight after the restart.  They had a number of chances to double their lead in the second half, with Wesley Sneijder hitting the post on one occasion, and Goran Pandev failing to find the back of the net despite a number of clear chances.  In the 84th minute, Brescia was awarded a corner after a botched Andrea Ranocchia clearance.  Alessandro Diamanti whipped in the corner and Ivan Cordoba’s failed clearance resulted in a free header to Andrea Caracciolo, who netted the equalizer.  The home side continued to press, and in the 88th minute, Eder was brought down in the box.  Caracciolo stepped up to take the penalty, but was denied by Julio Cesar, whose heroics preserved the 1-1 draw.

Cesena 2 –2 Juventus

Juve traveled to the Stadio Dino Manuzzi to take on Cesena on Saturday, hoping to turn things around in what has proven to be a dismal season for the Bianconeri. Having lost their last 3, Juve was hoping that Cesena’s recent good form would run out on Saturday.  Gigi Del Neri’s side came out strong and took a 2-0 lead through an Alessandro Matri brace.  But a penalty, converted by Luis Jimenez in the 41st minute, gave the home side hope.  Motta received a second yellow, followed by a red card, right before the half, which meant Juve would need to hold on with 10 men for the entire second half.  Cesena ultimately completed the comeback 10 minutes from time with a Marco Parolo strike.

Milan 1 – 1 Bari

Milan was hoping to increase their lead at the top of the table following Inter’s shock 1-1 draw to Brescia on Friday.  The home side enjoyed the bulk of the possession, as Bari looked content to sit back and absorb the pressure.  Despite dominating for most of the match, it was Bari that stuck first with a 39th minute goal by Gergely Rudolf.  The visitors continued to frustrate their hosts for much of the second half, and in the 73rd things went from bad to worse, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic was red carded.  Finally, it was former Bari starlet Antonio Cassano who salvaged a point for the home side with a cool strike in the 82nd minute.   Milan stays 5 points ahead of second place Inter with the draw.

Cagliari 0 – 4 Udinese

Udinese continued to climb up the table, as its seemingly unstoppable strike force, Antonio Di Natale and Alexis Sanchez, continues to run opposing defenses ragged.  Di Natale scored another 2, and Sanchez and Benatia each had one, as Udinese picked the Sardinians to pieces.  Following the win today, Udinese now holds Champions League qualification in its own hands.

Catania 1 – 0 Sampdoria

Samp was desperate for points as last week’s embarrassing home defeat by Cesena forced them into a relegation battle.  They continued to plummet down the table, however, as a stunning volley by Cristian Llama was enough to see Catania take all 3 points off Samp.

Chievo Verona 0 – 1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina were coming off a 3-0 win to Catania last week, as they continued their recent run of good form.  Juan Vargas scored off a free kick in the 48th minute.  His goal was enough to give Fiorentina a 1-0 win.

Genoa 1 – 0 Palermo

Genoa and Palermo were both coming off Week 28 losses.  Antonio Floro Flores scored for the home side, as Palermo’s crisis continues.

Lecce 0 – 1 Bologna

Bologna beat Lecce with a 33rd minute Gaston Ramirez goal.  Lecce remains in the relegation zone, as Bologna maintains its mid-table status.

Parma 1 – 3 Napoli

Napoli traveled north to take on Parma, as they sought to maintain hold of the third spot and a place in the Champions League.  It was the home side that scored first, however, as the Napoli defense failed to properly clear a Parma corner.  Raffaele Palladino unleashed a wicked volley into the corner of the net to give Parma the lead in the 29th minute.  After the restart, however, Napoli showed its true quality and completely dominated for the remainder of the match.  Napoli finally scored in the 52nd minute after Lavezzi charged into the box down the right side, baffling the Parma defense, and coolly sliding across for Marek Hamsik to tip in the equalizer.  Just four minutes later Lavezzi got one of his own, giving Napoli the lead, which it never relinquished.  Christian Maggio finally put the game out of reach when he scored Napoli’s third goal, in the 87th minute.  Napoli’s 3-1 win ensured that it maintained hold of the third spot.

Alla prossima…

 

Serie A Table after Week 29:

Milan                  62                                    Cagliari            39

Inter                     57                                    Genoa               38

Napoli                 56                                    Chievo               32

Udinese              53                                    Catania              32

Lazio                   51                                    Sampdoria         31

AS Roma            49                                    Parma                29

Juventus             42                                    Cesena               29

Bologna              42                                    Lecce                  28

Fiorentina          40                                   Brescia               26

Palermo              40                                    Bari                     17

 


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