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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Milan made to pay

Milan succumbed to their Sicilian taboo to blow the Scudetto race wide open ahead of the derby. Susy Campanale sums up the Week 30 action
Milan got away with it last week, but this time there was no mercy for their slip-up. The Serie A leaders were made to pay the full price for their defeat at Serse Cosmi’s Palermo and saw the gap close to just two points. Considering the next round is a head-to-head with Inter, their timing could not have been worse.

The Rossoneri have been slowing down recently and already showed signs of problems in their 1-1 draw at Bari. A struggle was to be expected at the Barbera, where they have now lost four consecutive visits, and above all Zlatan Ibrahimovic started his three-match ban. It was a worry how the team would react to losing their top goalscorer and assist man, not to mention the only genuine centre-forward in the side. The answer is: badly. Antonio Cassano and Alexandre Pato barely mustered a whimper in their new partnership, as Gennaro Gattuso ended up having their best chance of the game. Cosmi finally ended the five-match losing streak thanks to Dorin Goian pouncing on a defensive error.

Last week Inter let Milan escape unpunished for their stumble, but this time Leonardo’s men took full advantage. It wasn’t by any means a great performance against Lecce, although Giampaolo Pazzini’s goal proved to be enough. It leaves them just two points adrift of the leaders, easily in better shape than their ‘cousins’ and knowing a victory in the Derby della Madonnina would take Inter above Milan for the first time in 20 rounds. The only good thing about this weekend for Max Allegri is the fact there’s a break for international duty to give them breathing space.

Napoli seemed to be out of the Scudetto chatter when they lost 3-0 at San Siro, but a few weeks later they are right back in it. Just three points off the top spot, Edinson Cavani broke his six-game goal drought to sink Cagliari despite a very shaky first half. It seems the Vesuviani refuse to give up their title dreams, especially now the door has been opened for them.

There were reasons to celebrate elsewhere too. Francesco Totti fought back twice to surpass the 200 Serie A goals mark and hold Fiorentina, keeping Roma in the race for a Champions League spot. They’ll have trouble getting past Udinese, who show absolutely no signs of slowing down, and a Lazio side revived by Mauro Zarate’s first goal in three months.

Juventus finally got to enjoy a win with Alessandro Del Piero’s divine slalom turning back the clock against Brescia, but even that result leaves them in seventh place. Rather than target the Champions League, they’d do better to look over their shoulders at Palermo and even Fiorentina.

Bologna and Genoa can consider themselves out of the relegation race after sharing the spoils at the Dall’Ara, but it’s a battle royal beneath them. Sampdoria are plummeting down the standings after a fourth consecutive home defeat, something their fans hadn’t experienced since 1976. The fact this loss was against fellow strugglers Parma only exacerbates the sense of doom within the Blucerchiati camp. Alberto Cavasin’s arrival hasn’t helped the crippling lack of confidence that saw Massimo Maccarone balloon a penalty over the bar.

Chievo have surely put the final nail in Bari’s coffin with a victory at the San Nicola that feels like a six-pointer. The Flying Donkeys were without a win in six before Davide Moscardelli scored against his former club, opening up a

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