Serie A got underway last weekend and here, somewhat behind schedule, is what occurred from a Vinotinted perspective:
Sunday 31 August 2014
Genoa 1-2 Napoli
Running out to Gerry and the Pacemakers ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, Tomas Rincón made his league debut for Il Vecchio Balordo in a lively encounter that was not settled until the fifth minute of stoppage time. Rafael Benitez’s high-scoring Napoli started where they left off as after less than three minutes, the fruitful partnership of Gonzalo Higuaín and José Callejón again combined with the Argentine floating a ball across from the left to the Spaniard who, in acres of space inside the area, struck home a well-executed volley. However, for the rest of the first half Genoa had the majority of the chances with new Chilean signing Mauricio Pinilla the target man for crosses from the right by new Argentine acquisition Diego Perotti and Udinese-loanee Edenilson. Pinilla was very lively all game, eager to please his new fans and he gave them significant cause for optimism when, in the 39th minute, another cross was sent into the area – this time from the left – by Giovanni Marchese onto which the Chilean leapt high to nod home and put his side on equal terms at half-time.
In the early stages of the second-half, Rincón was involved in some midfield tussles, first with the young Brazilian Jorginho, from whom he received a high boot and a free-kick and then, in a rare instance of a skirmish between two number 88s, with Swiss international Gökhan Inler, who retaliated to Rincón aggressively holding him off and conceded another free-kick. Despite these minor midfield victories, Napoli certainly got back into the game in this half, with Higuain as well as French defender Kalidou Koulibaly having chances, but the most gilt-edged one fell to Lorenzo Insigne who was played clean through on goal in the 83rd minute by Belgian substitute Dries Mertens but shot straight at Mattia Perin. Despite this waste, Napoli ploughed on, giving Genoa no respite and must have been delighted to see five minutes of stoppage time go up on the electronic boards. Within the first additional minute, Mertens found some space inside the area on the left and hit a shot across the goalmouth, yet Napoli came closer three minutes later as Mertens again came forward on the left, striking a low shot that Perin got fingertips to which Higuain on the right then hooked back across goal, but no one was there to tap the ball in as it went agonisingly over to the other side. Naturally, most people inside the ground felt that the onslaught had been repelled, including most of Genoa’s back line it seems, as moments later they stood off debutant Jonathan de Guzmán as he received a cross from the left and was granted considerable time to giddily get the ball out of his feet and smash home a close-range winner at the very death. Numerous Genoa players including Rincón instinctively put their hands up for an offside call that was never going to come, but despite this cruel defeat they can certainly take heart from the performance they put in against last year’s third-placed side when they continue their tough opening to the season away to Fiorentina on 14 September.
Sunday 31 August 2014
Udinese 2-0 Empoli
As the Stadio Fruili’s is still yet to be completed, just under 8000 fans watched Udinese defeat Empoli 2-0, thanks to two goals from Empoli youth-product and erstwhile goalscoring hero, Antonio Di Natale. Overall, the home side had the better of the chances with the skilful Colombian Luis Muriel – a man of much promise but who missed out on his nation’s impressive displays this summer – a creative catalyst and attacking threat throughout. His most notable first-half contribution occurred in the 13th minute when the Brazilian debutant Guilherme passed a short ball to him that, with a deadly instinctive dink, he rapidly chipped over the defence for Guilherme to run onto and volley low at the goalkeeper, Luigi Sepe, who stood up strong to the challenge. However, Empoli were certainly more in the game in the first half and had two close chances. The first of these came in the 37th minute and fell to Uruguayan Matías Vecino – yet another number 88 on show this weekend – who was afforded far too much space on the inside-right and shaped up for a left-footed strike that went just over, possibly grazing the bar along the way. Empoli’s second opportunity came just over five minutes later when Vecino crossed in a ball from the right that the 35 year-old Francesco Tavano will know he should have buried, but alas, his header went just wide from no more than six yards out.
Five minutes into the second period, the evasive Muriel continued to create opportunities and played a great ball into the area from the right with the outside of his right boot that swerved towards Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, though the Ghanaian international could not quite get enough of his head onto the end of it to make it meaningful. However, in the 57th minute, the ever-reliable Di Natale – who had already had a goal ruled out for offside – gave Muriel’s work the end-product it deserved, as he received a subtle reverse-ball that nutmegged defender Lorenzo Tonelli and then steered it past Sepe. Five minutes later, no nuanced defence-splitting balls were necessary as, despite being under no pressure, French right-back Vincent Laurini played a suicidal pass back straight into the path of Di Natale on the edge of the area, who easily slotted it home for Udinese’s second. After this, the home side took their collective foot off the pedal somewhat, though their lead rarely looked to be under serious threat. Coming on for Vecino in the 70th minute, midfielder Franco Signorelli – who has recently earned his first call-up to the national side – joined the action and though he was often involved in the thick of the action on the park, this was usually while in the middle, and not the final, third.
Sunday 31 August 2014
Torino 0-0 Inter Milan
For match highlights, click here.
Josef Martínez did not make it off the bench in this goalless draw as Nemanja Vidić had a debut to forget for Inter Milan, first conceding a penalty and then later being red-carded, yet he was not alone in being bemused by both decisions. The penalty came after 20 minutes courtesy of what the referee Daniele Doveri must have adjudged to be a pull by the Serbian on the arm of Fabio Quagliarella – returning after nine years to the team he began his career with – though replays struggled to show any significant contact between the pair. The Argentine Marcelo Larrondo stepped up but his spot-kick was too close to the centre as Slovenian international goalkeeper Samir Handanovič lounged to an easy save to mark what was his 17th Serie A penalty save from the 56 he has faced. This spurned chance actually turned out to be the only shot on target in the first half as both teams struggled to create clear chances in a game that became increasingly ill-tempered as it wore on, with new-arrival Gary Medel responsible for a particularly bad – yet unpunished – foul from behind on Quagliarella after 39 minutes.
There were no more than five additional shots on target in the second-half, yet neither side could make a breakthrough. Torino’s best opportunities came within five minutes of the restart as firstly Quagliarella played a fine through-ball 30 yards out to Larrondo whose attempted nudge was blocked by Handanovič and then two minutes later, Larrondo nodded down a cross from Matteo Darmian that Quagliarella hit on the turn with an instinctive snap-shot that went less than a yard wide. However, barring the penalty, Inter had the best opportunity to win the match when, after 68 minutes, the Brazilian Hernanes played through Southampton-loanee Dani Osvaldo whose close-range shot was blocked by goalkeeper Daniele Padelli yet would have rebounded to Medel had it not been for a great robust tackle from Alessandro Gazzi, who denied the Chilean a debut league goal. However, a game that only came to life in short bursts was to end without a winner, though it certainly finished with some controversy that began when, one minute into stoppage time, Vidić and Quagliarella chased a ball in the Inter half that ultimately went out for a goal-kick. As the ball crossed the line, the Italian appeared to push Vidić over but the pair soon shook hands afterwards, yet the ex-Manchester United player could then be seen sarcastically applauding the referee – most likely for not penalising the push, though it is unclear – and was duly sent off. Having not previously been yellow-carded, this was a straight red-card that was quite possibly for the perceived double-offence of both the applause and the doubtlessly critical words he shouted in the referee’s direction. Nevertheless, regardless of how the referee reached his decision, the Serbian is unsurprisingly fuming with how his debut for I Nerazzurri transpired.