If the opening weekend was no great advert for Serie A in terms of goals scored, week two more than made up for it as a total of thirty-eight goals were scored during a highly exiting weekend. Highlights were Cagliari’s 5-1 trashing of AS Roma, Cesena’s deserved 2-0 victory over mighty, Zlatan inclusive AC Milan, Genoa’s humiliating 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Chievo and Juventus’ three all draw with Sampdoria.
Cesena stun AC Milan
First, let’s go to Cesena where the Milan giants were welcomed by a packed stadium and a rapturous crowd. Despite Cesena’s impressive display in Rome (0-0) in the opening fixture, Milan were expected to demolish the supposedly weak and Serie B-bound home side. Milan’s starting line-up boasted the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ronaldinho and Pato upfront (with Robinho and Filippo Inzaghi waiting on the bench) but it was the anonymous attacking trio of the home side that, like against Roma, took the plaudits. Emanuele Giaccherini and Matias Schelotto with their pace and Erjan Bogdani with his muscle gave the Milan defence a torrid time throughout the match. Especially the quicksilvery Giaccherini, who scored the 2-0 goal, caught the eye with his quick feet and movement. Giaccherini and Schelotto are both natural wide players with pace, skill and tactical awareness so don’t be surprised if at least one of them (most likely the 21-year-old Schelotto) is called up to the Italian national team that suffer from a chronic lack of wide players.
Milan enjoyed sixty-nine percent of possession but lacked the intent and penetration to break the home defence. Their midfield was pedestrian, Ronaldinho and Zlatan never clicked or found any attacking rhythm, only Pato was a real threat to the home defence. It was testament to Milan’s poorness that Cesena could even award them a penalty without conceding; Zlatan blasted the ball into the post to cap his unspectacular début. Cesena have fought the windmills in the first two fixtures and triumphed; it will be interesting to see how their smash-and-grab tactics work against a lesser side when Lecce come to town next Sunday.
A fantastic end-to-end affair between Juventus and Sampdoria
Anyone nurturing the misconception that Italian football is all about defending should wake up to reality. Italian football might be at times overtly tactical, but it’s hardly always defensive. The Juve-Samp match was a showcase of gung-ho attacking as both teams threw caution to the wind and went all in.
Three out of four title candidates played on Saturday and only Inter were able to take three points (2-1 against Udinese at home). Therefore, Juventus had a chance to gain up on the rest of the bunch after having already conceded three points in the opening fixture. Against Bari Juve’s game looked far from complete on every department. The defence was a mess, midfield lacked bite and the forwards, Alessandro Del Piero and Fabio Quagliarella, perhaps due to their similar styles, flickered but never ignited. Samp, on the other hand, had claimed their first opening day victory since 1997 as they beat Lazio 2-0 at home . The match also had added significance since it was a reunion between the new Juve coach Luigi Delneri and his former team.
Juve seemed to think that perhaps their defensive problems could be remedied by overt attacking. At times their 4-4-2 formation resembled more a 4-1-4 or 3-3-4 (when one of the full-backs advanced) as the wingers Simone Pepe and Nikola Krasic as well as Claudio Marchision pushed forward to accompany the roaming Alessandro Del Piero and Fabio Quagliarella; Felipe Melo being the only midfielder to stay behind. During the first half their plan didn’t quite work however. Their attacks were disjointed, midfield too open and the defence was as fragile as before. It was, therefore, no surprise that Samp started the scoring with a fine attacking move that exposed Juve’s defensive problems. Palombo spread a superb forty metre diagonal pass to Cassano who had drifted to a deep left position inside Juve’s defensive third. Marco Motta, Juve’s right full-back, allowed Cassano too much space to feed Nicola Pozzi (the stand-in for the injured Giampaolo Pazzini) on the edge of the area to fire a splendid strike home. The entire Juve defence line had dropped to a deep position even though there were no Samp players to mark inside the area.
It’s wasn’t all bad news for Juve though. In the second half, they played some very good offensive football. They found rhythm in their midfield passing, executed versatile attacking moves using both wings effectively, and Nicola Krasic started to look like the real deal as he continuously harassed Samp defenders with his directness and pace.
In the end, in terms of results, Juventus continued their less than impressive start to the new campaign but at least the excruciatingly boring ghost of the Juventus form last season has been exorcised by Delneri. This Juventus is fun to watch and as soon as they get their act together at the back, the points will start flooding in.
Results from week two: Internazionale 2–1 Udinese, Cagliari 5–1 Roma, Cesena 2–0 Milan, Brescia 3–2 Palermo, Lazio 3–1 Bologna, Genoa 1–3 Chievo, Lecce 1–0 Fiorentina, Catania 2–1 Parma, Juventus 3–3 Sampdoria, Napoli 2–2 Bari.