Serie A daily – Roma are big winners of European week
Seven Italian teams took part in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League this week. Of the matches that featured sides hailing from Serie A; one ended in victory, three were draws and three teams tasted defeat.
The only shining light for the top flight of Italian football was A.S. Roma, a team that has stuttered to get going so far this season. Their 3-2 victory over FC Basel in Group E on Wednesday evening was not a pretty affair by any stretch of the imagination but it was confidence boosting. Jérémy Menez, Francesco Totti and Leandro Greco were all on target for the Giallorossi as they secured an important win ahead of Sunday’s clash with league leaders and bitter Rome rivals, Lazio. Having started the season seemingly unable to buy a victory, Roma have started to get results without playing well and following a 2-0 over Leece last weekend, their midweek European win could be a catalyst to at least making the Derby della Capitale competitive.
In Group A, reigning Champions Inter Milan were humbled by the speed and accuracy of Gareth Bale. Having failed to herald a warning when the winger scored a hat-trick during the second half of their clash at the San Siro, Inter were defeated 3-1 by Tottenham Hotspur in what turned into the “Gareth Bale show.” Maicon, last year’s European Defender of the Year, had a torrid time as he tried to tame the 21-year-old who laid Spurs’ two second half goals but he will rest easy in knowing he won’t face a player like the Welshman when they face Brescia this weekend.
Inter's bitter rivals, Milan will this weekend travel to Bari for a Serie A having felt they had done enough to earn a victory over Real Madrid at the San Siro. Bari are languishing at the bottom of the table currently and will be in for a tough afternoon against the disappointed Rossoneri. Just as Milan looked destined to hand Jose Mourinho his first defeat as Madrid manager, Pedro Leon's shot deep into injury time squeezed through Christian Abiatti's legs. Filippo Inzaghi, at the ripe age of 37, had looked to have been Milan's saviour with his two goals off the bench but it wasn't to be, although the second goal made him the highest ever scorer in European competitions with 70, moving ahead of Raul and Gerd Muller. The 2-2 draw means Real Madrid qualify for the knock-out stages with two games to go and Milan are left to battle for second place with Ajax and Auxerre.
In the Europa league there was a little symmetry featuring the Italians as Napoli and Palermo went down to 3-1 defeats away to Liverpool and CSKA Moscow while Juventus and Sampdoria both drew with SV Salzburg and Metalist Kharkiv 0-0.
In the early kick-offs, Juventus followed up their battling 2-1 win over Milan on Sunday by being held by Salzburg. Gerhard Tremmel was at his best in Austrian goal to keep the Old Lady at bay and though they had chances a draw was not an unfair result. The draw means Juventus remain without a win in the Europa League and trail group leaders Manchester City and Lech Poznan by three points.
In Russia, Palermo were undone by goals from Keisuke Honda and Tomas Necid after Antonio Nocerino was sent-off for two bookable offences. The midfielder was dismissed after just 31 minutes after Massimo Maccarone had put the away into the lead. Down to 10 men, CSKA Moscow were allowed the lion’s share of the possession and a ten minutes spell at the beginning of the second half saw them race into the lead. Luckily Nocerino will be available for the tricky mid table clash with Genoa this weekend.
Later on Thursday evening, Steven Gerrard was brought on at half-time by Liverpool and scored a second half hat-trick against Napoli. Walter Mazzarri’s men were 1-0 up at half-time through Ezequiel Lavezzi but the introduction of the Liverpool captain turned the game back into the favour of the Anfield club. The most disappointing factor for Mazzarri will be the three defensive mistakes that lead to the goals, though it is not unexpected for one of the leakiest defences in the Italian league.
In the other game, Sampdoria played out a rather forgetful draw with Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv. The best chance of the game fell to Massimo Volta but his header struck the bar as Sampdoria played without expelled Antonio Cassano and fellow Italy striker Giampaolo Pazzini who started on the bench.