Serie A 2012/13 Week 11 Round Up: Juventus’ unbeaten streak finally ends as Inter blow Scudetto race wide open
Esteban Cambiasso’s words should ring loud throughout the peninsula. After nearly a season and a half, 49 games and 18 months, Juventus’s remarkable unbeaten streak came to an end on Saturday night after a 3-1 defeat to Inter in a thrilling encounter that will surely echo through the annals of calcio history in a loss that was valiant, yet truly deserved.
The Bianconeri sensationally and controversially took the lead after just 18 seconds when a passing move from kick off found Kwadwo Asamoah in space, although illegally. The flag didn’t appear at the side of the pitch, and Asamoah’s slide rule pass found Arturo Vidal – whose slotted finish added another layer of scandal onto Juventus’s spectacular run of form.
You’d be forgiven at that moment for assuming that Inter were simply going to roll over and take a beating similar to Roma’s demise at the same ground in September. Juve had stricken first, and were going for the jugular – Pirlo and Marchisio in particular were roaming free of markers and looking threatening. However, somewhere around the midpoint of the first half Inter grew back into the game and as the fixture went on, Andrea Stramaccioni showed the whole of Italy how good a manager he really is.
Taking off a tired Antonio Cassano for Fredy Guarin turned out to be an inspired choice – the Colombian bringing energy to the Inter midfield and helping to nullify Andrea Pirlo, and dominating the worryingly lethargic looking Juventus midfield. When Diego Milito equalised, gave the Nerazzurri the lead which Rodrigo Palacio solidified late on, Inter secured a scoreline that their performance warranted.
“In all honesty, I expected them to man-mark Andrea Pirlo but wasn’t sure if it’d be Fredy Guarin or Palacio. That’s how they approached Fiorentina with Coutinho coming back, but this time they seemed to alternate,” said Giorgio Chiellini. “As soon as we lost our unity and started to leave more spaces, Inter took advantage and deserved the victory.”
Hearing a Juventus player talking of lost unity really brings into focus how special this result was. Until this recent defeat, Juventus could never be accused of losing drive or cohesion at any point in the last year and a half. If nothing else, the fear that this could be an ongoing trend this season will be vital to overcome. One could argue that a lapse in concentration of this kind simply would not have happened with Antonio Conte on the sidelines, maintaining order for the Turin side. Whether that’s true or not; the former Siena tactician cannot return sooner.
For Inter and everyone else – this is a great result. For the Nerazzurri, it proves this is not a transitional year and they can really challenge for honours this season, dispelling doubts over poor transfer activity and Stramaccioni’s experience in management, doubts that even Massimo Morratti admitted to having after the game on Saturday.
For everyone else, it shows the Juve are once again, fallible. There are chinks in the Bianconero armour, and an opening in the Scudetto race to chase. In some ways, Juventus losing their unbeaten badge of honour is positive for the neutral – the Serie A race is back on, and it looks as compelling as ever.
However, the weekend also bore some bad tidings for some of Juventus’s other rivals. Napoli failed to take advantage of the league leader’s slip as they drew 1-1 with Torino, the profligacy that prevented them from scoring more than one goal against Chievo last week struck again as the Partonopei registered 12 shots, with only two on target. As talented as Walter Mazzarri’s side are, the lack of goals is a worry. In addition, the fact Napoli were at home, and consider themselves as genuine contenders for the Italian championship – maintaining less possession than a side that has just been promoted to Serie A is not a positive.
It could be argued that Napoli are so used to being the archetypal counter attacking force that saw them take Italy by storm in the last two years that exercising control over sides is almost a strange task for Mazzarri to set his troops, but they need to improve at it. They say Serie A is won in the provinces – gritty wins against sides that are more than happy fielding nine or ten defenders. If that adage is to be true, then Napoli need to take on the mentality of the sides they claim to be on par with.
The shock of the weekend award will go to Lazio, who despite coming up against a tough Catania side, will not have anticipated losing 4-0 to the Sicilians. Vladimir Petkovic spoke of “underestimating” Catania, but first he’ll have to reorganise his defence all the way up the pitch. Despite dominating the ball, it was Catania who created the most chances, having 18 shots to the Biancocelesti’s 12, a differenceof 50%. The figures only tell half the story but simply put; when your side dominates most areas of the pitch and concede four, the biggest issue in that side is easy to point out. Lazio will hope the frailties exposed by the Elefantini were just an anomaly if they are to progress up the table throughout the season.
It was the opposite situation for their cross town rivals, who answered their critics by going into the lead and (nearly) shutting down the opposition until the end of the game after beating Gian Piero Gasperini’s poor Palermo side 4-1. Josep Illicic’s goal in the 84th minute stopped Zdenek Zeman’s side from recording their first clean sheet for nearly a month. Goals from each of Roma’s front three displayed the positives of the multi-referenced attacking system that the Czech manager employs at Il Lupi, and Erik Lamela’s dazzling showing was the story of the game until Mattia Destro scores his long awaited debut goal for the Capital club before getting sent off(for his second yellow, which emphasises the Italian’s achievement) in the space of seven minutes after taking his shirt off to celebrate. Madness is always inevitably around the corner in Rome, but not even the most cynical of Romanisti could imagine it coming off the back of such a performance. For Palermo fans, it is once again T-minus Maurizio Zamparini, the volatile president always sure to be tending to his itching trigger figure sometime soon. If results stay the same for the Sicilian side, Gasperini will be once again exiting a Italian club’s door.
At the San Siro, Milan recorded a 5-1 victory over Chievo Verona, Massimiliano Allegri changing the formation yet again. However, this time it paid dividends – the Rossoneri looking much more comfortable with the 4-2-3-1, wide men Stephan El Shaarawy and Urby Emmanuelson stealing the show. Even under fire Spaniard Bojan performed admirably, registering his first goal with Milan. Afterwards, Adriano Galliani revealed that he had obtained a buy out clause from Barcelona for the youngster, but the forward will have to score many more before he is worth the €18m that is being reported as the figure the Milan director and the Catalan club agreed on. After the comeback against Palermo, this win will come as a welcome 3 points and the sign of an improvement in form that Milanisti will hope continues onto the continent with Champions League awaiting midweek. Who knows, Allegri may see his third Christmas dinner in Via Turati yet.
Sampdoria recorded their sixth straight loss after succumbing 2-1 to Atalanta, with punters are already placing bets on the length of Ciro Ferrara’s tenure at the Genoan side. Like at Juventus, the former Azzurrini coach started excellently at Samp – sitting pretty at 5th in September, but now the Blucerchiati wallow in 15th wondering what happened. It would be a shame if Ferrara were to be shown the door, but football is a results business – and the former Juventus and Napoli stopper will have to regain some consistency if he is to keep his job and his side in Serie A.
Bologna 1 – 1 Udinese
Fiorentina 4 – 1 Cagliari
Siena 1 – 0 Genoa
Pescara 2 – 0 Parma