Serie B 2013/14 Review: Week Four – Sicilian sensations continue to confound expectations
Just four rounds into the Serie B season, and a side from the northern coast of Sicily has eased into second place following a devastatingly comfortable four goal home victory, but it is not who you might initially think.
A distance of just over 40 kilometres separates the cities of Trapani and Palermo, but with their respective football clubs entering Italy’s second tier from opposite ends during the summer, few would have predicted that the minnows from along the coast would be outshining their more illustrious neighbours this early into the campaign.
Okay, such an assumption may be a little unfair on the Rosanero, who sit one point and two places behind Trapani after finally shaking off their own sluggish start, but the efforts of the Granata in the opening weeks of their maiden Serie B campaign are entirely worthy of some high praise.
Having gone close to securing an historic promotion from the third tier with a youthful Marco Materazzi in their ranks during the mid-nineties, a period of decline saw the club slip as low as the sixth tier of the Italian football pyramid, the regional footballing netherworld known as Eccellenza.
The club’s fortunes turned however with the appointment of Roberto Boscaglia in 2009. Back in Serie D, Boscaglia led the club to back to back promotions, and though denied the hat-trick in 2012 with defeat to Virtus Lanciano in the play-off final, his side bounced back to win last season’s Lega Pro A title in May.
Following an historic opening day win over Padova, two highly creditable draws against promotion favourites Pescara and Empoli have demonstrated the Granata’s resilience. This weekend’s 4-0 rout of Reggina however suggested that a season beyond all expectations could be on the cards.
Having survived an early scare when Manuel Fischnaller’s dipping long range drive almost caught keeper Emanuele Nordi off guard at his near post, the Sicilians soon found their rhythm and deservedly took the lead with the 20 minutes on the clock, with Luca Nizzetto lifting a devilishly curling cross from deep inside the left midfield that Milan Djuric, leaping high above the Reggina defence, headed home with aplomb.
Matteo Mancosu, the two goal hero of that opening day win over Padova, almost added to his season tally with a strike that was cleared off the line, but it was a mere stay of execution for the Calabrians, who fell further behind to another Djuric header five minutes before the break.
It was a goal that brought an end to Reggina keeper Massimiliano Benassi’s afternoon, with his head colliding horrifically with the upright as he attempted to prevent the ball from looping into his net. His replacement Giovanni Zandrini was to fare little better though as Trapani continued to turn the screw during the second period.
A well worked set-piece five minutes after the restart saw Nizzetto square the ball into the path of Giuseppe Pirrone, whose stunning right foot effort from distance curled beyond the outstretched palm of Zandrini and into the top corner.
With the match effectively over as a contest, Nordi demonstrated that his concentration had not wavered with a fine fingertip save to deny David Di Michele, leaving Mancosu to round off the scoring shortly after the hour mark, heading home Desiderio Garufo’s cross from the right.
It was a performance full of power and precision that spoke volumes of Trapani’s ability to cope at this level, and Boscaglia, celebrating his 100th game in charge, pointed afterwards to his side’s ability to retain the ball and dominate the wings as the reason for their success. While his side will no doubt face tougher assignments throughout the season than that posed by Reggina, on this evidence the Sicilian side should fear nobody.
Elsewhere, only Empoli are keeping the Granata from topping the table, picking up their third win of the campaign courtesy of a Lorenzo Tonelli double over Carpi. Virtus Lanciano meanwhile kept up their impressive start with a 1-0 win over Avellino, a result that sees them level on points with Trapani in third.
Goals from Kyle Lafferty and Abel Hernadez saw Palermo come from a goal down to beat Cesena 2-1 and move into the play-off places, where they are joined by Varese, who enjoyed a dramatic 3-2 victory over Pescara thanks to Leonardo Pavoletti’s 88th minute winner.
Novara also moved into the play-off places after a Daniele Buzzegoli penalty gave them victory over Padova. The result leaves Padova rock bottom of the table, without so much as a point or a goal to their name so far this season, and left coach Dario Marcolin facing mounting pressure.
A rotten week for Siena meanwhile ended on a high after they recovered from two goals down to salvage a point against Juve Stabia, cancelling out the point they were deducted in midweek for administrative issues. Elsewhere there were first victories of the season for both Crotone and Bari, with 1-0 wins over Spezia and Modena respectively, but Cittadella and Latina remain winless following their goalless draw.