Date: 23rd January 2012 at 4:08am
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Sassuolo stormed to the top of Serie B with a superb victory over Vicenza, as Torino laboured to a draw with Cittadella. Zdenek Zeman’s Pescara claimed their latest victim with victory over Empoli, while Verona defeated Juve Stabia to stay in the hunt for automatic promotion. The quest to be crowned cadetto champions is warming up nicely.

Friday 20th January

Sampdoria 1 – 1 Livorno

A Paulinho equaliser ten minutes from time gave Livorno a share of the spoils, but the result does neither side any favours in what has been a poor season for both clubs.

The Blucerchiati were fortunate to still be in the game by half time, as the visitors ran them ragged during the first 45 minutes, but failed to break the deadlock.

Both Paulinho and Antonio Piccolo went close with long range efforts, whilst Alessandro Lambrughi stung the palms of Sampdoria keeper Sergio Romero with a drilled effort from six yards out as the Tuscans looked to capitalise on their superiority.

However, for all of Livorno’s pressure, the home side were gifted a glorious chance to take the lead when a woeful back pass played in Nicola Pozzi, but his attempt was quickly closed down and smothered by Francesco Bardi.

Pozzi put the home side ahead ten minutes after the restart, picking up a pass from Obiang just outside the Livorno box, before turning behind Alessandro Bernardini and guiding the ball into the bottom corner.

Pushing for the win, Pozzi was unfortunate not to add to his tally, striking the bar from the edge of the box, whilst Cristian Bertani went close with an acrobatic overhead kick.

They were made to pay in the 81st minute, when Paulinho planted a stunning free kick into the top corner from 30 yards out, leaving Romero with no chance.

In the dying moments, Bertani connected with a corner two yards from the Livorno goal line, but the ball rolled agonisingly onto the post, and the points were shared.

Saturday 21st January

Ascoli 2 – 1 Gubbio

A last minute winner from Vito Falconieri gave Ascoli the points that lifted them off the foot of the table.

In the first half, Papa Waigo missed a hat trick of opportunities to give the home side the lead, whilst Gubbio’s Obiora Nwankwo went close with a long range effort.

The breakthrough came on 38 minutes, when Gubbio keeper Antonio Donnarumma fumbled Andrea Soncin’s searching cross into the path of Waigo, presenting the Senegalese striker with the easiest of tap-ins.

Ascoli continued to press early in the second half, with Waigo drawing a good save from Donnarumma, and Alessandro Sbaffo curling a long range effort just wide of the post. At the other end, Mattia Graffiedi struck the bar with a stunning long range volley that deserved better.

Daniele Bazzoffia levelled the scores with 20 minutes remaining, drilling an effort from the edge of the box that Ascoli keeper Enrico Guarna should have dealt with.

The home side stirred into action and found the winner their overall performance deserved a minute from time when Falconieri met Sbaffo’s deep cross into the box and powered home with his head.

Alberto Almici went close to equalising late on, after Falconieri was dismissed for two late bookings, but the home side held on for three crucial points.

Bari 0 – 1 Modena

Ovidiu Petre’s first half header proved to be the difference between the sides, and gave Modena the points that lifted them out of the drop zone.

The visitors looked lively from the off, with Daniele Dalla Bona going close with a long range effort that skidded just wide of the post.

They then took the lead in the tenth minute, when Davide Di Gennaro’s in-swinging corner found Petre completely unmarked in the box, who nodded the ball home.

Bari pushed for an equaliser but were wasteful in front of goal. Cristian Galano saw a weak effort easily saved, whilst Francesco Caputo blasted a wild effort over the bar from a good position in the box.

In a match defined by poor finishing, Di Gennaro struck a free kick over early in the second half, whilst Francesco Stanco’s attempt at a volley drifted harmlessly wide.

Meanwhile, the home side were being limited to long range efforts that caused Modena keeper Nicholas Caglioni little trouble, until he acrobatically tipped Adrian Stoian’s dipping long range strike just over.

Cittadella 1 – 1 Torino

Torino missed the chance to go clear at the top of the table following a disappointing draw at Cittadella.

The home side almost took an early lead when Antonio Di Nardo played Robert Maah into the box, but the Frenchman’s stinging effort was well saved by Ferdinando Coppola.

The league leaders did find themselves a goal down six minutes in, when Di Nardo headed a deep corner across the face of the Torino goal, where Daniele Gasparetto was lurking to stab the ball home.

Parity was restored ten minutes later when Alessandro Sgrigna’s pass found Mirco Antenucci, who shifted the ball onto his left foot and guided a low shot beyond the reach of Cittadella keeper Alex Cordaz.

Di Nardo headed just wide, whilst at the other end Francesco Scardina was forced to clear Alen Stevanovic’s low drive off the line to keep the scores level at the break.

Torino pushed for a winner in the second half, Sgrigna going close with a header before testing Cordaz from the edge of the area. At the back meanwhile, Coppola was stretchered off following a horrific collision with Valerio Di Cesare.

Substitute Riccardo Meggiorini prodded an effort just wide, whilst Mirco Antenucci drew a point blank save from Cordaz, as the home side held on for a well-earned point.

Crotone 1 – 2 Varese

Varese kept up their pursuit of a play-off place with a hard fought win at struggling Crotone.

Nicola Sansone went close to giving the home side the lead, but he could only fire straight at Varese keeper Walter Bressan following a fine solo run.

The visitors then asserted themselves on the match, with Alessandro Carrozza firing just over from a narrow angle, whilst Christian Terlizzi headed just wide from a corner.

However, Terlizzi found his range five minutes before the break, heading in from close range after meeting Leonardo Pettinari’s looping free kick into the box.

Crotone’s task would have been made doubly difficult moments before half time had Vid Belec not produced a miraculous save to keep out Giuseppe De Luca’s close range header.

Belec repeated the trick early in the second half, tipping De Luca’s attempted chip just over the bar, before Varese were denied a clear penalty after Pedro Correia handled in the area.

The visitors were eventually awarded a penalty 20 minutes from time however, when Francesco Checcucci was adjudged to have dragged De Luca down in the box, for which the defender was also sent off. It was a debatable decision, but Carrozza emphatically slammed home the penalty to extend the lead.

Terlizzi headed a Gabionetta effort off the line, before Alessandro Florenzi struck a late consolation from the edge of the area, but it was too late to have an impact on the final result.

Empoli 0 – 2 Pescara

Zdenek Zeman’s free scoring Pescara side kept up their promotion push with victory at Empoli, a result that leaves the Tuscans rooted in the relegation zone.

Riccardo Maniero received a comical caution ten minutes in, when he palmed the ball into the Empoli net without a hint of subtlety

Lorenzo Insigne went close to giving the visitors the lead following a neat dribble, before Maniero prodded a loose ball just wide after Empoli keeper Alberto Pelagotti had spilled a long range effort.

Emmanuel Cascione headed straight at Pelagotti, and Antonio Balzano fired just over as the Delfini completely dominated proceedings.

Nevertheless, Manuel Coppola went close to giving the visitors the lead against the run of play with a fierce long range effort that whistled just past the post, but the score remained level at the break.

The visitors took the lead with a breath-taking counter attack just two minutes into the second half. Marco Gorzegno’s ambitious long range volley was comfortably saved by Pescara keeper Luca Anania, who immediately launched the ball up field into the path of Insigne. He continued his run up the left flank, before planting a cross onto the head of an unmarked Maniero, who could not miss.

Insigne then capitalised on some woeful Empoli defending to double the advantage five minutes later, powerfully heading home Matti Lund Nielsen’s cross whilst unmarked in the area.

The home side saw both Gorzegno and Lorenzo Tonelli dismissed late on to compound their miserable afternoon, but the Zeman revolution marches on.

Grosseto 1 – 0 Albinoleffe

A second half strike from Luis Maria Alfageme gave Grosseto the points, and kept them in the hunt for a play-off place.

In a half of few clear cut opportunities, the home side almost took the lead when Alfageme connected with Andrea Giallombardo’s cross, but his effort was straight at Albinoleffe keeper Andrea Angelo Offredi.

Andrea Cocco went close for the visitors, the ball going just wide having been struck on the turn, before Michael Girasole stole past Samuele Olivi and forced a smart save from Grosseto keeper Antonio Narciso.

After the break, Gaetano Caridi went close to giving Grosseto the lead with a curling effort from just inside the box, but the ball sailed wide of the post.

Having been booked in the first half, Albinoleffe’s Francesco Luoni was dismissed following a careless high challenge on Caridi, and the visitors were soon made to pay when Alfageme struck what would prove to be the winner.

Ronaldo’s driven free kick was easily blocked in the Albinoleffe box, but the ball fell to Alfageme, who turned Pierre Giorgio Regonesi inside out before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.

Cocco struck the bar and Velerio Foglio struck a shot across the goal line from an acute angle as the visitors went in search of an equaliser, whilst at the other end Ronaldo forced a fine save from Offredi, and Caridi struck just wide.

With time running out, Foglio hit a weak shot straight at Narciso, and the home side held on to take the points.

Verona 2 – 0 Juve Stabia

Verona returned to winning ways with a routine victory over Juve Stabia at the Stadio Bentegodi.

Sasa Bjelanovic went close to an opener for the home side, heading just wide of the post, before Juan Ignacio Gomez stung the palms of Juve Stabia keeper Simone Colombi following a mazy dribble through the visitor’s defence.

Bjelanovic’s powerful header was well held by Colombi, whilst at the other end Adriano Mezavilla struck the upright from point blank range with the goal at his mercy.

The deadlock was broken two minutes before the break, when Massimiliano Scaglia latched onto Marco D’Alessandro’s through ball, before calmly dispatching the ball below the dive of Colombi.

Moments later, the visitors were denied a penalty when Domenico Maietta appeared to clip Marco Sau’s heel, but referee Aleandro Di Paolo waved away the appeals.

Juve Stabia looked the brighter of the two sides as the second half got underway. Ivano Baldanzeddu saw his long range effort saved by an inspired Rafael, before Sau struck wildly over from just outside the six-yard box.

The points were secured with 20 minutes remaining, when Thomas Pichlmann snaked his way through a sea of white shirts, before rounding Colombi. The keeper then grabbed the striker’s ankle for what would have been a certain penalty had Pichlmann not hooked the ball into the net as he went to ground.

Sassuolo 4 – 2 Vicenza

A Gianluca Sansone hat trick helped fire Sassuolo to the Serie B summit with an emphatic victory over mid-table Vicenza.

With first half chances at a premium, Michele Paolucci came close to putting the visitors ahead with an outrageous strike from distance that just dipped too late and struck the underside of the bar.

Three minutes before the break, Sansone opened the scoring with a stunning long range free kick that left Vicenza keeper Alberto Frison completely helpless.

Nicolo Consolino should have doubled the advantage moments later, but somehow contrived to hook the ball over the bar from two yards out with the entire goal to aim at.

However, Sansone grabbed his second five minutes into the second half, brushing aside the attentions of Nicolas Giani and drawing Alberto Frison from his line before tucking the ball into the far corner.

Elvis Abbruscato reduced the arrears with a coolly taken penalty after Francesco Magnanelli dragged down Davide Gavazzi in the area, before Sansone sealed his hat trick with an assured left foot finish from the edge of the Vicenza box.

With visibility severely hampered by a sudden onset of mist, Nicola Rigoni stabbed the ball home from close range in the last minute to give the visitors hope of snatching a point.

It was not to be however, as Marcello Gazzola raced forward in the second minute of injury time and struck a low effort into the bottom corner to put the seal on a superb win for the Neroverdi.

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