Hellas Verona marked their return to competitive football on Saturday evening with a 2-1 victory at home to Cagliari in Serie A, enhancing their hopes of qualifying for Europe next season and also plunging the Isolani into a greater on-field crisis.
A first half brace from Samuel Di Carmine was enough to give the northern Italian side the victory while Giovanni Simeone’s goal for the Sardinians was nothing more than a consolation.
Coach Ivan Juric has created a Hellas Verona team that is tough to beat on their home turf, and it proved to be Cagliari debut to forget for his opposite number Walter Zenga, whose coaching career already contrasted with his far more successful days as a player.
THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR THE MASTINI
Hellas Verona have have been a tough proposition at the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi throughout the 2019/20 Serie A, winning seven out of 13 home matches so far, and they have the fourth-best home record with 24 points.
It was the Veronese side that opened the scoring in the 14th minute through Di Carmine and they have won every single home match in which they have taken the lead. The result against Cagliari was their fourth consecutive home victory in Italy’s top flight and the Mastini had not achieved that since November 2013.
Goals are at a premium for Hellas Verona, scoring just 31 times in 26 Serie A matches, and with his brace, he is now the Gialloblu’s leading goalscorer for the season with five strikes. Juric’s team are strong defensively though, conceding just 27 times during the campaign, and they only committed four fouls on Saturday night compared to the Isolani’s 19.
HIATUS DUE TO PANDEMIC NOT ENOUGH TO STOP THE ROT AT CAGLIARI
After Cagliari were defeated 4-3 by Roma on March 1, Rolando Maran received his marching orders, and he was replaced by journeyman coach Walter Zenga, who had suffered relegation to Serie B when he last coached in Serie A in 2017/18.
His return to coaching at the highest level in Italy started with an undesirable result away to Verona, and the defeat continued a dismal run of 12 consecutive league matches without a victory, the first time the Isolani have done that since 2010.
It seems that the COVID-19 outbreak has not done anything to halt this on-field crisis nor did Giovanni Simeone scoring his first Serie A goal in an away fixture since September 2019. The Sardinian side have not won in the league since December 2, 2019, when they came back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 against Sampdoria.
Zenga had an illustrious career as a player, winning numerous honours playing in goal for Inter and he represented Italy at the 1990 World Cup, but he is turning into a pariah due to his lack of success as a tactician.
He had a short spell at Venezia in Serie B in 2018/19, and he has not finished higher than 15th in Serie A, achieving that with Catania in 2008/09. Aside from his reputation as a player, it is far easier to play a game of Jenga than to find another reason why Zenga is still hired by clubs in Italy’s top flight.