Thursday, February 22, 2024

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Italian Serie A review – Pato-‘n’ the Beck, and Chelsea’s lament

All eyes were on the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday night as the pick of the weekend’s fixtures also saw the debut of the world’s most marketable player.  


David Beckham’s first game for Milan was against AS Roma and the omnipresent fanfare that accompanies brand-Beckham was at its usual fever pitch.  



Prior to the game The Mediterranian Murdoch/ AC Milan owner/ Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, even interrupted a political speech to hint at manager Carol Ancelotti's plans: "Since he is not 100%, I would put him on in the second half when the Roma players are tired." 


What is it they say about trusting politicians? Beckham played from the start. 


Milan fell behind in the 23rd minute thanks to Roma’s Mirko Vucinic. After some tentative opening exchanges, the Montenegrin star received the ball in the box and with a swift swivel he left Marek Jankulovski floundering and slotted the ball past a helpless Chrisitain Abiatti.  


It remained 1-0 until Milan leveled three minutes after the interval. Some good work on the left by Kaka allowed him to cross low and hard across the six-yard-box, putting the ball on a plate for his young compatriot, Alexandre Pato, to slot home. 


Although Milan are seen as a nursing home for former greats, in Pato they have one of the brightest prospects in world football, and it was his star that shone brightest.  


Still only 19-years-old, the Brazilian has recently begun to show the kind of form he is capable of, following his EUR22m move from Brazilian side Internacional this time last year. 


His second goal (50secs) in the 53rd minute was undoubtedly had the hallmark of a world class talent. After picking up the ball just inside his the opponent’s half he swept past a well-positioned Philip Mexes and dinked home a sublime finish over Alexander Doni from an acute angle. 


Alas, it was not to be a dream start to Beckham’s short stint and Milan’s new year. In the 71st minute some poor defending left the ball bouncing across Milan’s 18-yard-box upon which Vucinic pounced to stoop and generate enough power to head home his second of the game.  


Although there were doubts about his match fitness, Beckham played nearly the entire game, only to be replaced by Mattieu Flamini in the 89th minute. The Englishman held his central midfield berth well alongside Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf, linking up well with Ronaldinho and Kaka floating further upfield.  


Although he put some decent crosses into the box, with only the slight frame of Pato to aim for, it’s likely the return of the more bullish Marco Borriello will prove more fruitful. 


Ultimately, the draw did little for either team. Roma still languish in 11th after their dreadful start to the season, whilst Milan remain 9-points behind their city rivals having missed a chance to close the gap. 


It is little wonder Jose Mourinho left for his Christmas holidays bemoaning the three week gap in fixtures. Inter went in to the break on the back of 8 straight victories, having won every domestic fixture since October.  


However, their flow has clearly been interrupted and they were far less impressive on their return. 


The Nerazzurri were lucky to get a point against Cagliari after falling behind to a strike from their own player, the on-loan Robert Acquafresca, in the 65th minute.  


They were fortunate not to be two behind five minutes later when Brazilian, Jeda, layed the ball on a plate for Davide Biondini, whose open shot from just inside the box curled agonizingly wide. 


In the end it was left to Inter’s go-to-man, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to level the scores. Hernan Crespo was mainly to thank for the goal after putting the ball on a plate for the gangly Swede to tap in following a meandering run and cross.  


Inter’s slip-up enabled Juventus to close the gap at the top to four points with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Siena at the Stadio delle Alpi.  


Siena had the better of the opening exchanges and were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty after the ball appeared to have struck Nicola Legrottaglie’s arm in the box.  


However, it was Juventus who took the lead thanks to a sublime free-kick from Allessandro Del Piero in the 32nd minute.  


In spite of chances at both ends during the second half, the scores stayed the same.  


The result sees the title race between the two former Chelsea managers right back on, whilst further north in Europe their former employer’s season is falling apart. In case Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri don’t know, I think it’s called schadenfreude.            


Results: Inter Milan 1-1 Cagliari, Genoa 3-0 Torino, Undinese 1-1 Sampdoria, Roma 2-2 Milan, Reginna 2-3 Lazio, Palermo 3-2 Atalanta, Napoli 1-0 Catania, Juventus 1-0 Siena, Fiorentina 1-2 Lecce, Bologna 1-1 Chievo 



1 - Inter Milan 43

2 - Juventus 39

3 - AC Milan 34

4 - Napoli 33

5 - Genoa 32

6 - Fiorentina 32

7 - Lazio 30

8 - Palermo 26

9 - Catania 25

10 - Atalanta 24

11 - Roma 24

12 - Udinese 23

13 - Cagliari 22

14 - Sampdoria 20

15 - Siena 19

16 - Lecce 17

17 - Bologna 16

18 - Torino 15

19 - Reggina 13

20 - Chievo 10

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