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Monday September 23 2013
Bringing down the Prince of Penalties

Mario Balotelli was finally denied from the penalty spot as Napoli continued their winning start to the season. Giancarlo Rinaldi wraps up Week 4.

It took 22 attempts but a goalkeeper finally figured him out. Pepe Reina’s name will go down in Italian football history as the first man to thwart Mario Balotelli from the penalty spot in his professional career. In the process, he ended a 27-year wait for a Napoli victory away to Milan in Serie A.

It was as much a hammer blow to the Rossoneri as it was a delight to the thousands of Napoletani who had packed the San Siro. Last season Max Allegri’s men staged an amazing late-campaign rally on the back of their hitman’s spot-kicks. This time, however, the familiar cry of ‘Rigore per il Milan!’ did not bring the anticipated outcome.

By that stage the home side were already two goals behind to an early Miguel Britos strike and another from Gonzalo Higuain who has settled into Serie A in scintillating style. Balotelli did grab a beautiful consolation strike late in the game, but his frustrations spilled over after the final whistle and his prolonged complaints to the referee earned him a red card. It was a typically tempestuous night for the former Manchester City front man.

Not that followers of Rafa Benitez’s side will be interested in that. With four wins out of four, they are dreaming of a third Scudetto. And, with results which have not been achieved since the days of Diego Maradona, who can blame them?

The only side to match them are Rudi Garcia’s Roma. A victory in the capital derby was the crowning glory of his achievements so far. We all knew the Giallorossi had a better squad of players than results had shown in recent times, now they are starting to confirm it.

“We have put the church back at the centre of the village,” said the French tactician, pinching a phrase from his mother tongue. He meant that Francesco Totti and company were starting to set the record straight and it would be hard to argue with that assessment. Goals from Federico Balzaretti and Adem Ljajic were enough to see off their cousins and underline a growing confidence in their play.

“Our aim is to finish in the top five,” insisted the Roma boss. “I am ambitious too but it is too early for us to know exactly how good we are. But I like this team and so do our fans.”

“We had more chances in the first half and in the second anything could have happened – it was important to score first,” said his opposite number on the Lazio bench, Vlad Petkovic. “I am sure if we had taken our chances, things could have ended up differently. Credit to Roma but I don’t think my team let itself down.”

It was a pretty pleasant Sunday for Walter Mazzarri as his new Inter scaled impressive heights against Sassuolo. A seven-goal thumping highlighted both the progress the Nerazzurri have made and the glaring inadequacies of last year’s Serie B champions. If Massimo Moratti was looking to clinch the sale of his club, then this was a pretty perfect sweetener.

Things got even better with the return of Il Principe, Diego Milito, to action more than seven months after being ruled out with injury. That he capped it with a couple of goals made it all the more remarkable. It made for a match which must have felt like fine dining for Inter fans after a long spell making do with more humble fare.

And yet, it seems, there must always be a bum note in every Sunday Serie A symphony. Having seen fans banned from a section of the San Siro due to racist chanting during the Derby d’Italia, the Milanese side’s travelling support decided to get in on the act. An unsavoury rendition of a nasty number about Naples and Neapolitans was something everyone could have lived without. You can give some fans great results, it would appear, but you can’t provide them with much common sense or common decency.

Up in Turin, meanwhile, there was a sighting of the lesser-spotted Fernando Llorente to help keep Juve on pace for a third Scudetto in a row but Verona surely made them sweat. Having looked limp in Europe, the Bianconeri were not at their best to see off the boys from the Bentegodi. They slipped behind to a Fabrizio Cacciatore strike but Carlitos Tevez and the Spanish hitman turned things round in five frenzied minutes before half-time. It was enough to secure the win.

The result and performance were probably reassuring and concerning to Antonio Conte in equal measure. These are the kind of games where the three points can be more important than any sparkling football. If you can get a win without hitting top form, then you know your team has both great resilience and room for improvement.

Another side to win without really shining were the last member of Calcio’s top five – Fiorentina. Vincenzo Montella’s men had their scares on the road to Atalanta but won out in the end. A header off the crossbar by surprise starter Rafal Wolski was tapped home by Mati Fernandez for the opener and Giuseppe Rossi – of whom so much is expected in Mario Gomez’s absence – clinched the victory with a neat shot on the turn. Both Viola fans and Italy boss Cesare Prandelli will have been smiling.

Other weekend winners were Chievo and Torino who gave their League positions a more healthy look with victories over Udinese and Bologna respectively. Elsewhere, Cagliari and Sampdoria, Genoa and Livorno and Catania and Parma all shared the spoils. For the Sicilian side it was the first point they have got on the board during a pretty miserable start to the season after being a revelation in recent years. Their only consolation may have come from a Sassuolo side which, unfortunately, looks like it might be capable of beating all sorts of negative records for Serie A.

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Have your say...
of course ive watched him play for man utd and ive never actually seen him go past anyone ive yes he can whip a ball in and erm he can whip a ball in hardly pulling up any trees there hes a average player that has made a killing at the game for being ordinary.as i said struggled at madrid he was over rated in fairness to him he is not the only one there are many who get a huge tag and i dont see why wilshire is another one that has done nothing to get hes status that he has at the present.
on the 26th September, 2013 at 2:27pm
@paul.
Your my new best friend. Someone who clearly understands football!
on the 26th September, 2013 at 8:38am
@Interista23

Prove it? LOL you're being denial. You're team violating Sporting Fraud and the law couldn't do anything with it because the statutory limitations. You're INcheaTER MILAN team are dirtier than Calciopoli itself. Everybody has been punished and yet your team go freely without punishment. Oh by the way we did glad to see STRAMA SACKED ON THE PITCH!
on the 26th September, 2013 at 4:18am
@paul

Have you even watched him play for Man U????!!
on the 25th September, 2013 at 11:19pm
david beckham has to be one of the most over rated footballers of all time another average player that has made a lot of money for being mediocre,couldn't get in the Madrid team never won anything at international level and hes spoilt brat behavior possibly cost england a place in the next round in 98.there is no comparison between beckham and pirlo another english fraud over rated by the press.
on the 25th September, 2013 at 7:24pm
@fakexchamp, prove it ladro. By the way, you forgot your fave anti-Inter mantra; on the pitch!
on the 25th September, 2013 at 5:23pm
@mm

Yeah I still stand by that the vision of the game between beckham and pirlo is similar. Crosses and free kicks too. I don't care how many Calvin kleins add he's done the guy was a great football player. Noone can deny thay. At least becks didn't need 4-5 touches before passing on letting the ball to.
on the 25th September, 2013 at 1:47pm
@paul. Your a breath of fresh air. Finally someone understands!!! I wouldnt listen to viktor has a number of football issues thats the man that said pirlo and beckham were the same level.. I mean based on that alone I would listen to much he has to say on matters of football. But I praise him for being a milanista atleast!!!!
on the 25th September, 2013 at 11:36am
Its going to be a tough game tonight for us against Samp. Another win would be amazing and I am hopeful we can get it. Forza Roma. Ac Milan are missing key players which is effecting their performances. I agree with Dan, Abbiati's form is worrying. They also really need to address the defense in January transfer window. Insigne, Rossi and Balo would be some attack. I keep saying it but I'd like Quags to get a call, he would be a starter in most other teams. I was very upset Roma didn't get him.
on the 25th September, 2013 at 10:37am
@ ANONYMOUS - YOU MUST BE MAD IF YOU THINK NAPOLI WILL GET FURTHER THEN THE 2ND ROUND IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WILL BE LUCKY TO MAKE IT OUT THIER GROUP NOT BECAUSE OF THE SIDE THEY ARE BUT BECAUSE OF THE GROUP THEY ARE IN AND THE LIMITED EXPIERENCE IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE BE REALISTIC WHY MUST EVERYONE BASH OTHER SIDES JUST BE FANS WHY MOCK!!!
on the 25th September, 2013 at 7:31am
roma is not winning serie A .
on the 25th September, 2013 at 5:04am
@Interista23

And you mugged Serie A, UEFA, for hiding the evidence until statutory limitations comes in place. You're team supposed to be in Lega Pro for violating sporting fraud. Bravo INcheaTER MILAN.
on the 25th September, 2013 at 4:27am
@viktor...few mins' to go and Siena is up by a goal..you don't need a loss,you don't need a draw..only a win would do..Viola are momentarily in 3rd position..Milan have searched for 86mins and couldn't find a goal and what happens Milan finds 2 goals in 3 minutes..and u're telling Interista he is just bitter..well let's see how Milan intends to do it this season..and mind you Inter would do the double against you at the Meazza this season
Forza Viola
on the 25th September, 2013 at 2:36am
@interista

Do you know how many knocks balotelli gets every game. I don't know bout you but I watched and played fotboll for the last 22 years. Throughout that period I've seen few players who gets chopped down as much as balotelli. Some pent were debatable but overall he got was he deserved. Bringing up robbed is just a pathetic attempt to talk down on a team. Wanna talk robbed! Remember the year before. Now who got robbed??! Buffon picked up the ball 1meter inside of he's own goal. Gz
on the 24th September, 2013 at 11:28pm
This is the year ROMA will prove all doubters wrong!! With no European competition, they are a team to recon with. Remember where you heard it. Forza Roma!!
on the 24th September, 2013 at 10:43pm
i don't think there are any racists here its a cold hard fact balotelli lets himself down and the team almost every week.if he concentrated on hes game we all would see the best of him but unfortunately he does not.i think he will fall by the way side and end up on the scrap heap due to hes own making. the club will always be there the player wont he should try to remember this fans are fickle and the club will always come first before the player in their eyes,
on the 24th September, 2013 at 10:40pm
@Viktor, I'll tell you exactly what Im talkin bout, before xmas Milan were nowhere, then january onwards, Balo arrives, Balo dives, and the rest is history. Without inumerable shocking penalty decisions Milan would never have made 3rd. Im not bitter by the way but I would'v been if I was a Viola fan cos they were mugged by your mob.
on the 24th September, 2013 at 9:03pm
Look at insigne, gabbiadini,okaka, borini, ogbonna, destro... all at the prime age 20 (ISH). These players have all been told they must grow up but not bcoz they jump around and want to fight everyone, but bcoz they are young and need to grow into their role but all we hear is balo needs to grow but he needs to grow in other ways mentally- hes 21 years old he will never change. Evrry game we sit and wonder if wel finish with 11men! That ppl is not what youd expect from a 'world class' player
on the 24th September, 2013 at 7:36pm
@viktor
I dont laugh at the fact he missed a penalty I laugh that we are sat here placing the hopes of milan and italy on this waste of space. Balo has a super penalty record not arguing that, I am arguing that this MAN is mental, mancini eventually gave up on him. Mourinho said in a press conference that balo is mental. Wake up!! How much special treatment does he need?? You cant have a player like that in any team, hes 21 not 12!! Sick of listen to race and age. He needs help not sypathy!
on the 24th September, 2013 at 7:18pm
@interista

We cheated our way to the third?? What the hell are you talking about. Stop being bitter cause of your terrible season last year. Look at the bright side you're doing better this year. Guess its a huge plus you're not even in Europe.

Mark my words they will be up in the top 5 like always
on the 24th September, 2013 at 5:02pm
@Osvaldosucks, I've said before that the 12 million spent on Matri should have gone towards a decent CB. So they did have some cash to spend, but IMO, spent it in the wrong area. They will have a very tough time qualifying for the European spots. Sam, I'd like to see Insigne, Rossi, & Balotelli all start for Italy. It's good to see the southern sides doing well, I hope either Roma or Napoli can win the title.
on the 24th September, 2013 at 3:54pm
Sadly Milan played just as good as Napoli. Napoli had 4 shots on goals throughout the entire game Milan had a lot more. Higuin goal should have been stopped. Balo got 3 games for what, complained after the game? Was too harsh. Milan was extremely close of getting another penalty too. I love how haters (maybe the real rasists) laugh about balo misses a penalty. 21/22 is pretty solid convertion rate.
on the 24th September, 2013 at 2:23pm
@Marq, don't get me wrong, it'l be immensely hard to keep this up all season, but my point bout the critics stands, everybody and their mothers wrote us off pre-season, many saying we'd actualy get worse, but look at us now. Also, mark my words, Milan will not make the euro places, they fluked/cheated their way to 3rd last season but not this time.
on the 24th September, 2013 at 2:02pm
Forza Roma! thank god Zeman is gone. What a wasted year. Now back to business.

Balotelli will be out of Milan inside of 18 months. His attitude will defeat him unfortunately.

Napoli is impressive. I did not expect this after Cavani left.
on the 24th September, 2013 at 1:48pm
I thought Milan and Balotelli played well but with all their injury problems, I am quite bemused that Robinho is sat on the bench and with the team losing 2-0 at home, was it necessary to have Muntari and De Jong on the field? As for Napoli they are doing very well and its great to see a manager using his strengths in attack as Insigne is always a better option than Pandev. Higuain has been brilliant and even Callejon is playing well.
on the 24th September, 2013 at 1:24pm
@Interista23,don't get excited yet,34games still to go & if I remember u were among the contenders when Milan were 15th placed.they ended 3rd and you ended..?
Pizzaro protested & saw red,Balo did & it becomes news.it pains me to know he might possibly sit out the Juve game,but I wish he'd play so that the faithfulls will see that the hype on paper is not equal to performance on the pitch.Balo is an actor
I need a specialist for Gomez.my regards to Rossi.the best yet to come
Forza Viola
on the 23rd September, 2013 at 8:39pm
Forza Napoli! Although I have to say that Balotelli was the best man on the pitch until he got sent off. What a shame he could not hold his composure for a few more mins. Harsh the 3 match ban....but then I am Balotelli fan. I want to shout out loud but ill wait to Napoli thrash Inter. My 9 yr old boy little league team would trouble Sassuolo! On a different subject I'm sure I'm not the only one who is really pleased that Giuseppe Rossi is back on form as he deserves the call up for Italia.
on the 23rd September, 2013 at 8:24pm
Napoli: The best team in Serie A by far, and Italy's only hope in the Champions League.
on the 23rd September, 2013 at 6:48pm
@Dan Giambrone: Do you realize how difficult it is to sign quality defenders on a free transfer ?? but you also have to understand that AC Milan is a team that replaces Thiago Silva with Acerbi - and Acerbi cost 4 mill - that's more than Mexes, Bonera and Silvestre put together! But don't worry, it's the AC Milan fans that are subsidizing allamony to berlusconi's ex-wife so keep it up! Maybe next year Shevcenko will play up front with Ballotelli and nesta on Defense.....
on the 23rd September, 2013 at 6:39pm
You write here that Inter fans were signing racist songs about Naples, which is of course terrible. But Inter were playing Sassuolo, from the north of Italy. AC Milan were playing Napoli and according to another article on this site their fans were embarrassing themselves with racist singing and the Cura Sud will be shut for their next home game against Sampdoria. Please point the finger at the real culprits next time! [Both fans sang about Napoli]
on the 23rd September, 2013 at 6:22pm

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