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Monday December 23 2013
In Rod We Trust

It took a moment of divine skill to decide a dour Derby della Madonnina. Giancarlo Rinaldi analyses the impact of a match and a glorious goal which put Inter fans in paradise.

It felt like spotting a fleck of gold in a muddy stream or finding caviar on the menu at a greasy spoon cafe. In a rough and tumble Milanese derby, Rodrigo Palacio produced an exquisite finish to win the game. It looked as out of place as a Shakespearean actor in your child’s school show.

His delicious back-heel had been preceded by 85 minutes of car-crash Calcio. It was tense and tetchy and, in its own way, hard to take your eyes off. A red card looked more likely than a beautiful match-winning goal but, in the end, we got both with Sulley Muntari sent off for shoving Zdravko Kuzmanovic in the dying minutes.

Milan started off surprisingly well for the team sitting so much further down the table. Inter looked disjointed and were forced to surrender the initiative to the Rossoneri. But Max Allegri’s men could not make their territorial advantage count and then they paid the price as they tired late in the match. Their League position now looks even more precarious than the chief executive alliance between Adriano Galliani and Barbara Berlusconi.

Of course, it was all smiles on the other half of the city for new Inter chief Erick Thohir attending his first derby since taking over the club. His side felt aggrieved at not being given a penalty for a Cristian Zapata foul on Palacio and maybe that fuelled their better second half. Walter Mazzarri described it as a “slap” which provoked a reaction in his team. “They don’t give us penalties anyway,” he commented with a wry smile.

“It’s the most important goal of my career in the biggest derby in the world,” beamed a delighted Palacio in post-match interviews. “These games are always very important - now we can go on our holidays and be happy.” Inter sit five points off the Champions League places but, as their Coach would admit, they remain a work in progress.

Although it took one gem to decide the Madonnina, they were throwing out goals like confetti at a wedding in the rest of the Serie A. No fewer than four sides managed a poker of goals with one of them, almost inevitably, being this suffocating Juve side. The Bianconeri have dropped just five points so far this campaign - three of them in that incredible blackout in Florence.

Sunday’s sacrificial lambs were Atalanta who did their best to make a game of it after slipping behind early to Carlos Tevez’s 11th League goal of the season. The Argentinian is already the highest Serie A scorer for the Bianconeri in the Antonio Conte era. He looks good for at least 20 this term – with the best will in the world, that’s a contribution Alessandro Matri was never going to provide.

The Bergamo side did draw level and, in the process, thwart Gigi Buffon’s dreams of moving up to third place in the all-time list of time without conceding a goal in Italy’s top Division. Maxi Moralez ended that run at 745 minutes – enough to take him to sixth spot. Not a bad answer to anyone who thought he was finished.

The reigning champs powered on after his personal setback, however. Paul Pogba, Fernando Llorente and Arturo Vidal all struck in the second half for an emphatic victory. The winter champion’s crown is close at hand. Only Roma - who visit the Juventus Stadium when hostilities resume in January - can deny them the lead of Serie A at its halfway stage.

The Giallorossi were dishing out a thrashing of their own at home to ever-more-doomed Catania. With Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman missing there were those who thought Rudi Garcia’s side might struggle. They had not figured on defender turned goal-grabber Mehdi Benatia. He bagged a double which makes him his team’s joint top scorer in the League, with Gervinho and Mattia Destro completing the rout. The young striker’s goal came courtesy of a contender for howler of the week from the Sicilian’s goalkeeper, Alberto Frison.

The other four-goal teams were this term’s surprise packages, Verona and Torino. At the Stadio Bentegodi, Luca Toni rolled back the years yet again with a double to complete a demolition of Lazio. A Lucas Biglia strike had cancelled out the big striker’s opener but Hellas would not be denied as Juan Iturbe and Romulo restored the lead before their veteran bomber put the game beyond doubt. That’s seven for the season and only Ebeneezer Scrooge himself could suppress a smile every time he wheels away with his trademark celebration. Maybe Vlad Petkovic would not share that sentiment.

In Turin it was the Alessio Cerci show once again as he inspired a come-from-behind triumph after Cyril Thereau had put Chievo ahead. Ciro Immobile got two goals but the floppy-fringed winger was at the heart of almost everything the Granata did. He crowned his performance with a pinpoint finish that felt like a reminder bleep on Cesare Prandelli’s mobile phone.

It was harder work for Fiorentina, looking to take advantage of Napoli’s Saturday night draw in Sardinia to narrow the gap on third place. The Viola missed the zest, drive and fancy footwork worthy of Strictly Come Dancing they usually get from Juan Cuadrado. Instead, it took a sweet, low drive from Giuseppe Rossi late in the game to see off Sassuolo. His celebration roar summed up the relief felt among about 4,000 Florentine fans who travelled to the game.

The most significant result at the bottom end of the table was probably Bologna’s oxygen-supplying success over Genoa thanks to an Alessandro Diamanti strike. It catapulted Stefano Pioli’s side out of the bottom three and perhaps put plans of replacing him with Roberto Baggio on hold. Rodrigo Palacio’s place as Serie A’s most important ponytail is safe for the time being.

Udinese saw off Livorno on Saturday evening while Samp and Parma shared the spoils on Sunday to complete the weekend’s scorelines. Italian football takes its winter break after another round of matches without a single goalless draw. Hopefully that entertaining streak is something to build on in 2014.

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Have your say...
Jimmy, I hope the the likes of Immobile, Cerci, & Destro continue to do well. I'd rather see these players in the squad instead of Osvaldo & Gilardino. As for Balotelli, he has to be the most frustrating player that I have ever seen. He has great potential, but we only see flashes of it because of his poor temperament, & lack of focus, hunger, & consistency. CP seems to get better performances out of him, but is this because of the coach or Balotelli's pride in playing for Italy?
on the 24th December, 2013 at 10:24am
Milan are back on track and the way they're pkaying shows it clearly. Derbies are usually surprising and palacio takes much of the credit for that surprise. Nevertheless Milan are improving and it won't be long untill they look again like giants.
on the 24th December, 2013 at 8:43am
So happy inter won, AC is going nowhere. I just hope inter brings in some Italians during the transfer market
on the 24th December, 2013 at 6:51am
As I said on the other blog for the new year I would like to see Allegri/a new manager try the following formation:
Abbiati/Gabriel/Amelia

De Sciglio/Zaccardo Zapata/Silvestre Rami/Bonera Constant/Emanuelson

De Jong/Muntari Poli/Montolivo/Cristante

Abate/Brsa Kaka/Honda/Saponara El Shaaraway/Niang

Balotelli/Pazzini/Matri

Anyone not listed above needs to be either sold or loaned
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 9:59pm
As for Allegri this Milan team have to be better than Cagliari, Udinese, Lazio, Genoa, Parma, Torino and Verona all teams above us in the table. There's really no excuses. Allegri's formation is so bad it actually works to cancel out players so we have less players. It's quite a remarkable achievement. So Muntari and De Jong cancel each other out since they're both DMs with limited mobility and so do Kaka and Saponara. Meaning Milan have 2 less players. It's quite achievement.
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 9:54pm
I think most people on here have made pretty valid points about the stupidity to play Saponara, the stupidity to play Muntari and the general stupidity. We now have another transfer window where Galliani will cause further chaos making random free signings or glory signings without any thought as to any strategy, tactics or youth development. Whatever you think of Allegri he had figured out some kind of formation by the end of last season. Then Galliani decided we'd play a different formation.
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 9:49pm
@mustafa

So your saying inter did a better game?? C'mon let's be honest here Milan could have scored easily 1-3 goals. They had some great efforts. Let's look at stats Milan got must shots on goal of all team in seria a (fact) but it doesn't really matter it's like we're cursed this season. Yes I agree I want allegri to leave Milan is too big of a club for him. Period.
Milan played for 75 mins inter played defensive til that point then attacked, anyone who knows football could see that.
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 8:23pm
3 points is what matter! all credit to inter
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 6:13pm
Even though I'm a Juve fan, I just have to point out the season the strikers on the other side of town are putting in at Torino. Cerci and Immobile should be included in World Cup Team. They contiune to put on solid displays, while Balotelli is too busy worrying about his shoes.
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 5:40pm
"Only Roma - who visit the Juventus Stadium when hostilities resume in January - can deny them the lead of Serie A at its halfway stage." How's that possible, with Juve's 5-point advantage over Roma? [FI - because there are two games left until halfway stage. Juve-Roma, Cagliari-Juve, Roma-Genoa.]
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 3:20pm
@ Viktoria

" Saying "the foul of palacio" is plain wrong, yes he brought him down but got the ball first, that's all that matters. Horrendous performance by ref too, he allowed NOTHING. "

You're more pathetic than Allegri's excuses after every game. He says let's wait for 2014, I say continue like this and Serie B awaits you. Change him !
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 1:33pm
Viktor, apparently you didn't watch the same game, because you're completely wrong. Inter put the pressure on Milan until about 10 minutes, then the remaining first half Milan put on the pressure and Inter couldn't do much, its not that they were satisfied with the draw, credit goes to Milan for not letting Inter get out of their half for those 35 minutes. Second half was different, Milan were clearly tired and the majority of the attacking came from Inter, it was inevitable they would score.
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 1:30pm
Fielding Saponara was a pure idiocy. I don't know how the heck Allegri thinks of things! It was clear that Inter breaking-point was in Taider and Zanetti who both had poor match and he should've started the match with the formation he ended it with. It's no fluke Inter got the goal when they were replaced. This is becoming embarrassingly devastating for Milan. Coach has to be replaced. It will temporalriy solve some of the problems Milan have.
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 1:29pm
It was almost as if Allegri was setting up Sap to fail, so that this would justify his potential January exit. Sap actually did quite well. Milan's central midfield is too workman-like. Muntari's decision making is abysmal-too many long shots. The biggest problem is Allegri. He is failing on so many levels & it really is time for him to go. Granted, this is not a great Milan squad, but IMO, it should still be in the top 6.
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 1:10pm
Milan were unlucky, but I'm not buying the 'tired' excuse. Balotelli continues to frustrate: his pathetic dive (which led to an Inter counter & resulting goal), was cringeworthy. Then we have the clown Allegri. One minute he claims that he has too many players, then he blames fatigue/injuries because he has too few players available to him. As for the Saponara decision?? What was Allegri thinking?! Saponara & Cristante should have had more 1st team action by now. Tbc
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 12:56pm
@discusted

They used matri to take off the massive pressure balotelli had. Also they wanted kaka as trequarista so they had to sub saponara. I think saponara did really well considering it was he's first start of the season and he's still very young. The player I can't stand is muntari, he needs to go. Montilivo, de jong, ses, Honda, kaka balo. Def is still debatable
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 12:32pm
milan playd an attacking formation and did not score. inter attacked much less but risked scoring every time. instead of resting his tired team and being happy with a point, allegri sent in matri, another striker. how can you hand a first start to a youngster like saponara in such a difficult match? and insist with constant who is clearly out of his league? if accoridng to lippi allegri is one o the best italian coaches, the rest must be a miserable lot.
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 12:01pm
"Milan started off surprisingly well"

Not sure we watched the same game. Inter played or 75 minutes with 10 men defensive and ONLY worked on counter attacks. Im truly not saying this cause im biased to milan but I was stunned of the lack of offensive play Inter provided. It was like they were satisfied with a draw. Saying "the foul of palacio" is plain wrong, yes he brought him down but got the ball first, that's all that matters. Horrendous performance by ref too, he allowed NOTHING.
on the 23rd December, 2013 at 10:29am

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