Balotelli brillance leads Milan to victory, Week 24 round-up

SerieA

Friday 14th and Saturday 15th February

The brilliance of Mario Balotelli broke Bologna hearts on St. Valentine’s Day, as AC Milan bounced back from their 3-1 defeat at Napoli to record a morale-boosting 1-0 win at the San Siro.

Milan had pressed for most of the game against Bologna, but found a resolute Bologna back line well marshalled and able to repel the Rossonieri’s ineffective attacks.

Indeed, the visitors almost snatched the lead twice in the second half when Jonathan Cristaldo’s volley flashed inches wide and then Christian Abbiati produced a fine save from a Lazaros Christodoulopoulos shot.

With just five minutes left, it looked like Milan would drop yet more points until Balotelli’s brilliant intervention. The Italian striker collected the ball midway inside the Bologna half and sent a dipping half volley into the top corner from fully 35 yards, giving the Bologna keeper Curci no chance.

On Saturday a rare win on the road for Inter Milan dented Fiorentina’s Champions League hopes and gave the visitors a real chance of hauling in the home side, who now lie just five points ahead of them in the table after 24 league games.

The visitors began well against a weary-looking Fiorentina, who seemed to be paying the penalty for their midweek Coppa Italia victory over Udinese. Palacio came close to opening the scoring early on with a fine shot which hit the post and bounced to safety.

Inter spurned several other good chances in a fine opening half hour of the game for the visitors before they finally took the lead. Guarin’s lofted pass finding Palacio who controlled well on his chest before turning and shooting home past Neto.

After a lacklustre first half display, Fiorentina fans were expecting a much improved 2nd half performance and they got the response they wanted just seconds after the restart after Handanovic made a real mess of dealing with Cuadrado’s shot, allowing the ball under his dive and into the net.

The home side could then have taken the lead, when Joaquin missed a glorious chance after Handanovic missed Cuadrado’s cross but the Spaniard missed with the goal at his mercy.

The key moment in the second half though came when Walter Mazzari took off Milito and replaced him with Icardi for the visitors and just a few minutes later, that decision paid off handsomely.

The substitute striker controlled a cross from Nagatomo well before shooting past Neto to put Inter back in front. It was Icardi’s first goal since September.

Fiorentina almost levelled late on but a brave block by Hernanes stopped Ilicic from levelling for the home side.

Sunday February 16th

On Sunday, the top three in the table all were in action and all recorded important wins to keep up their hopes for the Scudetto and Champions League football.

A goal in each half from Blerim Dzemailli and Lorenzo Insigne saw Napoli ease to a 2-0 win at Sassuolo, though the Neapolitans delight at the three points will have been tempered by Gonzalo Higuain picking up an injury.

Juventus meanwhile faced off against a Chievo side who had clearly come to try and snatch a point from their trip to Turin by packing their defence, but it was a tactic which failed to produce the desired result.

Juve went in front on 17 minutes thanks to Kwadwo Asamoah’s beautifully struck opener, which he curled into the net from just outside the box.

Claudio Marchiso doubled that advantage 12 minutes later, when he followed in Pirlo’s free kick, which Agazzi could only push out, for the returning Italian international to slam into the net.

After that, Chievo began to rally and they pulled one back on 51 minutes when Lichsteiner’s clearance cannoned back of Cacares, over the head of Buffon and into the net for a somewhat farcical goal.

Juventus however restored their two-goal lead just six minutes later when Pirlo’s corner was headed home from close range by the Spaniard Llorente.

In the capital, Roma got back to winning ways with a thumping 3-0 victory over Sampdoria in the evening kick off.

The home side dominated the first half but were guilty of wasting a host of chances, with Ivory Coast international Gervinho, the biggest culprit. Yet just before half time, after Roma had wasted another gilt-edged chance a corner found the head of Destro who headed into the net to give the home side the lead that their first half dominance deserved.

The goal eased the pressure on the home side and on 54 minutes, Pjanic fired through a dismal Sampdoria wall to put the home side 2-0 up, then just three minutes later Destro added his second of the game, firing high into the net from close range.

Gastaldello’s sending off for a poor tackle on Strootman in midfield summed up a miserable day for Sampdoria and left them to play the final minutes with ten men.

In other games, Genoa came from 2-0 and 3-1 behind to earn a 3-3 draw at home to Udinese in a pulsating clash. Basta and Bruno Fernandes put Udinese in control, before Konate pulled one back right on half time for the home side.

A Muriel penalty three minutes into the second half put Udinese back in control, but two goals from veteran striker Alberto Gilardino earned Genoa a point.

Parma thumped Atalanta 4-0 in Bergamo, an unusual result given Atalanta’s decent home record. Cristian Molinaro put the visitors in front on nine minutes before three goals in the last 15 minutes, from Cassano, Schellotto and an own goal from Benalouane, gave Parma a convincing win.

There was drama too on Sardinia where the home side Cagliari had one player sent off and the visitors Livorno two during a stormy 2-1 win for Livorno. Emerson and Paulinho putting the visitors 2-0 up before Nene pulled one back for the home side.

Cagliari then had Conti sent off on 71 minutes before Livorno saw Checcherini and Benaissi sent off in a stormy last five minutes of the game, which they held on to edge a vital victory.

In the final game of Sunday, Catania stormed off the bottom of Serie A thanks to a surprising 3-1 victory over Lazio.

A goal after just one minute from Izco put the home side in control and though Mauri levelled for Lazio just before half time, second half strikes from Spolli and Peruzzi gave Catania a much needed victory and ended Lazio’s run of six games without defeat.

Verona and Torino face off in Monday night’s game.

STANDINGS

140217 - SerieA

League table courtesy of FIFA.com

BenHolmes

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