zondag 8 april 2012

Serie A Report

AC Milan 1-2 Fiorentina
Late Amauri goal earns stunning victory and provides critical blow to title hopes of Rossoneri
Serie A leaders fail to banish their Champions League blues as they fall to a surprise defeat to at San Siro

Fiorentina celebrating

AC Milan's title aspirations have been dealt a severe blow as Fiorentina snatched a 2-1 win at San Siro on Saturday afternoon.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired the home side in front from the penalty spot, but Stevan Jovetic levelled and a late, late winner from Amauri stunned the home fans into silence, and meant that Juventus went top with a victory at Palermo later Saturday.

Milan started the game half-asleep, the visitors making the most of their hosts stupor to go close early on through the lively Jovetic - who fired a warning across Abbiati's goal after just three minutes.

At the back, the Viola appeared to be coping well with Milan's new-look strikeforce of recalled Argentinian Maxi Lopez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while further forward Serbian Ljajic was looking dangerous - firing one free-kick over from a decent position. 

Slowly, but surely, however Milan started to dominate - Ibrahimovic increasingly involved in some dangerous link-up play. Unsurprisingly, it was the Swede who had the hosts' first effort on target - his 25-yard free-kick palmed away by Artur Boruc in the Fiorentina goal - with Sulley Muntari blazing his follow-up effort over the bar. 

Fiorentina briefly flickered into life as an attacking force, but was being forced to shoot from distance - both Jovetic and Behrami blazing long-distance efforts wide of the target.

Milan's corner count was rising almost by the minute, but it looked like it needed a spark - or a helping hand - if it was to think about taking the lead. It turned out to be the latter - Lopez winning the hosts a penalty after tumbling over the flat-footed Nastasic in the area while trying to latch onto an Ibrahimovic's cross. 

Ibrahimovic stepped up confidently to drill home a low penalty, which sent Boruc the wrong way. 

Up top, Milan's strike pairing was starting to click, Ibrahimovic finding Lopez with a lovely drifting pass, which the Argentine pulled down and smacked against Boruc's left-hand post from 15 yards. 

Milan finished the half on top - Ibrahimovic making a barnstorming run though the visitor's defense only to blaze over. 

With everyone expecting Milan to coast to victory in the second half, the last thing expected was a Fiorentina goal - but one arrived within minutes of the re-start when Jovetic took advantage of a suicidally high line from the hosts to run onto De Silvestri's through ball and slot home. 

Milan was stung into action with Abate seeing one shot heroically blocked by Di Natale and Boruc pulling over a double save from Ambrosini and Emanuelson. 

However, Milan's attacking efforts carried more than a whiff of desperation and were limited to blocked shots and penalty box melees. Lopez did hit the net, but saw his header disallowed after Ibrahimovic's cross drifted out of play. 

With a frustrated Milan mentally coming to terms with dropping two points, however, Amauri played a one-two with Jovetic, muscled Mexes off the ball and slotted home to throw the Scudetto wide open. 

Milan then watched Juventus overcome Palermo away from home to leapfrog the Rossoneri to the top of the table. Fiorentina, meanwhile, will be celebrating a famous victory that moves it well clear of the bottom three.

Palermo 0-2 Juventus
Bonucci and Quagliarella send dominant Bianconeri back to the top of Serie A
Two second-half goals see the Bianconeri emerge from Sicily with victory and a one point lead in first place, leaving the Rossoneri to chase in the race for the title

Chiellini, Bonucci - Palermo-Juventus - Serie A (Getty Images)

Juventus has ascended the Serie A summit once more, with a 2-0 over Palermo at the Stadio Renzo Barbera sending it one point clear at the top of the table.

AC Milan’s shock 2-1 loss at home to Fiorentina earlier on Saturday had left the door open for Antonio Conte's men, who were presented with the chance to turn a two point deficit to the Rossoneri with a win against Bortolo Mutti’s side.

Juve dominated the contest from start to finish, but a slew of missed chances had sent the tie into halftime with the deadlock yet to be broken.

However, Juve was able to finally break Palermo's resistance 10 minutes after the restart through a headed goal by Leonardo Bonucci. Fabio Quagliarella then sealed the victory with 20 minutes to go to hand the Bianconeri the advantage in the title race, and stretch their domestic unbeaten run to 31 games.
Ex-Juve striker Amauri had done his former club a huge favor earlier in the day, with a late winner at San Siro leaving Conte’s men with the knowledge that victory in Sicily would see them reclaim top spot for the first time since February.

Indeed, Juventus seemed determined to make the most of Milan’s slip up, dominating play right from the start of the match.

Mirko Vucinic came within inches of turning home a Quagliarella cross, before the Italian striker himself sliced wide after being put clean through with only the keeper to beat.

Juve was running Palermo ragged, but its wastefulness told, as it was unable to take one of the many chances that fell its way. A mix up between Ezequiel Munoz and Emiliano Viviano left Vucinic with an open goal, but the Montenegrin could not find the target from an angle.

Martin Caceres was next to try his luck, after a surging run into the box left him with space to shoot, but his finish was woeful, and bounced out of play off his shin.

Palermo was nowhere to be found, despite the cutting edge of Conte’s men tailing off slightly as the half wore on. Pirlo tested Viviano with a pair of efforts from range as the visitors continued to search for a breakthrough.

Artuo Vidal sent a shot straight into Viviano’s arms from the edge of the box in the 50th minute with Juve looking to make headway coming out of the break.

Juve finally got its breakthrough five minutes later, after Andrea Pirlo’s corner was glanced into the far corner by Bonucci to give Juventus a priceless lead.

Palermo continued to show precious little in the attacking third, as Conte’s men continued to control possession inside their half. Vucinic cut in from the left to sting the palms of Viviano with a drive from distance as the game crossed the hour mark.

Fabrizio Miccoli caused Juve hearts to flutter as he beat Giorgio Chiellini brilliantly towards the right byline, but his drilled center across the face of goal was just too far ahead of the waiting Josip Ilicic.

However, barely a minute later, Juventus was further ahead. Substitute Alessandro Matri held the ball up well at the top of the box, before teeing up Quagliarella for a cool finish into the corner to give the visitors a two-goal cushion.

Viviano then had to be alert to tip over a dangerous cross by Pirlo in the 77th minute, with Caceres lurking at the far post.

The Palermo keeper was called into action once more to deny Alessandro Del Piero on the stroke of injury time with his legs from close range, but by that point, Juve already had the result in the bag.

Juventus now leads Milan by a single point at the top of the Serie A table, with only seven games remaining until the end of the season. Palermo meanwhile remains in 11th place, and continue to sputter in mid-table mediocrity.

Cagliari 2-2 Inter Milan
Second half Cambiasso equalizer preserves Stramaccioni's unbeaten start but Nerazzurri lose ground on Champions League spots
The Chilean forward was sent off in controversial fashion after scoring for the Sardinians, as the sides shared the spoils in pulsating Serie A encounter

Mauricio Pinilla - Cagliari

Inter came back from a goal down to secure a 2-2 draw with Cagliari at the Stadio Nereo Rocco in Trieste on Saturday. 

The Sardinians struck through goals from Davide Astori and Mauricio Pinilla, while Diego Milito continued his recent fine goalscoring form to net alongside compatriot Esteban Cambiasso. 

The Nerazzurri started brightly as Mauro Zarate tested Michael Agazzi in the opening minutes, but it was the Rossoblu who struck first. The home side took advantage of Inter's vulnerability from set pieces as Astori fought off the challenge of Andrea Ranocchia to strike into the top corner of the net. 

However, Inter responded immediately. Following some industrious play from Dejan Stankovic, Zarate teased his way into the box to lift through a fine ball to Milito and the forward turned, and slotted home to bring the two teams level. 

Both sides were encouraged by their respective coaches to attack, and this set the tone for the match. Home custodian Agazzi was again involved in the action, producing a fingertip stop to deny Cambiasso following a penetrating cross from Fredy Guarin.

Cagliari was content to attack on the counter, with Radja Nainggolan evading a host of challenges to strike from distance and trouble Luca Castellazzi, while Zarate continued to threaten for the Nerazzurri. 

The first half was played in boisterous fashion, with Mauricio Pinilla entering the referee’s notebook for an off the ball altercation with Stankovic, while the Inter man also collected a yellow later in the half. 

Massimo Ficcadenti’s men started the second half on the front foot, with Albin Ekdal forcing his way through the Inter defense only to be fouled by Cambiasso.

Cagliari nearly gained the lead once more as Alessandro Agostini’s cross eluded the Inter defense with Ribeiro heading against the post, providing an ominous warning to the Inter defense. 

The home side increased the tempo dramatically and its efforts were finally rewarded. Daniele Conti’s whipped in cross was met by Pinilla who headed home completely unmarked. From the resulting goal, the Chilean was given his marching orders for over exuberant celebrations and the hosts had to play the remainder of the match with ten men. 

The action did not stop there, as Inter again struck to level proceedings. Diego Forlan’s cross found Cambiasso who wriggled through the Cagliari defence to poke home and send the away fans into raptures. 

The remaining 20 minutes were pulsating, as both sides attacked at will. Conti forced a splendid reflex stop out of Castellazzi, firing a strong header at the veteran custodian. 

But Inter also threatened, as Zarate’s drive from distance was only just kept out by Agazzi. 
The concluding minutes to the match saw the Nerazzurri drive forward for the winning goal but ultimately fail. 

As a result, Inter is six points adrift of the last Champions League spot, while Cagliari cemented its position in mid table. 


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