Straight from the dark heart of Italy
RESULTS Sat Feb 6 Livorno 1-1 Juventus, Palermo 2-1 Parma Sun Feb 7 Atalanta 1-0 Bari, Bologna 0-0 Milan, Fiorentina 0-1 Roma, Genoa 1-0 Chievo, Internazionale 3-0 Cagliari, Lazio 0-1 Catania, Siena 1-2 Sampdoria, Udinese 3-1 Napoli
NEWS, Sun Feb 7: Inter juggernaut rolls on
Sunday in Italy used to be so simple: church in the morning, football in the afternoon and then off to savour mamma’s home cooking.
Times have changed: only the aged listen to the pulpit and matches are spread throughout the weekend - and this coming week on a Friday - leaving the fabric of Italian life held together only by pasta.
Maybe Nicola Legrottaglie and Edinson Cavani were attempting to spread the word on Saturday evening when, after scoring vital goals in their respective matches, they whipped up their shirts to reveal their allegiance to Jesus.
Legrottaglie may have saved Juve from possible defeat at Livorno but nothing much has changed under Alberto Zaccheroni except that the Old Lady now plays three at the back and has all the makings of a solid, upper mid-table side.
Cavani’s act for the Almighty certainly helped Palermo remain in the hunt for a European spot in what was a surreal evening in Sicily against Parma.
It started with visiting coach Francesco Guidolin bursting into tears after receiving a rousing welcome back – the fans no doubt remembering his four years of on and off penance at the priory of Maurizio Zamparini.
The game ended in a similar over-emotional manner, with Palermo midfielder Fabio Simplicio welling up after scoring the winner.
The Brazilian has already informed his employers that he is off at the end of the season – so whenever he takes the pitch at home he receives a chorus of boos.
If it wasn’t bad enough that he scored the winner against the club that launched his career in Italy, more than anything it was the rare show of adulation that led to the weeping and the wailing.
For everyone else, they had long been bored to tears with what had gone before – the only respite from the tedium was whenever Javier Pastore got on the ball.
If you haven’t seen the young Argentine in action, think of a cross between Ricky Kaka (minus the blistering pace) and Zinedine Zidane (minus the menacing physique).
Yes, he is that good apart those two significant factors – the speed and that little bit of 'devil' that all the true world-class midfielders have.
He still has time to develop the latter but more than anything the lanky lad is a joy to watch when he drags the sole of his foot over the ball before a sway of the hips takes him away from two or three markers.
Let us hope that the Hand of God will have a look at the 20-year-old ahead of the World Cup.
Antonio di Natale should definitely be heading to South Africa this summer.
He has been called the “Neapolitan Maradona” but is such an unassuming sort that he prefers to see out his career in the footballing backwater of Udine, having turned down offers from AS Roma, Napoli and Fiorentina in the past.
At 32, he can now use age as an excuse to remain in his comfort zone, but maybe not having to deal with the pressure of playing for a big club makes him so consistent in front of goal.
His hat-trick against his hometown club took Toto’s tally to 16 for the season – two ahead of Inter’s Diego Milito – and the celebrations didn't require recourse to a T-shirt message or any show of emotion apart from a beaming smile.
No doubt there was a wry little grin from Jose Mourinho after putting Massimiliano Allegri in his place for daring to accept the coach of the year award.
Inter are still lording it over the rest as AC Milan’s “lucky” red shorts – last hauled on at Bologna 11 years ago when they started an unlikely run to win the league – failed to inspire them to anything more than a draw this time around.
However, AS Roma produced a performance at Fiorentina that conjured up Sundays of a bygone era when an away team would soak up the pressure before delivering the sucker punch late on.
Just like mamma’s tasty dishes, it left the traditionalists of the Italian Sabbath with a warm glow inside and prayers answered that the title is not a foregone conclusion just yet.
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