Straight from the dark heart of Italy
RESULTS Sat Mar 6 Fiorentina 1-2 Juventus, Roma 0-0 Milan Sun Mar 7 Atalanta 0-0 Udinese, Bari 1-0 Chievo, Bologna 2-1 Napoli, Cagliari 2-2 Catania, Palermo 1-0 Livorno, Sampdoria 2-1 Lazio, Siena 1-1 Parma Serie A results, fixtures & table here
It was around this time last year that Jose Mourinho uttered those two little words “Zero titles” as he mocked the pretenders to Inter’s crown.
The old T-shirts emblazoned with Zeru Tituli were set to be on special offer again after AS Roma and AC Milan failed to deliver a credible positive answer to that question hanging over the league – is there a genuine challenger out there?
It had all the makings of Groundhog Day – last season a 3-3 draw with Roma at this stage of the campaign sent the Romans reeling and the only difference now was that Mourinho could sit back and let his two closest rivals trip up.
On a welcomed but very rare occasion when the Olympic Stadium was actually full, Milan came to win the match while Roma played the percentages and chanted “the end justifies the means.”
In the end, the home side almost sneaked off with all three points when John Arne Riise trundled forward to unleash a powerful shot which Christian Abbiati turned over the bar. Juan then headed over from the subsequent corner in the action of the game.
NEWS: Saturday games round-up
It's worth highlighting these two efforts, because that was about it in terms of chances for Claudio Ranieri’s men.
Milan, on the other hand, will be kicking themselves, if not each other, for missing three golden opportunities that would have sealed the game in their favour and put some much-needed pressure on their league-leading neighbours.
Marco Borriello, Ronaldinho and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar should all hang their heads in shame and in the former’s case ask himself why he didn’t accept a bruise or two to those rosy cheeks when he ducked away from Nicolas Burdisso’s flying boot.
Even the selection of the Dutchman had the taste of defence about it, as he seemed to be on the pitch more as a tactic to discourage Riise from charging forward.
Then there was David Beckham’s introduction. the former golden boy is becoming, to use American Football parlance, something of a special-team player. His only role is to stand out on the flank and deliver a decent cross – which he did when he came on late on, only for Ronaldinho to miss from close range.
This is the reason why Leonardo’s team will come up short this season, both at home and in Europe: that inability to turn chances into goals when it really matters.
Their possession against Roma almost clipped 70%. Racking up that sort of statistic should make the ball cross the line at least once.
Rossoneri chief Adriano Galliani had claimed in the build-up that Roma and Milan were the most entertaining sides in Serie A.
In Italy, entertainment doesn't mean putting the ball in the net but revelling in the tactics on show and the movement of the players in various roles – such as employing a target-man to stifle a full-back or bringing on a player to perform one basic task.
Such intricacies of the game send the Italian mind swirling with feverous delight – and in theory the perfect ending to the encounter would have been Roma scoring with the last attack. It would have the rational outcome after Milan had been so profligate when presented with their opportunity to finish off the game.
On Sunday evening at the San Siro the only logical outcome would have been Inter defeating Genoa, whom they had hammered 5-0 earlier in the season. But the visitors had to exorcise that humiliation in some manner, and what better way than to put safety first and match Inter’s will to win with an equal desire not to lose?
NEWS: Sunday games round-up
In the end, it was another much-loved Italian scoreline: the goalless draw.
The upshot is that we are where we were last week except with one fewer game to play – but at least those Zeru Tituli T-shirts can remain boxed up for a bit longer.
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