Straight from the dark heart of Italy
It was certainly a blockbuster weekend in Serie A, what with a historical epic, a coming of age tale, a feel-good flick, and a heist caper all hitting the screens.
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is almost halfway through his five-year plan to take the club to the top of Serie A - and you would have to say that the movie mogul’s smash hit looks like being at the post production stage way ahead of schedule and under-budget.
He sees AS Roma as a benchmark for his own side’s progress, and after the resounding victory - not to mention an assured display - at the Olympic stadium on Saturday evening, the man who persuaded Robert De Niro to appear in one his Italian-produced rom-coms can no longer deny his football team star billing.
Napoli must now be considered viable co-stars to the Milanese pair. Edinson Cavani is vying with Zlatan Ibrahimovic for player of the year and the Uruguayan took his league goal-scoring tally to 20 with his brace in the capital. But what was most impressive about Napoli was the ruthlessness with which they attacked Roma’s soft defensive underbelly.
They also showed a bit of wiliness, knowing that the home side could easily be wound up, although there could be trouble ahead for the Neapolitans. Ezequiel Lavezzi could be in hot water after becoming involved in a spitting match with Giallorossi right-back Aleandro Rosi which was caught by television cameras.
Andrea Dossena could also have seen red for an elbow to Rodrigo Taddei’s face, however Walter Mazzarri promptly removed the former Liverpool man to ensure the home side were not offered a foothold back into the game.
Unfortunately for the Romans, that never really looked likely especially, with Claudio Ranieri losing his nerve and opting to start his most talented performer of late, Jeremy Menez, on the bench for the first half.
The Curva Sud were already voicing their annoyance at what they perceived to be a spineless approach from the coach long before Cavani scored his second from close-range.
The only positive that Roma’s potential American buyers would have taken from this game was the sight of the Stars and Stripes and a Roma fan dressed as the Statue of Liberty in the stands. The only noise at the final whistle came from the Napoli fans who celebrated a first win in Rome in 18 years, and one that kept up the pressure on league leaders Milan.
Antonio Cassano was blowing kisses to the San Siro crowd all evening after notching his first goal for the Rossoneri and setting up two in now customary fashion, although the fawning should perhaps wait until he downs more serious opponents than Parma.
It was day-light robbery down in Sicily, where Fiorentina ended a dismal away run which had seen them not win on the road since last March with a stirring comeback against Palermo. The Rosanero just cannot seem to wake up in time for early kick-offs – and this allowed the Viola to make off with all three points as they came from 2-1 down to win 4-2.
Sunday evening’s grandiose Derby d’Italia was crying out for a leading man, and Juventus found him in Alessandro Matri, who scored the only goal to take down an under-par Inter side who didn’t really click into geat until it was too late.
The former Milan player has always been considered too damn handsome for his own good and as something of a play-boy and is rarely seen without the footballer’s must-have accessory – the velina – a dancer from Italy’s favourite satirical TV show Striscia La Notizia.
There had been major doubts as to whether Matri could make the desired impact at Juve, given he is already at the grand old age of 26 and was forced to circle the lower division block before finding his goalscoring touch at Cagliari.
Early indications suggest that maybe he does mean business, although he still tried to wimp off late on clutching his rib cage only for Luigi Delneri to remind him that all three substitutions had been made and that he would just have to grin and bear it.
To his credit he did battle on, although he avoided the group hug in the centre of the pitch at the final whistle well aware that, on the eve of San Valentino, he was already a special someone.
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