Straight from the dark heart of Italy
RESULTS Sat 15 Sep AC Milan 0-1 Atalanta, Palermo 1-1 Cagliari Sun 16 Sep AS Roma 2-3 Bologna, Chievo 1-3 Lazio, Fiorentina 2-0 Catania, Genoa 1-3 Juventus, Napoli 3-1 Parma, Pescara 2-3 Sampdoria, Siena 2-2 Udinese, Torino 0-2 Inter
It was just like old times in Serie A this weekend: Alberto Gilardino and Luca Toni’s celebrating goals in familiar style, Zdenek Zeman watching his side throw away what seemed an unassailable lead and Palermo sacking another coach.
Where better to start than with the scourge of coaches, Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini, who took all of three matches to run out of patience with Giuseppe Sannino, despite the manager picking up his first, but ultimately also last point of the season on Saturday.
The fact that it came against Cagliari, who invariably lose on their travels, was too much for the volcanic Zamperini, who responded to post-match questioning as to whether the man on the bench was set to become number 18 for the chop by snapping; “I would rather get drunk than answer that.”
It soon became clear, perhaps a few glasses later, that Sannino would be packing his bags and be immediately replaced by Gian Pier Gasperini, who must be a glutton for punishment having been booted out of Inter last season after a mere five games.
The way Palermo are playing he might be back in his comfy armchair before long, but that’s life for a coach in Italy – 19 of them were shown the door last season, while Luis Enrique called it a day and headed back to the quiet life in Spain.
Had he been watching AS Roma on Sunday, he may have questioned whether there had been any improvement this season, as Zeman’s return to the capital swings from the sublime to ridiculous.
A couple of weeks ago they were tearing Inter apart, only to fall apart at home to Bologna after holding a 2-0 lead at half-time. A complete turnaround must have been the furthest thought from the 50,000 plus inside the Olympic stadium, but the old failings surfaced in the second half and the visitors somehow contrived to leave with a 3-2 victory thanks to a brace from Gilardino.
If Luis Enrique was still around they would have been calling for his head, but as it is the much-revered Bohemian he was let off with a line of questioning verging on sympathy. But that won't last too long, especially with city rivals Lazio starting the campaign with three straight wins.
The opportunity to crow was too good for Claudio Lotito to pass up, and the Lazio owner was quick to claim his club were the true representatives of the city.
“They have the wolf as their symbol, we have the Coliseum and we are Rome’s first club,” was his slightly confusing take - legend has it that the female wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus, the twins who would grow up to fall-out over where the city should be situated.
The Romans have been falling out ever since and although Lazio were formed some 20 years before Roma, they have had to live with being considered the city’s second team. However Lotito’s bright idea of incorporating the Coliseum into the club shirt and having the team photo taken in front the famous landmark is part of a strategy to change that perception.
Of course, on-field success will determine top dog in the Eternal City and under the virtually unknown Vladimir Petkovic, whose unruffled approach has seen Lazio equal their best ever start of the 1974-75 season and taken them joint-top of the pile, they are on the right road.
A solid team is sprinkled with a couple of star performers in Miroslav Klose and Hernanes, both of whom were on the scoresheet at Chievo. The latter grabbed a brace and is flourishing in a free role behind lone striker Klose.
Lazio face Tottenham in a high-profile Europa League encounter on Thursday, a fixture which could boost Lotito’s hopes that there will be a shift in power in the Italian capital.
There may be new beginnings for Lazio, but for two forgotten men of Italian football it was a happy reunion of sorts, with Gilardino and Toni back on centre stage to run through their old goal celebration routines.
While Gila had been kicking his heels at Fiorentina and Genoa for the last couple of seasons before popping up at Bologna, his one-time Italy team-mate Toni had all but disappeared off the radar – in fact he had decamped to Dubai for a couple of years.
Handed a return to Florence on a one-year contract, he tapped in Stevan Jovetic’s pass for the second goal in the win over Catania, and the hand to the ear signature celebration was quickly followed by a look to the heavens.
It was a heartening moment for a genuinely nice guy who has had to overcome personal tragedy of late, with the loss of his child in the summer.
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