Straight from the dark heart of Italy
RESULTS Sat 17 Nov Juventus 0-0 Lazio, Napoli 2-2 AC Milan Sun 18 Nov Bologna 3-0 Palermo, Catania 2-1 Chievo, Fiorentina 4-1 Atalanta, Inter 2-2 Cagliari, Udinese 2-2 Parma, Siena 1-0 Pescara, Sampdoria 3-1 Genoa.
There was a time when the Derby della Lanterna was the shining beacon of Italian football, but the lights have dimmed over the years as both Sampdoria and Genoa have fallen on hard times.
Samp were in Serie B last season, having been helped on their way by their rivals who came out on top in 2011 and whose fans then went on to hold a mock funeral for their neighbours through the streets of the port city.
The derby takes its name from the Lanterna (Lighthouse) that once guided ships into the harbor, and both sides found themselves floundering in the relegation zone coming into Sunday’s showdown, with the Blucerchiati a point ahead of the bottom-placed Rossoblu. There were more than bragging rights at stake. On the plus side, the match could not have come at a better time, as both teams had long forgotten how to pick up a point – somebody had to get something.
Doria’s coach Ciro Ferrara was feeling the pressure after overseeing a blistering start to the campaign which had produced three straight wins, but then slumping to seven consecutive defeats.
Last week’s loss at Palermo had seen the former Juventus defender take a ball straight in the face to add to his misery, and he would not be able to take another set-back on the chin – the derby was all or nothing for Ciro.
Across town, Luigi Delneri had more time on his side, having only recently switched colours via an unsuccessful spell at Juve to take over from the unconvincing Luigi De Canio; only to extend the Grifone’s losing streak to five matches.
The last win either side had celebrated at the Marassi was on September 2nd, when Sampdoria defeated Siena. Rossoblu fans had to cast their minds back to the opening day to recall a home success.
Something had to give - or did it? The aforementioned clash from 2011 had been the centre of the recent match-fixing investigations although that line of enquiry had led nowhere, but certainly for the neutral this meeting had ‘draw’ written all over it.
Like both teams, the Marassi is in need of a pick-me-up. But even if a lick of paint would not go amiss, its tight confines still provide the perfect backdrop to the stirring drama on the pitch.
The passionate backing for both clubs has played its part in driving their respective teams to victory sometime in the distant past, but of course there has been the negative side to having such ardent support.
Genoa found to their cost that bowing to the ultras only leads to humiliation when last season the players were forced to hand over their shirts when they were trailing 4-0 at home to Siena so when a Samp faction blocked the team bus as it left the airport following their return from Palermo to demanded a word or two, the players wisely declined.
In the recent past the likes of Antonio Cassano, Giampaolo Pazzini, Rodrigo Palacio and Diego Milito would sprinkle a little star dust among the raking challenges and chest thumping, but aside from Andrea Pioli’s 16th minute opener, the first 30 minutes of this weekend’s clash saw lumps being kicked out of anything that moved – as well as the recently re-laid pitch.
Poli’s quick turn and less-than-clean finish inside the area had given the game what it needed and Samp continued to create the better chances, helped in part by Genoa defender Cesare Bovo putting through his own net from close range on 36 minutes following a low cut-back by the lively Mauro Icardi.
The former Barcelona youth player, starting for the first time in Serie A, was a constant threat to the pedestrian Genoa backline, and the 19-year-old lone front man could have made it 3-0 just before the break when one-on-one with Sebastian Frey, but shot tamely at the goalkeeper.
Frey then dived at Gianni Munari’s feet to ensure the outcome was not beyond doubt before the referee had brought the first 45 minutes to a close.
It was difficult to say if Samp had actually performed impressively or Genoa had simply been woeful, but Delneri knew he could not send out the same eleven for the second half and the introduction of the experienced Juan Manuel Vargas at least provided some width and threat along the left flank.
It was the Peruvian’s miskick that found its way to another young striker Ciro Immobile who scored with just over fifteen minutes left to give Genoa hope of saving face.
Icardi ended any thoughts of a stirring comeback with Samp’s third with two minutes remaining to earn the man of the match award.
The Rosario-born youngster had run himself to a standstill and when it came to the Samp players running to celebrate in front of their fans he cramped up and had to get a piggyback from team-mate and fellow Argentine Fernando Tissone.
Perspiration is the inspiration for victory in derbies such as these, and there had been no better way for Ferrara to halt the downward spiral to give him some breathing space.
But Delneri knows it is now his turn to edge towards the precipice.
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