At the start of the current season Rudi Garcia’s AS Roma looked in good condition to not just challenge Juventus’ hegemony over Serie A and finish second, but firmly wrestle from their Turin rivals’ grasp the prized and long awaited Scudetto.
But alas, the season is yet again turning out to be a case of ‘what if’ for the Roma faithful. There wasn’t much to separate between the two teams after the first 17 rounds of matches, but since then Roma had played three consecutive draws to allow Juventus to firm up their iron grip on the league.
Week 21 of Serie A didn’t see any change in fortunes for Garcia’s team as they went down in the 39th minute courtesy of a Massimo Maccarone spot-kick. Left-back Maicon scored in the 57th minute to draw the scores level. Roma couldn’t force a result as they ended their fourth consecutive league match in a draw.
It did not turn out to be very costly for Roma as Juventus were held to a scoreless draw at the Stadio Friuli by Antonio Di Natale led Udinese. The result means Massimiliano Allegri’s side maintain their seven point lead at the top of the table as they look set to retain their league title.
In another top-three clash, third placed Napoli defeated Chievo Verona. The match saw two own goals, one from each side until Manolo Gabbiadini scored the 62nd minute winner to justify manager Rafa Benitez’s decision to buy him in the just concluded winter transfer window from fellow Serie A side Sampdoria.
In two of the most surprising results of game week 21 in Italy, 19th placed Cesena defeated fourth placed Lazio 2-1. Though the result didn’t affect their league standings and they retained their respective positions.
In the other big shock, 13th placed Torino defeated a resurgent Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Sampdoria 5-1 courtesy of a hat-trick from Fabio Quagliarella. The result saw the Turin-based side rise to 11th as they attempt to consolidate their mid-table standing. Whereas, the defeat didn’t affect the Blucerchiati for the time being and they stayed fifth.
In a mid-table battle, sixth placed Fiorentina and seventh placed Genoa played out a 1-1 draw. A win for either side would have given their hopes of a finish in next season’s Europa League a big boost, but as things stand they are both away from the automatic qualification for the second tier of European football.
Atalanta defeated Gianfranco Zola’s Cagliari 2-1 to leave the Rossoblu precariously close to the relegation places. Zola was appointed after a run of unfortunate results under Zdenek Zeman and if the results do not improve in the near future the prospect of relegation will stare right in the faces of the Cagliari fans.
Against Hellas Verona, the Argentine, Paulo Dybala showed everyone why he was pursued by Arsenal among other clubs in the winter transfer window when he scored in the 18th minute for Palermo to cancel out the eighth minute opener by Panagiotis Tachtsidis. Andrea Belotti’s 79th minute strike sealed all three points for Palermo as they climbed one position in the table to seventh. Hellas Verona stayed 14th.
The two Milan sides faced opposite results in their weekend fixtures. The January arrivals of Xherdan Shaqiri and Lukas Podolski at Inter Milan are not the having the effect that manager Roberto Mancini had in mind. Their 3-1 loss to Sassuolo was Nerrazurri’s second consecutive defeat as they slipped from 10th to 13th in the table. Both the big signings started the match but their impact left the Inter faithful high and dry. Mancini has the onerous task of arresting their alarming slide as they cannot afford to lose more ground over their rivals.
On the other hand, Filippo Inzaghi’s AC Milan enjoyed a 3-1 win over rock-bottom Parma, which saw the Rossoneri climb two places to ninth on the table. Summer signing Jeremy Menez scored twice while Cristian Zaccardo scored the third goal for Milan. For Parma Milan old boy Antonio Nocerino got their solitary goal.
The result will buy Inzaghi more time with Silvio Berlusconi at the helm of Milan, whereas Parma are staring relegation in the face after collecting an appalling nine points after 21 round of games.