Let's check what were the best and worst moments from the weekend in Serie A as Juventus, Roma and Milan consolidated their supremacy on top of the table. Next weekend, Milan-Juventus will already give a bite of scudetto fight.
5 - GOALKEEPER FRANCESCO BARDI (CHIEVOVERONA)
Let's say you play Italian fantasy football (fantacalcio) and among the three-goalkeeper allowance, you have the ChievoVerona shot stopper: Francesco Bardi. It's probably the third choice as for the first two places you made sure to invest your money in a couple of big names, one at least. When Sunday comes and you look at the fixtures to make your decisions and you see 'Napoli-ChievoVerona' there is not even a bell ringing that would suggest the 'Mussi Volanti' (flying donkeys) to keep a clean sheet against Benitez's side. Instead, expect the unexpected. Not only ChievoVerona keeps the clean sheet, but Bardi manages to save a penalty against no less than Gonzalo Higuain opening what is quite likely a crisis within the football city. Beware: as we say in Italy, Christmas comes once a year.
4 - PARMA vs. MILAN 4-5
Serie A is often accused to lack of entertainment. Too much tactics, too much attention to the defensive part, too few goals. Well, seems like someone forgot to tell to Parma and Milan on Sunday night as they gave life to one of the most enthusing games of the recent years with Milan leading and Parma stubbornly trying to come back. The referee gave 6 minutes of injury time, however we are pretty sure that people at the stadium and in front of the tv would have asked for at least the extra time had Parma managed to pull another one back and fix the full-time score on a 5-5 draw.
3 - MATEO KOVACIC (INTER)
Alright, it was Sassuolo and Inter punched them last season with the same result (7-0), however the young Croatian wizard has been outstanding per se during all the game. His ability of changing pace any time and compelling the opposition's defence to suddenly fold, it was the key that unsettled Sassuolo's plans. Not only he assisted his teammates, but he also produced himself in fine scoring (and could have been more than one!). Obviously everyone hopes he is going to repeat such feats in more proving games, however his talent is out of discussion and Mazzarri can build the team around him. He is also good at spurring the competition within the squad as Guarin gets in and shows he could play as well a regular start (one goal and one assist).
2 - STEFANO OKAKA'S SOLO GOAL AGAINST FC TORINO
'He threw his best years away, but he will become a top player' - these were the words of coach Sinisa Mihajlovic in the post match interview of Samp-Toro (2-0). Mihajlovic is not easy at spending words for someone, however, if he did, he must have seen the potential during the trainings. After all, he was the one spending his free time after trainings at Inter to teach Balotelli to shoot penalties surgically.
1 - JEREMY MENEZ BACKHEEL GOAL
I have heard someone righteously saying: rather than a goal in a Serie A game, that was the mocking gesture of a rascal playing street football with his schoolmates.
Jeremy Menez was indeed a rascal, the enfant terrible of French football who left Rome after a controversial season in the capital. Constantly on and off good performances and sleepy games when he was almost unnoticeable. He travelled back to France up to Paris to join the new PSG however he soon sunk in the rollercoaster of players bought by the sheik and eventually disappeared from the starting XI. He ended up to AC Milan as free agent (yes, AC Milan paid zero euros for his performances) and now could already be the best purchase ever done by the old fox Galliani in recent years. After the end of the game (Parma-Milan 4-5) even Silvio Berlusconi in person asked to talk to him over the phone. 'He scored a crazy goal!' shouted Galliani over the phone to his chairman. And it's indeed crazy what he did, just watch yourself if you haven't done yet (impossible). Under the curiosity point of view, Menez scored with his backheel in the same goal side as others did in the past in Parma: starting from the defender trying to desperately stop him after the blunder (Alessandro Lucarelli) and finishing with Roberto Mancini when he was playing at Lazio.
5 - DOMENICO BERARDI (SASSUOLO) ELBOWING JUAN JESUS (INTER)
It was probably the ugliest gesture seen on a football pitch during the weekend. Domenico Berardi is reputed as one of the most promising young strikers of the Italian nouvelle vague. However, as in the past, his behaviour has risen more than one eyebrow. Already about a year ago, U-21 coach, Luigi Di Biagio, was demanding the young striker to apologize if he wanted to be called back into the national team (he refused a call-up to the U-19).
'It is necessary to build up men first and then the football players' - said the former Inter and Roma midfielder. Domenico will not be the first and probably not the last to resort to an ugly gesture on a football pitch, however his age and potential increase the pity. On top of the gesture, he tried to make the referee believe also Juan Jesus had elbowed him by faking something wrong with his mouth.
4 - DIAL 7-0 IF YOU CALL OUTSIDE SASSUOLO
For Inter fans, it was a great way to see the 'Nerazzurri' debuting in San Siro: no stress and a lot of goals. It looked more like an end-of-season game rather than week 2 of the Serie A. The problem is that Sassuolo cannot play as if salvation is achieved. There are 36 games to go and with this attitude they will deserve that relegation they avoided last season by two points. On a side note, club's president, Giorgio Squinzi, in May 2013 said he wanted to go to Serie A to beat Inter (he is an AC Milan fan). Since then, Sassuolo lost three times out of three and suffered 15 goals. 'Don't say cat if the cat not is in the sac'.
3 - EMPTY STADIA
It's not us saying that, but The Guardian: Serie A has the lowest attendance on week 1, 55.8% against Premier League scoring a 98,4% and Bundesliga a 93,6%. Even French Ligue 1 is doing better with 69.3%. What is the problem? The usual one: old venues, an idiotic ticketing system generated to prevent violence (?) but proven useless and easily bypassable and the economic crisis hitting households (some clubs have been offering season tickets payable with separate payments, like a mortgage). This is just one piece of the (broken) mosaic of the Italian football the 'new' Italian FA chairman will have to face.
2 - NAPOLI, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
'If we don't manage to qualify, it won't be a tragedy' - these were Rafa Benitez words ahead of the confrontation with Athletic Bilbao in the Champions League play-offs. However, he forgot he is coaching SSC Napoli and not a club from the Arctic Circle, 'tragedy' is a big component of the Neapolitan art of drama (said without any kind of mockery). And when comes to football and their football team, Neapolitans are not just sitting apart and watching coldly the developments. They participate, oh god if they do. At the moment Rafa's back is covered by the President, Aurelio De Laurentiis. Unwilling. In fact, the chairman is object of the Napoli fans criticism: 'Aurelio, it's time to pull out the millions!' - it was the chant topping the chart at the San Paolo in the game against ChievoVerona (0-1 loss...). However, if the team will not manage to shake from their situation, the next target will be Rafa and his 'relax' attitude. In Napoli, one cannot simply relax, Rafa. And the attitude of a team, most of the times, depends on its coach.
1 - PARMA vs. MILAN 4-5
How come the same game is also a flop? Because we're in Italy, the land of tactics and seamless defensive discipline. We love Zdenek Zeman, but we never really understood his maine rule: always score a goal more than your opponent. Because a clean sheet is more valuable that 4-5 goals scored. There were great goals in Parma (see Menez above) however also a lot of epic blunders which favoured the show. After all, the dean of Italian coaches said clearly: 'if you want entertainment, go to the cinema or the threatre' - Giovanni Trapattoni.
Both Donadoni and Filippo Inzaghi will review the many mistakes in the secret rooms of their training camps away from the press microphones and cameras.