Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Italy February 2013

This trip comprised six games in Italy including a visit to Palermo, Cagliari and Lazio.

22nd February Juve Stabia 2 Grosseto 1  Serie B   1,865 (one or two away fans)

On a very wet Friday night in Al Capone’s home town Juve Stabia went back into the play-off positions with this win.

In the first period they took their best chance and Grosseto squandered theirs.
Specifically Zito, a threat down the left, took his opportunity coming inside to shoot home right footed.
Whereas Piovaccari for the visitors missed his when through on goal.

Mancino was to score a quality free kick early in the second for the equaliser but the home hero was striker Bruno who converted a left wing cross for the winner on 76 minutes.

That was it apart from a very long fracas at the end when Grosseto were awarded a free kick near to the place where Mancino scored earlier.
After 5 minutes of pushing and shoving, with three men booked, the same man eventually took the kick but shot over.

Castellammare di Stabia is about an hour on a slow train from Napoli past the Bay of Naples with possible views of Vesuvius, if the weather was better.
The rundown industry that you see and the general feel of the area is reminiscent of parts of Argentina.

After the match there was a convenient 9.15pm return train to Napoli - with just myself and one other on it.

23rd February Palermo 0 Genoa 0 Serie A  18,995 (c. 30 away)

Arriving at about 7pm after a long train and ferry ride from Napoli meant I had just enough time to register at my hotel and get the bus to the stadium.

Which was used during the 1990 World Cup and it is probably little changed with an atmospheric two tiers, all open apart from the ‘main stand’.
The home ultras provided the noise and smoke with a small group from Genoa ensconced  in the right corner.

This game was goalless mainly because of strong performances by both goalies which culminated in a fantastic block by Genoan keeper Sebastien Frey with about fifteen minutes left.

The rain increased and neither team could get any closer.

A helpful local gave me a ride back to the main Liberta avenue where I eventually was able to get a bus back to my hotel.

24th February  Cagliari 4 Torino 3   Serie A  212 (12 away)

Being near the station in Palermo helped even though I still had to get up at 4.30am to catch the 5am bus to the fairly distant airport.
An Alitalia flight to Rome, then the same airline on to Cagliari enabled me to be in Sardinia by 10.30am.
At least it was milder on the island and you certainly warm up climbing the steep roads towards the Castello area of the city.

Cagliari now play at the new Is Arenas stadium in the Quartu Sant’Elena area - a 30 minute bus ride from the centre.
This being Italy there has been a saga connected with the use of the new ground resulting in the club President being jailed for the apparent misuse of funds (I think)
As always it seems the matter is ‘complicated’.

But the stadium looks fine with a solid, comfortable main stand and three other sizeable semi-temporary open seating areas.
Because of ongoing issues apparently regarding security and possibly road closures they had to play this match ‘behind closed doors’.
Which in effect meant a limit of around 200 people were allowed in, including a small group from Turin.
Fortunately I had a contact who was able to arrange my entry.

Those who were there still generated some atmosphere (‘forza ragazzi’) and they played Pink Floyd’s ‘wish you were here’ for the absent President.

And we had a seven goal thriller with three penalties, all converted with shots high into the net,
two sendings off and two goals in added time including a last minute winner.

It didn’t look like a goalfest in the first half with just the one penalty by the home side.
But Torino scored twice early in the second period and then the action increased.

Cagliari captain Daniele Conti glanced in a header, Ogbonna got sent off (two yellows) as did Diop (in less than a minute for raising his hand to an opponent)
Torino scored their penalty but Conti’s deflected effort sealed the win much to the delight of all around me.

So an action packed game but sadly just a few fans to see it.

Incidentally the last time I watched Cagliari (at West Brom) was in 1971 when the famous Luigi Riva was in their team.

An evening in Cagliari followed though I did struggle to find a suitable restaurant as many were closed.

25th February Lazio 2 Pescara 0 Serie A   26,613  (70 away)

A mid-morning flight to Fiumicino where some hours later a certain Diego Armando Maradona was to arrive to somewhat more hullabaloo.

Yes it was all happening in Italy - an election, Il Papa resigning and Maradona back in Italy !

Meanwhile in the Stadio Olimpico Lazio won and moved up to third in Serie A thanks to two ‘missiles’ firstly from a Radu left footer then a Lulic run and shot into the top of the net.

Pescara found it hard to break down the solid Lazio defence and never really got close.

Their small group of fans appeared just after the start a la the Argentinian barra brava waving flags and rushing down the front of the curva sud.
The remainder of that end was empty.

It seems that Lazio do not have that many stars, although Hernanes, complete with head guard, looked a presence in midfield, and surely they can’t keep scoring those kind of goals every week.

Striker Floracci missed his chances and as for the visitors, Elvis (Abbruscato) was in the building for a while but generally ineffective.

So a regulation win for Lazio on a cold night in the eternal city.

It needed a brisk walk back to my hotel in Vatican City and a glass of vino rosso before I properly warmed up.

26th February  Ternana 1 Novara 1  Serie B  5,257 (20 away)

Terni is about an hour on the train north east from Rome.

Ternana have an interesting stadium on the edge of this small city comprising mostly open triple tiers of wide curving stands in a style unlikely to be repeated any time soon.

Both these teams are in mid-table with an outside chance of making the top six.

For most of game it was Novara who looked more likely with better passing than the home side.
But Ternana did present a threat from set pieces.

The visitors took the lead following good work down the left by Seferovic who crossed for Bruno Fernandes to convert.
Then Ternana stepped up the pressure and they eventually got a penalty from which sub. Maneiro scored, shooting into the corner.
As time went on it seemed both sides settled for the single point.

Afterwards a walk back to my central hotel and an early night was in order.

27th February  Bari 0 Hellas Verona 2  Serie B  6,376 (100 away)

To Ancona past some snow-capped mountains then along the coast to Bari.

Bari play in the large Stadio San Nicola, another 1990 World Cup venue.
The stadium looks spectacular from outside but is far from cosy on a cold February night with a sparse attendance.

The home ultras did their best and there was a decent turnout of away fans but Bari look to be in free fall.

Hellas sealed the victory with two goals from the excellent Brazilian Martinho, the first after a defender error and the second from a breakaway in added time.
Both were expertedly taken.

Bari failed to get their passing going and to add to their misery they also had two men dismissed, including Bellomo for protesting when it did look like the home side should have had a penalty.

The stadium is some distance from the centre and although on a bus route the service had terminated by the time the match had finished.
So after some abortive attempts to get a lift I was eventually taken back to the centre by some ‘ladies-of-the-night’ for a fare of 10 euros.

Apart for the lift home I didn’t indulge any further.

My route home was via Naples where I had time to walk around the atmospheric old central streets and admire the occasional Maradona shrine.

More pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/1787855203

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