Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Croatia & Italy November 2014

This time - a Croatian Europa League match followed by five games in Italy.

Rijeka wreck Standard.

27th November  Rijeka 2 Standard Liege 0  Europa League  8,950 (c. 200 away)

My route was via a flight to Trieste then about a two hour bus ride through Slovenia to Rijeka on the Adriatic coast.

And on the coast is where you will find the Kantrida stadium.

Despite the inclement weather some fans were enjoying a beer down on the beach.
Inside the mostly uncovered ground rainwear was the clothing of choice.

Rain yes,  but the locals had plenty to cheer as their team gave themselves a shot at making it through to the next phase of the Europa League.
Much might depend on the form of their talented striker Andrej Kramaric.

He showed enough quality (touch and tricks) to see why he is coveted by many bigger clubs.

Kramaric would create the second goal by being brought down in the area and he comfortably converted the resultant penalty.
Before that Brazilian Moises had headed the home side ahead from a corner.

That two nil first half lead never really looked like being threatened by a Standard side that made too many mistakes.

Afterwards I took the bus back to the centre and had some wine in my (convenient but very noisy)  ‘botel’ moored in the harbour.

Black Friday for SPAL.

28th November  SPAL 0 Pisa 1   Lega Pro   3,203 (c. 100 away)

My journey involved a return bus trip to Trieste then onward via Venezia to Bologna.
From where I took the short train ride to Ferrara.

Where the stadium is close to both the station and the centre.

Inside the local ultras supplied decent support from behind the goal.

The match itself was significant for some glaring errors - first home striker Fioretti scooped a good chance over the bar.
Then near the end we had a comical moment when Germinale attempted to convert a penalty, first stumbling, then restarting, before blasting the shot over the crossbar.

All of which was made worse because Pisa had taken the lead a few minutes earlier after Giyasi had crossed nicely for defender Rozzio to drive in the winner.

Prior to the game, in the historic centre, I partook of a negroni followed by an excellent local (wrapped) pizza washed down with a couple of glasses of red wine.

That quality was sadly not matched by the subsequent football.

Carpi diem, or not.

29 November  Carpi 0 Frosinone 0  Serie B   3,426 (c. 250 away)

The top two sides in Serie B met at the Stadio Sandro Carbussi in Carpi.

And perhaps predictably, even though they were also the top scorers in the league, the match ended in a goalless stalemate.

The first half saw few chances and overall the visitors looked more threatening with some reasonable long range efforts.
They would also clip the bar in the second period.

Carpi’s opportunities were further restricted by having midfielder Mbaye sent off. The Senegalese was especially distraught when shown the red card.

But the draw still left Carpi on top and Frosinone in second.

Incidentally the fairly small ground was unusual in comprising raised seating above a velodrome-style banking. Ultras from both sides did their thing.

Beforehand I had arranged for a taxi to take me across to Reggio Emilia for the second game of the day….

Two gentlemen of Sassuolo.

29th November  Sassuolo 2 Hellas Verona 1  Serie A  12,234 (c. 1,500 away)

Despite the traffic near the Mapei stadium I managed to make the 6pm kick-off for this mid-table Serie A encounter.

For which the highlight was the impressive away support from the Verona fans behind the left hand goal.
They would enjoy the opening goal from Moras but not so much later on as the home side gradually achieved dominance.

Sassuolo hit the bar towards the end of the first half then equalised soon after the break when Sansone shot in right footed.
It was left to Algerian Saphir Taider to deliver the knockout blow from close range via a left wing cross on 77 minutes.

But apart from that action there was little to cheer for either side.

Leaving the stadium I met up with some guys from Salerno who I joined on the walk back to the station.
From where we had a slow ride back, apparently due to delays caused by the dispersal of the fans back to Verona.

Genoa matri-culate.

30th November  Cesena 0 Genoa 3  Serie A  14,650 (c. 900 away)

This time an easier day with just the one game and, in theory, about an hour train ride from Bologna.

However in both cases the trains were late - not that it mattered too much either before or afterwards.

Cesena have a nicely sized mostly two tier ground that positions the respective ultras in the perfect place - behind the goals.
From where they waved their flags and lit some flares.

The visiting tifosi could be particularly satisfied with their favourites.

A early home error allowed Matri to break free and score the first before the striker backheeled neatly for Antonelli to shoot in from close range for number two.

Matri could even afford to miss a penalty and Bertolacci to hit the bar before Genoa went further ahead via a long drive by Burdisso that seem to go straight through Leali.

So pretty much done and dusted by half time.

Cesena did have a chance for some encouragement in the second period but Cascione smacked a penalty (at the same end as Matri’s failed effort) against the woodwork.

Generally the home side had stood off their opponents giving the forward trio of Matri, Argentinian Perotti and Spaniard Iago Falque room to do their work.

The outcome left Cesena near the foot of Serie A and Genoa well in with a chance of making the top four.

Some fifteen minutes after the finish I was at the station to catch the (only) slightly late train back to Bologna.

Yes the Italians trains are often late, particularly at weekends, but they do get many things right.
Not least having porticos so you can avoid most of the rain, while going out for a meal.
As I did near to Bologna Centrale.

Viva Zapata !

1st December  Sampdoria 1 Napoli 1   Serie A   21,033

As so to the final game on this trip, in Genoa.

It was raining hard before the game but thankfully dried out later.
The pitch seemed unaffected.

Samp have very good support, particularly from the Gradinata Sud.
And they help to make the Luigi Ferraris one of the most atmospheric of Italian stadiums.
Though on this wet night it looked somewhat different from when I saw World Cup matches in the summer of 1990.
In an entertaining game, certainly the best on this tour, both teams attacked and created chances.
Some fell to ex-Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain but he failed to convert.

Stefano Okaka and Napoli’s Koulibaly had some great tussles.
Sadly for the French defender he would get dismissed following a mistimed tackle on the pacy Eder.

Eder had achieved the breakthrough after 57 minutes with a shot from the edge of the area.
And for some time it seemed likely Sampdoria would win and lift themselves above their local rivals, Genoa, into third.

But then Algerian Ghoulam went down the left wing and delivered a fine cross for sub. Zapata to head in the equaliser.
That preserved Napoli’s unbeaten run.

Parity was about the right outcome.

As well as seeing an enjoyable encounter we could also watch the antics of the respective coaches - Rafa Benitez often urgently re-positioning his men while Mihajlovic paced and sometimes pointed.

The next day a strolled through the historic port area before making an early bus ride to the nearby airport for the flight back to London.

more pictures at

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