Monday, April 13, 2015

Italy & Liechtenstein March/April 2015

Seven games in Italy and one in Liechtenstein including two Coppa Italia semi-finals and the Italy v England friendly.

28th March Bologna 2 Livorno 0  Serie B   15,031 (c. 150 away)

I started with a nostalgic revisit to the iconic Stadio Dall’Ara where David Platt hooked in a late winner to overcome Belgium at Italia ‘90.

No late drama on this Saturday afternoon though as the home side eventually got the points with two second half strikes.
That after a fairly moderate initial period embracing too many mistakes and misplaced passes.

Bologna went ahead on the hour after the visiting goalie failed to deal properly with a free kick.
Defender Oikonomou was on hand to score.

Later home striker Gianluca Sansone was put through to deliver the left footed clincher on 78 minutes and thus another three points were added to Bologna’s quest for a return to the top flight.

Afterwards I took the bus back to my hotel near the central station and settled for some wine and a pizza (‘when in Rome’) while watching some of the Euro 2016 qualification matches.

29th March  Cittadella 0 Ternana 0  Serie B   2,440 (c. 50 away)

Not my first choice - that was Frosinone v Latina - which got postponed for security reasons.
So I, literally,  paid the price for pre-booking my hotel, and train tickets, and made arrangements to travel to Cittadella instead.

Which features an impressive medieval walled city (echoes of Cartagena - see previous post)
And a team that has risen for the lower reaches of Italian football.

Their small ground has been enhanced by semi-temporary seating along a couple of sides and next to the main stand.
The small group of away fans were positioned in one section behind the left hand goal.

Although this match was goalless there was a reasonable amount of action with both sides testing the respective goalies.
That included Andrea Pierobon in the home goal - at fourty five years of age.
He dealt with everything competently enough though I felt he was slightly slow in getting to his feet at one moment.

Home striker Francesco Stanco featured at various points in the play - having a nicely volleyed  ‘goal’ disallowed, missing the best chance and seeing his header in the last minutes set up sub. Coralli who just failed to net the winner.

The weather had started mild but got cooler later as I joined the locals strolling around the centre.
A spritzer was the post-match drink of choice.

31st March  Italy 1 England 1  Friendly  Juventus Stadium   31,138 (c. 2,300 away)
My cultural afternoon included a visit to the Palazzo Real - obviously an interest shared by the England coach Roy Hodgson who I saw coming out of the building.
The last time I happened to see him before an international was in Kiev - where we lost.

The new Juventus stadium is a far cry from the old, unloved, Stadio dell Alpi.
Not geographically but in its much more practical design

Also in the same complex (is this is the future ? - stadium + shopping centre + museum - West Ham will no doubt need one) is a well presented museum documenting the illustrious history of Juve.

In the match the revised England team was as trailed with Harry Kane starting alongside Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott plus some defensive changes.

Italy chose Eder and Southampton’s Graziano Pelle as well as perennial last line of defence - Gianluigi Buffon.

The first half culminated in Chiellini easily evading Jones and crossing for Pelle to head past Hart.
Although Rooney’s deflected effort did clip the bar it was a half in which England were second best.

That situation would change with the various substitutions.
One of them, Andros Townsend, scored a fine equaliser and another, Ross Barkley, showed some classy touches.
While man-of-the- moment Harry Kane found it much tougher against defenders such Chiellini and Bonucci.

So honours even as the coaches acknowledged afterwards.

1st April  Como 1 Bassano Virtus 2  Lega Pro  1,429 (c.15 away)

From Torino via Milan to Como where the local team play in a stadium close to the famous lake.
Which presents some picturesque views but on this particular night a chilly watch in the very breezy conditions.

The attire of choice was woolly hats, but no ponchos.

However we were warmed up by an exciting first half in which Bassano scored after 5 minutes after their captain Iocolano setup the speedy Cattaneo to drive in the opener.
The visitors added a second when a penalty was given for a push in the area.

Iocolano scored comfortably enough.

Como did produce some testing corners that Rossi just about dealt with and on 33 minutes they were given the chance to get one back with a (disputed) penalty awarded for handball.
Again it was comfortably dispatched - by Le Noci.

So an entertaining first half helped by the early strike.

The second, as the temperature dropped, was less enthralling.
Como did go close from a header that was well parried by Rossi but generally they failed to worry the Bassano defence.

Bassano thus got the points to consolidate their place near the top of the league.

We did have some late action although it was in the form of a sending off - a controversial second yellow for ‘simulation’ for one of the Como players.
That meant plenty of grief for the referee.

3rd April  Varese 0 Catania 3  Serie B   2,726 (c. 50 away)

Its an hour or so on the bus from Como to Varese.
Where the local team play in an old velodrome-style ground with mostly open seats and cover along one side.
The away fans, a decent turnout for such a long trip, were behind the, well-secured, right hand goal.

They would have plenty to celebrate, as did the Catania bench.
The visitors scored two goals in the first period through Maniero, from close range, and Castro.
In was a half in which Varese were far too cautious.

Even with the help of a sending off for Catania’s young Ghana midfielder Odjer Varese were still lacking in the final third.
They went further behind when striker Calaio was set up for a great strike from the edge of the area for number three.

That meant an early departure for many of the home fans, meanwhile those that stayed voiced their displeasure.
And so a very useful first away win for Catania and three points in their quest not to drop another level.
For Varese Lega Pro beckons.

I walked back to my central hotel, in a brisk thirty minutes or so.

4th April  Vaduz 0 Young Boys 1  Swiss Super League  4,827 (c. 1,500 away)

From Varese, through Switzerland, to the tiny (micro) state of Liechtenstein.
Tiny but very picturesque with snow-capped mountains nearby - and a good number of Chinese tourists wandering around as part of their ‘European tour’.

I sampled some spritzer before the match plus a visit to the local modern art museum for some culture (this time there was no Roy Hodgson)

At the compact stadium there was a good crowd on this Good Friday late afternoon including a large group from Bern armed with an array of flares.

It was match that turned towards the visitors through a rash challenge by Ciccone that resulted in a penalty on 29 minutes
French striker Guillaume Hoarau scored comfortably enough although most of the game would pass him by.

That was because Vaduz had good possession with progress often made down the right wing.
But ultimately they lacked the ability to finish their chances or indeed create many of significance.
Hence Mvogo in the YB goal was largely untroubled.
It didn’t help that Ciccone was given a second yellow.

Young Boys missed their own chances including a farcical one right at the end when they had three players ready to score.
However it mattered not as they secured the three points, their fans could enjoy the moment, and their position behind Basel was solid.

I made the short walk to the bus and returned to my hotel in Schaan.
A quiet night was in order helped by a weissbier.

7th April  Fiorentina 0 Juventus 3  Coppa Italia   30,436  (c. 2,000 away)

I had a few days break from football partly caused by a postponement in Austria (consistent rain in Altach) and no scheduled games in Italy until this second leg Italian Cup match.

This was another revisit to an iconic stadium - the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
A ground, with its end sections well away from the pitch and its side extensions, is built in a style and shape unlikely to be repeated anytime soon.
However it can produce an atmosphere and the home ultras did their best.

But apart from some early pressure, and a couple of disallowed ‘goals’, it was not a night for the Viola.
The Juventus midfield, especially Marchisio and Pereyra, controlled a lot of the action.

They would combine for the first goal scored by Matri after 20 minutes.
A second was added by the excellent Argentinian Pereyra just before half time following a parry by Neto in the Fiorentina goal.

Then soon after the break unmarked defender Bonucci volleyed in the third from a corner to seal the 4-2 aggregate win.
Although Morata was sent off in the closing minutes for a mistimed tackle (it seemed a harsh decision) Juve held on despite some late threats by Fiorentina.

So Juventus progress to the Italian Cup final and they remain on for at least a double, being well clear at the top of Serie A.

It did get quite cold later on and I was glad to warm up at my hotel, a fairly short walk from the stadium.

8th April  Napoli 0 Lazio 1  Coppa Italia  46,477

A 2.5 hours train ride from Firenze to Napoli for this other semi-final of the Italian Cup.

This was part a bad period ‘at the office’ for your correspondent which began with the earlier postponements, continued with losing a credit card (stuck in an Austrian train ticket machine) and carried on with difficulties trying to buy a ticket (not possible online plus lots of misinformation) for this Napoli match.
Eventually a ticket was secured through a Macron outlet near the stadium.

These sides, who drew 1-1 in the first leg, were playing for the right to meet Juventus in the final in June.

We had some impressive pre-game ‘mood music’ and a few flares but overall I was slightly disappointed with the atmosphere given the large crowd (no away fans allowed)
Maybe they expected a negative outcome.

At the beginning it was like a chess match with lots of sideways passing to try to manoeuvre an opening.
The nearest either team came to scoring in the first half was when Gabbiadini hit the post from a free kick.
Otherwise it was fairly cagey.

But Lazio came out for the second period looking more likely and they would get the deserved winner when the intermittently impressive Felipe Anderson showed pace and skill to get to the byline and cross for sub. Lulic to score from close range.

A similar dribble by Insigne for Napoli almost got the leveller but a Lazio defender somehow diverted the ball away for a corner.
Higuain also had his chances and on another night Rafa Benitez’s team could have gone through but perhaps their general caution counted against them.

I jogged round to the station and took the, packed, slow train back to Garibaldi.

The next day my issues were not quite over - a French traffic controller strike meant a delayed and longer trip home plus credit card difficulties (mine having being lost previously) at check in.

more pictures at

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