Italian Serie A 2011, Week 9: Di Natale Gives Udinese 1-0 Win Over Palermo

Udinese pull within one point of Juventus once again with a win over Palermo, but can Lazio do the same at Cagliari?

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Week 9, Serie A 2011: Inter Take Themselves Out Of Title Contention, But There's Plenty Of Competition At The Top

Juventus, Udinese, Lazio and Milan all win, keeping the race tight at the top of the table. Meanwhile, after just nine games, Inter's loss basically knocks them out of competition for the title.

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Udinese Vs. Palermo, 2011 Serie A: Antonio Di Natale Goal Enough For 1-0 Udinese Win

Udinese made it as difficult on themselves as possible, but in the end Antonio Di Natale's goal was sufficient for the zebrette to take all three points from Palermo. The win moves them back into within one point of Juventus up top, and one point above AC Milan in third. Depending on Lazio's performance later, the Rome side could move even on points with Udinese.

Captain Toto scored his goal in the 39th minute, springing forward to pounce on a pass from Dusan Basta. Replays showed Di Natale as just onside, kept that way by Eros Pisano. The goal is Toto's seventh in Serie A, and with Sebastian Giovinco missing a penalty kick for Parma, he pulls in front for the most goals thus far this season.

Despite plenty of efforts, Udinese had to settle for just one goal this Sunday afternoon, as a combination of Alexandros Tzorvas, the woodwork, and simple player error denied the home side at least three near-certain chances. Five minutes after the goal, Di Natale went for another, but his chip over Tzorvas went just wide. Kwadwo Asomoah threatened, but saw his shot blocked. In the second half, Pablo Armero was clear on goal, but his shot nicked the outside of the post. Almen Abdi, put on for di Natale in the 89th minute, immediately tried his luck, but the attempt went just wide. Abdi tried his luck again just before the whistle, but again the shot was slightly wide and to the right.

And so in the end, just the Toto goal, but the 1-0 win should keep Francesco Guidolin happier this week than last.

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Udinese Vs. Palermo, 2011 Serie A: Antonio Di Natale (Who Else) Gives Udinese The Lead At Halftime

It was shaping up to be another Sunday short on goals in Serie A, with only German Denis having scored for Atalanta. But then Rodney Strasser put one in for Lecce, and minutes later, it was Antonio Di Natale scoring, once again, for Udinese. Toto was the league leader in goals scored last season, and he's campaigning for the title for a third year in a row, having already scored seven.

Just moments before, Di Natale had managed to put the ball into the Palermo net, but it was called back for offside. Dusan Basta, who'd scuffed a perfect chance earlier in the match, sent the cross in from the right side for Toto to spring forward. While it first looked like this, too, would be offside, Di Natale was perfectly even with Eros Pisano, and the goal stood.

The Udinese captain almost added a second just five minutes later. Unfortunately for the home side, his chipped effort went just wide of Alexandros Tzorvas's goal.

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Inter Vs. Juventus, 2011 Serie A: Goals From Vucinic, Marchisio Give Juventus 2-1 Win And Take Them Top Once Again

Inter Milan wanted so desperately to end the unbeaten run of Juventus with a win at the San Siro, but instead the Old Lady have recaptured first place in Serie A, their 2-1 victory giving them all three points. Mirko Vucinic and Claudio Marchisio knocked in the goals for the visitors, neatly bracketing Maicon's equalizing volley.

This season's first Derby d'Italia started off on just the right foot, with both sides instantly on the offensive. It was the nerazzurri, surprisingly enough, who looked as though they'd be the first to score -- and possibly even come away with the win. Giampaolo Pazzini had forced Gigi Buffon into a save within three minutes, Wesley Sneijder tried his luck, and Esteban Cambiasso's shot went just wide, all within the first ten minutes.

But it was the visitors that opened the scoring, courtesy of Vucinic's second goal of the season. Stephan Lichtsteiner sent in a pass from the right, and Alessandro Matri tried his luck. Unfortunately for Eyelashes, his shot ricocheted off sliding Inter defender, but Vucinic was there to pounce, putting the ball past Inter reserve keeper Luca Castellazzi.

With the way Inter poured forward, searching for an equalizer, it seemed as though it would be the bianconeri that took the second goal as well -- the home side were simply leaving too many holes in the back. But instead it was the Juve backline that fell apart, with Giorgio Chiellini unable to stop the advancing Maicon, whose volleyed shot had Gigi Buffon well and truly beaten.

Inter were quite unlucky to not take the lead minutes later, when Pazzini's shot rattled the crossbar, with Buffon beaten once again. Yet it was Juventus that took the lead, just five minutes after the Maicon equalizer. Matri and Claudio Marchisio enjoyed a lovely little back and forth before Marchisio sent his shot into the right corner, Castellazzi's dive coming just a bit too late to save Inter's face. And fate. 34 minutes in, 2-1 Juventus, and that's where the score would stay.

Despite a thrilling first half, the second half was defined more by frazzled tempers than passionate play. Seven yellows were awarded in this derby fixture, with five of those shown in the second half. Sure, both sides continued to press forward, but there was also quite a bit more falling, rolling, waving of arms, and heated appeals to the referee than genuine shots on target. Pazzini came close with five minutes to go, but his shot went just wide. Moments later, Alessandro Del Piero, freshly substituted on for Vucnic, attempted to make an impression, but his low shot wobbled wide.

So even if Udinese beat Palermo on Sunday, they won't be able to catch the Old Lady, enjoying her throne at the top of the table. And although it's highly unlikely, if Bologna beat Atalanta tomorrow, and Lecce lose to Novara, Inter could find themselves in the relegation zone.

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Inter Vs. Juventus, 2011 Serie A: Claudio Marchisio Recaptures Lead For Old Lady

Maicon's equalizing goal for Inter Milan may have been lovely, but the combination of Alessandro Matri and Claudio Marchisio is gorgeously deadly. Just five minutes after the home side grabbed their first goal, Juventus were back on top, thanks to a couple pretty Italians. Matri, who had already come close to scoring at least twice in the first thirty minutes, sent a clever ball through the Inter defense. Marchisio sent his shot toward the right corner, where it slid in just under a diving Luca Castellazzi. 33 minutes in and the score is 2-1 in favor of the Old Lady.

The two Italian internationals almost combined again minutes later, but Marchisio was intent on getting a second, rushing forward and tumbling over an oncoming Castellazzi. Don Marchisio appealed for the penalty, but what he should've been doing was sending it left to an open Matri. With the way he's playing, Eyelashes should be finding his own goal soon.

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Inter Vs. Juventus, 2011 Serie A: Maicon Equalizes For The Nerazzurri

Wow, what a goal from Maicon to pull Inter Milan level with Juventus in the 29th minute! A quick pass from Wesley Sneijder once again found the Brazilian tearing down the right flank. Maicon wasn't even rattled by the onrushing Juventus defense (is anyone that nervous of Leonard Bonucci? Really?), sending his volley over Gigi Buffon and into the near corner of the net.

Just minutes later, the nerazzurri demonstrated that they're after more than just a point in the season's first Derby d'Italia. Giampaolo Pazzini hit the crossbar, with the Juventus defense once again in shambles, and Buffon once again beaten. Only the grace of some Italian saint managed to keep the scoreline level.

But with they way Juventus are pouring forward, they look to be operating on a "we'll just score one more" sort of plan -- which certainly makes for exciting watching, and makes perfect sense when both defenses are fairly weak.

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Inter Vs. Juventus, 2011 Serie A: Mirko Vucinic Gives Juve An Early Lead

After the last couple matches for Juventus, it was starting to look like Mirko Vucinic might never score again, sending shots just wide and just high of goal. But the Montenegrin has already given the Old Lady an early lead against Inter Milan.

After just five minutes in the Derby d'Italia, the match was already a bit spicy -- and, surprisingly for the history between the two clubs, the feistiness is in the play, not amongst the players. While the visitors hit first on the break, the nerazzurri are already looking threatening, much more so than their place in the table suggests. Giampaolo Pazzini forced a save by Gigi Buffon inside three minutes, with Wesley Sneijder quickly trying his luck shortly after. Esteban Cambiasso took a great shot, but it went just slightly wide.

But then it was Mirko Vucinic who put the ball in the net for Juve. Stephan Lichtsteiner sent the ball in from the right, but Alessandro Matri's shot was blocked by a sliding Inter defender. The ball bounced into the path of an oncoming Vucinic to give Juventus the lead on twelve minutes.

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Roma Vs. AC Milan, 2011 Serie A: Milan Earn Key 3-2 Win

Well that was an interesting match. AC Milan have announced their Scudetto dreams are still very much a reality with a big win over a Roma side that looked woeful at the back despite a fairly promising display in the attacking half. It didn't take long for the visitors to go ahead - 17 minutes, in fact, which was when Zlatan Ibrahimovic manhandled Juan to get on the end of a cross, scoring with Milan's first shot of the match (Roma had had five by this point).

The hosts drew level thanks to a Nicolas Burdisso header from a corner kick, with pretty poor defending from Milan allowing him to get clear of his marker and nod past Christian Abbiati, who looked rather perturbed at how easy it was for Burdisso to escape. That scoreline lasted all of ninety seconds, when Milan replied with a basically identical play with Alessandro Nesta in Burdisso's place, and we went into halftime with the visitors 2-1 up.

There was a brilliant chance for Roma to draw level when Pablo Osvaldo was given a free header from a corner (not the theme?) shortly after Kevin-Prince Boateng picked up a red card after he was substituted, but this time Abbiati was up to the task, flinging himself masterfully at the shot to put it behind. After that score Milan decided to put the match to bed, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic exploited a throw-in routine for his second and his team's third, looming over poor Marco Cassetti to make Maarten Stekelenburg's day even worse.

Substitute Bojan would get a late consolation goal and Roma would pile on the pressure in search of an equaliser. They wouldn't get it, and Milan ended up emerging from a tense battle at the Stadio Olympico with all three points.

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Roma Vs. AC Milan, 2011 Serie A: Kevin-Prince Boateng Sent Off Before Zlatan Ibrahimovic Makes It 3-1

I'm going to have to assume that Kevin-Prince Boateng said something naughty to the assistant referee, because as he was coming off with an injury he was shown a straight red card. Huh. Fortunately for AC Milan, the midfielder waited until after the substitution was complete before he said whatever it is he happened to have said, because Milan aren't down to ten men as a result of the sending off - he was already off the pitch before the referee brandished his red card. Still, that's going to result in a completely unnecessary suspension. Urby Emanuelson is the match who'll replace him.

Anyway, Roma are still losing by two goals to one here, so naturally... they introduce a defender: Gabriel Heinze for Juan. Bizarrely, it seems to work - Christian Abbiati is instantly forced into a superb save from a corner kick. Pablo Osvaldo looked like he absolutely had to score from that, and Abbiati saved the day. Minutes later Zlatan Ibrahomivic finishes up a short corner routine - and the game - with a header. 3-1, game over.

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Roma Vs. AC Milan, 2011 Serie A: 2-1 Milan At Halftime

Roma aren't having their best day, and now it's being made slightly worse - Fabio Borini's off injured (probably thanks to the efforts of Dutch-menace-to-humanity Mark van Bommel earlier, for which he received a yellow card). Bojan Krkic comes on in his place, which should be interesting - they're very different players and this probably means that Roma's buildup play's going to be more intricate.

Meanwhile, Milan are having fun trying shots from range, with Kevin-Prince Boateng having himself a go just after Zlatan Ibrahimovic screwed a volley well wide. Boateng's shot ends up doing something similar. Anyway, we're coming up to the end of the first half, which has seen some hilariously bad marking on crosses for both teams, and there it goes. Three peeps from the referee and we're taking a short break. It's Roma 1-2 AC Milan at the Stadio Olimpico, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Nicolas Burdisso and Alessandro Nesta the scorers.

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Roma Vs. AC Milan, 2011 Serie A: Sides Exchange Goals, 2-1 At Stadio Olimpico

AS Roma got themselves back on level terms against AC Milan and... well, the defending was pretty sad on Milan's part. A fairly regular corner was swung in my Miralem Pjanic, Gianluca Zambrotta tangled with Nicolas Burdisso and was simply outmuscled by the Roma defender, falling over and allowing Burdisso to nod into Christian Abbiati's bottom corner. The goalkeeper might have done better there - he didn't bother moving at all.

1-1 lasted about three minutes, because Roma did some more terrible defending and gave Milan their lead right back. It was another complete failure to defend a corner, and Alessandro Nesta was presented with a free header all of six yards from goal. There wasn't a red shirt within five yards of the centre back as he rather apologetically powered the ball past Maarten Stekelenburg to make it 2-1 Milan. It's all happing now - Roma reply by smashing a free kick (Mark van Bommel had picked up a yellow card for his challenge on Fabio Borini) just wide. Serie A. Boring. Fact.

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Roma Vs. AC Milan, 2011 Serie A: Zlatan Ibrahimovic Gives Milan 1-0 Lead

Here's a hint to Roma's defenders: Don't leave Zlatan Ibrahimovic unmarked for a header. That's a silly, silly thing to do. Kevin-Prince Boateng eased Fernando Gago off the ball and whipped in a cross for the Swede, who ran rings around poor Juan (his attempt to get to the ball doesn't really count as marking) before rising to nod a powerful header past a helped Maarten Steckelenburg and into the back of the net, giving AC Milan a 1-0 lead with less than twenty minutes gone.

This probably won't change the game too much - one would except Milan to continue to attack, and that'll give Roma space to hit on the counter - but if the visitors are sensible they'll probably stop pressing quite so far. Roma could get a goal back, of course, but they're far more likely to do it if they can catch Milan trying for number two. Robinho, taking that into consideration decides to go for the goal from inside his own half. It misses.

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