Serie A Review, Week 25: AC Milan Win, Napoli Keep Pace, And Inter Stumble Against Juventus

PALERMO ITALY - FEBRUARY 13: Riccardo Montolivo (R) of Palermo celebrates with his team-mate Manuel Pasqual after scoring his team's fourth goal during the Serie A match between US Citta di Palermo and ACF Fiorentina at Stadio Renzo Barbera on February 13 2011 in Palermo Italy. (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images)

Week 25 might be considered the week of the turnaround in Serie A: teams that had been stumbling, slipping out of their desired position in the table, used this weekend to halt their slide. Of course, being that there twenty teams in the league, the triumph of some clubs meant that their opponents started a slide of their own. It will all become clear as we work through the matches.

Milan 4-0 Parma

Giving AC Milan the early kickoff guaranteed that other clubs in the scudetto race would know if they had any chance at gaining ground on the leaders. However, Milan quickly dispelled all doubts, with Clarence Seedorf and Antonio Cassano both grabbing a goal in the first half. Parma put up little resistance in the second, with substitute Robinho coming on to net two within five minutes, sealing the 4-0 victory. It took nine games for Cassano to settle into his Rossoneri kit, but he was the focal point for Milan on Saturday, scoring once and providing the assist for both of Robinho's goals. Milan's last two matches may have been uninspiring draws, but this one was a reminder of exactly why the club is untouched at the top of the table.

Roma 0-2 Napoli

That doesn't mean Milan aren't looking over their shoulder at Napoli, however. Despite the media's desire to label their second-place standing as a "fluke" (this Napoli fan isn't bitter at all), the partenopei look to be legitimate contenders for the title -- should Milan ever slip up again, that is. A brace from Edinson Cavani was all the visitors needed to get the win over a Roma side intent on clinging to the faded glories that brought them into the top positions. Claudio Ranieri's insistence on using the 4-4-2, and on bringing in captain Francesco Totti to replace the bright Mirko Vučinić, led to Napoli's first win at Roma since 1993, and sets an alarming precedent for the club's chances in the Champions League midweek.

Palermo 2-4 Fiorentina

Does this victory put an end to the talk of crisis at Fiorentina? After all, the Viola are undefeated in their last three, recorded their first away victory, and picked themselves up to tenth place. They scored three goals away and four in total for the first time this season, even if one of those was an own goal by Palermo's Cesare Bovo. The return of Adrian Mutu may have provided a psychological boost, but it was the work of Alberto Gilardino and Michele Camporese, and the combination of Riccardo Montolivo and substitute Adem Ljajić, that led to Fiorentina's domination in the second half. As for Palermo, it's almost certain that their crazy chairman, Maurizio Zamparini, will overreact to the Rosanero slipping into seventh and try to oust coach Delio Rossi.

Brescia 0-2 Lazio

There are exciting 2-0 matches, such as Napoli's win over Roma, featuring plenty of end to end play and some amusing handbags. Then there are dreary matches such as this one, in which the home side rarely look threatening, and yet Lazio look lucky to come away with all three points. Still, this match featured Álvaro González using his boot to make a phone call after scoring his first Lazio goal, so that's something. Lazio also retake third, although after being at the top for so long, that can only be bittersweet. Brescia remain in 18th.

Bari 0-0 Genoa

If you thought Fox Soccer couldn't find a more boring match to broadcast than Brescia - Lazio, you'd be wrong. They could have shown this one. The most exciting moment was Rodrigo Palacio hitting the post for Genoa in the ninth minute. Bari's new coach Bortolo Mutti earns a point, the Galletti's first in seven games, but only a miracle will lift them into safety now.

Sampdoria 3-1 Bologna

Sampdoria record their first win in six matches and may finally be able to consider life without Antonio Cassano and Giampolo Pazzini. After more than 500 Serie A minutes played without a goal, Angelo Palombo scored for Samp in the eight minute. With that hurdle gone, the home side racked up two more, with Daniele Gastaldello and Massimo Maccarone both scoring in the first fifteen minutes. Bologna found a lucky consolation goal when Daniele Paponi's shot deflected off Gastaldello and went in.

Cagliari 4-1 Chievo Verona

Despite Chievo's win over Napoli and draw against Lazio, they were thoroughly beaten by Cagliari, a side that had been just one point above them in the table. Daniele Conti scored a header in the 19th with Michele Canini putting the home side ahead by two just ten minutes later. Nene' put Cagliari up by three before the break, and then added an extra with a volley in the 71st. Cyril Théréau scored for the visitors in the 84th minute, but it was definitely too little, too late. Cagliari's win puts them into a surprising ninth in the table.

Catania 3-2 Lecce

A battle at the bottom brought about one of the funnest matches of the weekend, with Catania pulling off a late comeback to take all three points, giving themselves a bit of breathing room in 15th place. The Elephants took the lead before the break though a Matias Silvestre header, but Lecce equalized shortly after the restart with a header by Jeda. The visitors took the lead less than five minutes later, with Gianni Munari sending in a rebound off the post. In the end, though, Catania took the spoils, with a pair of free kicks scored by Francesco Lodi. 

Cesena 0-3 Udinese

Another day, another win for Udinese, who are undefeated in their last eight matches, earning all three points in six of those. At some point, the opposition will learn to stop fouling Alexis Sánchez near the edge of the box, considering Antonio Di Natale is almost certainly going to score when awarded a free kick in that position. Sure enough, that's how the Friulani scored their first, with Toto tapping in a cross from Mauricio Isla to bag a brace. In between, Gökhan Inler scored a beauty after a dummy saw four Cesena players move the wrong way. Udinese take fifth but the Seahorses are mired in 19th, with Serie B looking more and more likely with each passing week.

Juventus 1-0 Inter Milan

This match featured just one goal, but Alessandro Matri’s header was all Juventus needed to slow Inter Milan in their quest for the scudetto. Juventus were all about the attack in the first half, but sat back in the second, their tight back line keeping the Nerazzurri from breaking through. Almost. Samuel Eto’o proved he is, in fact, fallible by missing a pair of chances in injury time. The second was simply a case of a heavy touch, but the first should have been simple enough: Eto'o had an open goal and just a little tap would have given Inter a point, but instead the striker sent the shot into the crossbar. All in all, Inter were the worst they'd looked under Leonardo, and despite having a game in hand, now look much less likely to close in on Milan's eight point lead.

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