Here's a tip: don't ever use me as a betting aid. Of the nine matches I previewed, only two did I truly call correctly: Bari vs. Inter and Palermo vs. Juventus. As for the rest, Week 23 in Serie A took a bit of a strange turn. While Milan's dropped points left others with a clear chance to make up ground in the table, only Inter truly took advantage, with much of Italy looking tired after a long few weeks, with midweek makeups and Coppa Italia finally taking their toll.
The team that stood to gain the most from Milan's 0-0 draw against Lazio was Napoli, yet not even Edinson Cavani could score against Chievo Verona. Instead, it was the Flying Donkeys that took the match, 2-0. Goals by Davide Moscardelli and Gennaro Sardo were both scored through Chievo's ruthless counterattack, with the Napoli defense split apart and Morgan De Sanctis unable to do anything to stop the shots. Napoli must be thrilled to have signed Víctor Ruiz to shore up their defensive future, but even more thrilled with Giuseppe Mascara, who will be able to slot in when one of the front three are absent, as was the case against Chievo, with Ezequiel Lavezzi sitting out a one-match ban.
Roma also could have taken advantage of Milan's stumble, yet could only manage a 1-1 draw, at home, to bottom-dwelling Brescia. The home side took the lead in the 58th minute through Marco Borriello, but Brescia's determined attack just kept coming. The visitors equalized just eleven minutes later, through a header by Éder. Despite having a plethora of attacking players on the pitch, Roma couldn't find a winner, leading many to wonder -- just what will it take to pull captain Francesco Totti off the field?
Palermo leapfrogged over Juventus by beating them 2-1, with goals by Fabrizio Miccoli and Giulio Migliaccio coming in the first twenty minutes. Claudio Marchisio scored for Juventus but the Old Lady couldn't find another, this loss allowing them to slip down into eighth place. Alessandro Matri failed to find the net on his debut for his new club, but should he settle in, Juventus might be able to pull themselves out of crisis mode.
Udinese, trying so hard to work their way into the Champions League places, had to settle for seventh position after a 1-1 draw against Bologna. The Friulani were missing their wonderkid and are likely thrilled Alexis Sánchez will return for their match against Sampdoria this weekend. Samp, now looking helpless without Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini, continue to fall, this time 1-0 to Cagliari through a Radja Nainggolan goal.
Down at the bottom, Catania and Cesena did little to alleviate their relegation fears by playing out a 1-1 draw, although Catania comes away the better having found an away point. Lecce gave themselves a bit of breathing room away from the drop with a 1-0 win at Parma, Javier Chevantón's header in extra time lifting them up to 16th.
In the not-bottom but not-top, Fiorentina found their first win since December 5th, helped along by Genoa goalkeeper Eduardo. The keeper punched away Manuel Pasqual's cross, but it only got as far as Mario Alberta Santana, a mere seven yards away. Santana fired in the shot to give the Viola a 1-0 lead and pull them up to 11th.
But, of course, the big story is Inter Milan's 3-0 win over Bari. With every other team in the European places dropping points, Inter's decisive win lifted them up to third, two points behind Napoli and seven behind Milan. The Nerazzurri may have needed seventy minutes to find a goal against last-place Bari, but once they did, the hosts broke down. Houssine Kharja opened the scoring for his new club, following in the footsteps of Giampaolo Pazzini last weekend. Pazzini added to his Inter tally with a goal in extra time before Wesley Sneijder, playing his first match since the Club World Cup, scored with the last kick of the game. It could have been an entirely different match, however, had Inter defender Cristian Chivu been sent off in the 58th minute for punching Marco Rossi in the face. The Romanian now faces a four match ban.