Serie A, Week 25: Week Ends With Wins By Udinese, Napoli And Lazio

Ten-men Palermo experienced a beating at the hands of Siena, while Atalanta thrashed Roma.

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Week 25, 2012 Serie A: Udinese, Lazio, Napoli All Pick Up Three Points

Sunday night in Italy showcased three teams battling for the Serie A European positions. Lazio and Udinese remain locked in a struggle for third, while Napoli have leapfrogged Roma to land in fifth.

Bologna 1-3 Udinese

Boy, Udinese must be thrilled to have captain Antonio Di Natale back. Toto's missed the last couple matches with injury, but now he's back and winning penalties. His goal from the spot gave the visitors the 1-0 lead going into the break. Dušan Basta gave the zebrette a cushion with his goal in the 57th minute. Things got a bit crazy in the last ten minutes, after Panagiotis Kone pulled one back for Bologna. Antonio Floro Flores made sure the visitors stayed comfortable, however, restoring their two goal advantage in the 85th minute. The win keeps Udinese third, although Lazio remain even on points...

Lazio 1-0 Fiorentina

Speaking of players being "back," Miroslav Klose was first on the scoresheet for Lazio tonight, scoring in the 35th minute. According to football geek Rocco Cammisola, the biancocelesti would be 15th in Serie A in the absence of Klose's goals and assists. Wise buy for Lazio, but will the German be enough to see the club through to the Champions League positions? After the half, we experienced more fun with ghost goals, as Alessio Cerci appeared to equalise for the Viola, but the goal was ruled offside. Alas, the hapless Fiorentina continue their slide toward the relegation zone.

Napoli 1-0 Inter Milan

Just when it seemed as though we were all wasting 90 minutes of our lives watching a goalless draw, Napoli finally broke the deadlock. Blerim Dzemaili, standing in for Marek Hamsik, sent in the ball for Ezequiel Lavezzi, who knocked it against the post and into the back of the net. After Salvatore Aronica saw a straight red for a foul on Marco Faraoni, giving Inter 12 minutes to find an equalizer. But with tactical changes for Walter Mazzarri's side, the most they could do was send their shots off target. The win puts the partenopei into fifth place, although they remain five points out of the Champions League positions.

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Week 25, 2012 Serie A: Sunday Sees Roma Fall To Atalanta, Siena Thrash Palermo

The Sunday afternoon matches in Italy brought a few surprises in Serie A. Or perhaps, considering the unpopularity of the Europa League, the scores are to be expected: it's clear that no one wants fifth place in the league.

Atalanta 4-1 AS Roma

Goodness gracious, can Roma be any more inconsistent? The giallorossi seem to take two steps back for every one step forward. A shot from Guido Marilungo and a brace from Germán Denis saw the home side take a 3-1 lead, the Roma goal coming from Fabio Borini. Then the visitors really lost the plot, with Pablo Osvaldo seeing red for an off the ball clash with Luca Cigarini, and Marco Cassetti being sent off in the final minutes for insulting the officials. In between the reds, Denis completed his hat-trick.

Cagliari 1-2 Lecce

Lecce would really appreciate it if Siena would stop winning. The salentini haven't lost in their last four matches, but they're still stuck in the relegation zone, two points behind Siena. Luis Muriel gave the visitors the lead going into the break, but a rather harsh penalty decision gave Joaquin Larrivey the opportunity to equalise for Cagliari. Andrea Bertolacci put Lecce in front once again just ten minutes later, and that's where the score stayed, giving the visitors all three valuable points.

Catania 3-1 Novara

Watch it, Palermo, your rivals from the east are gaining on you, and they're laughing while doing so. Pablo Barrientos set up Gonzalo Bergessio for the first Catania goal, reminding fans why watching the rossazzurri are even more fun when the little Argentine is healthy. Bergessio also hit opposing goalkeeper Samir Ujkani in the face, an interesting fact that really has no relevance here but was amusing at the time. After the restart, Giovanni Marchese scored an absolutely magnificent goal, a beautiful volley that flew past Ujkani, who'd clearly had better days. Alejandro Gomez gave Catania the 3-0 lead with 35 minutes left to go, and from then on the home side toyed with their visitors, eventually allowing Novara a goal in the last few minutes, a tap-in by Raffaele Rubino.

Chievo Verona 1-0 Cesena

Of course Chievo managed to put just one past bottom-dwelling Cesena. Well done, Davide Moscardelli.

Siena 4-1 Palermo

Last week, Palermo were riding high after their 5-1 demolition of Lazio. But Siena turned the tables and left the rosanero still searching for their first away win. It probably would have helped the visitors if Federico Balzaretti hadn't been sent off in the first minute, when the referee judged his trip on Mattia Destro to be the denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Palermo still managed to take an early lead, however, with a Igor Budan header in the 12th minute. The visitors had about ten minutes to breathe before another slightly questionable decision saw Claudio Terzi step to the penalty spot, putting Siena level. Erjon Bogdani, Luca Rossettini, and Franco Brienza made Palermo's misery complete.

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AC Milan Vs. Juventus, 2012 Serie A: Old Lady Battle Back For Draw

AC Milan took a lead early and held it for the majority of the match, but Juventus were able to find a late equalizer to keep their unbeaten run alive. The Old Lady are still undefeated on the season following their 1-1 draw at the San Siro on Saturday, but they failed to make up ground on the Rossoneri, who remain in first place in the Serie A table.

Antonio Conte started the match with a defensive 3-5-2, leaving all of Alessandro Matri, Simone Pepe and Mirko Vucinic on his bench. He would eventually have to call on all of them. Milan took the lead in the 14th minute through a great strike by Antonio Nocerino, who scored his eighth goal of the season with the aid of a deflection to put Milan ahead 1-0.

They should have taken at least a two goal lead into the halftime break, but were hard done by in the 24th minute when Sully Muntari put a header over the goal line on a set piece. Gigi Buffon pushed the ball out of the goal well after it had crossed the line and the linesman did not see the ball go over. No goal was given and Milan would go into the halftime break up 1-0.

Conte switched to a 4-3-3 formation in the second half, but Juventus didn't look good in that setup until late in the half, once all of Pepe, Matri and Vucinic were on the pitch. Milan were able to stifle play early in the half, but things started to go in the favor of the Bianconeri once Matri entered the game in the 69th minute.

Matri appeared to score the winner in the 79th minute, but his goal was ruled out for offside. It was an incredibly close call, but it appeared on replay like Matri's shoulder was just barely past the last defender when Vucinic played him in on goal. Just four minutes later, Matri would found a goal that would not be disallowed.

Thanks partially to some poor defending and partially to a great cross by Pepe, Matri found himself with the ball at his feet and an open net in front of him. He hit the ball powerfully into the back of the net on the half volley, tying up the match at 1-1.

Arturo Vidal would be shown a red card in the 89th minute for a dangerous challenge, but Milan failed to make the most of their man advantage. The red was a borderline one, and incredibly, Pepe was shown only a yellow card for an identical challenge just one minute later. The refereeing did not favor either side by any stretch of the imagination, but was very inconsistent throughout and certainly altered the course of the match.

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AC Milan Vs. Juventus: Alessandro Matri Equalizes For Juventus

Seven minutes from time and Alessandro Matri has pulled Juventus even with AC Milan at the San Siro. Just a few minutes before, Matri had put the ball in the back of the net, but the goal was ruled out for offside. The call was more questionable than the Sully Muntari ghost goal from the first half, but it was the same linesman that raised the flag, so it is more likely that the man is just not very good at his job than that the match was rigged.

Maybelline made his second goal count, however, getting on the end of a lovely cross by Giorgio Chiellini to tap the ball in. Should Juve manage to hang on, their unbeaten streak will continue, and they'll share the top of the table with Milan. But questions remain: why was that Muntari goal not given? Why did the referee turn a blind eye to so many harsh challenges? And why, oh why, did Antonio Conte not start Matri?

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AC Milan Vs. Juventus, 2012 Serie A: Antonio Nocerino Goal Is Only Goal That Has Counted, Milan Lead Juve 1-0 At Halftime

Despite the best efforts of Antonio Conte and his dreary 3-5-2 lineup, Saturday's marquee match at the San Siro has been anything but boring. Juventus came flying out of the gate, but it was Antonio Nocerino that scored first, giving AC Milan the 1-0 lead. The score should have been 2-0 on 25 minutes, but the flag never went up on Sully Muntari's strike. From then on both sides had solid chances, but the score remains 1-0 at the break.

Nocerino sent the crowd in Milan through the roof when he scored just fifteen minutes into the match. Leonardo Bonucci did his best to clear the ball after a spell of rossoneri pressure, but his best just wasn't good enough as his effort fell to the feet of Nocerino. The midfielder blasted his shot through the Juve defence, where it ricocheted off poor Bonucci, leaving Gigi Buffon helpless.

But for a huge bit of luck on the visitors' side, the score should have been 2-0. Sully Muntari had his header at the near post across the line, and was halfway through celebrating when he realized the whistle hadn't blown. Instead, Buffon had picked up the ball and rolled it out to the breaking Juventus players, giving them the opportunity to advance down a nearly empty pitch. Christian Abbiati managed to push aside Arturo Vidal's effort, but all eyes were focused on the other end of the pitch. Replays and screen captures show that the ball was nearly a meter across the line, with a good third of Buffon's body across it as well.

When the sides return for the second half, they better do their very best to brush aside the ghost goal. Otherwise, even if Milan win, whispers of a conspiracy will certainly be heard around Italy.

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AC Milan Vs. Juventus, 2012 Serie A: Sully Muntari Goal Not Awarded

25 minutes in and AC Milan should be leading Juventus 2-0, but for a poor call by the referee the score remains 1-0, with Antonio Nocerino scoring the only goal. But Sully Muntari should be on the scoresheet as well, his goal having clearly crossed the line. Gigi Buffon may have managed to catch the ball, but considering his body was halfway across the line when he did so, the goal should have stood. But the whistle didn't blow and Juve played on, attacking Christian Abbiati's goal while Muntari was still celebrating.

The officials on Fox Soccer might be discussing the need for goal line technology, but we all know what will really be discussed should this ghost goal prove decisive: match-fixing. Or, at least, calciopoli, a return to encouraging referees to make calls in favor of a specific team. The Old Lady should do their very best to turn this around and earn a decisive win, because if they don't, their hands will be sullied -- whether or not actual fixing exists.

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AC Milan Vs. Juventus, 2012 Serie A: Antonio Nocerino Gives Milan The Early Lead

Antonio Nocerino sent in a rocket to put the home side ahead against Juventus, scoring his eighth goal of the season for AC Milan. Despite the fact that the visitors have one of the best defences in Serie A, the goal was created from a slip up at the back. Leonardo Bonucci attempted to clear the ball after a bit of pressure, but managed to knock it into the path of Nocerino. Then when the midfielder drew back his foot to shoot, the ball deflected off the hapless Bonucci, leaving Gigi Buffon helpless.

It was Juventus that were first out of the gate, with Fabio Quagliarella taking a shot before sixty seconds were up. But Milan slowly started to apply the pressure in the Juve end, and with little in the way of attack for the visitors, it seemed it would be only a matter of time before the rossoneri would unlock the defence. But perhaps the goal will encourage Antonio Conte to go for it, at least a bit?

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AC Milan Vs. Juventus, 2012 Serie A: Lineups

Well, it's finally here, the moment we've all been waiting for, the clash we've been anticipating: Milan - Juventus. Top of the table vs second-place. A thrilling encounter at the San Siro.

Or at least, it had the potential to be exciting. But then Antonio Conte had to go and put pen to the lineup card. The Juve coach once again trotted out his 3-5-2 lineup, and has made the, shall we say, interesting decision to start Quagliarella and Boriello up top together.

Max Allegri sticks with his 4-3-1-2 formation, although injuries force him to use Emanuelson in the trequartista role, with both Kevin-Prince Boateng and Clarence Seedorf injured. Mexes replaces Alessandro Nesta in defence, and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic still suspended, Robinho and Pato lead the attack.

Lineups

AC Milan Starting XI (4-3-1-2): Christian Abbiati, Ignazio Abate, Philippe Mexes, Thiago Silva, Luca Antonini; Antonio Nocerino, Mark Van Bommel, Sully Muntari; Urby Emanuelson; Alexandre Pato, Robinho

Milan Bench: Daniele Bonera, Filippo Inzaghi, Gianluca Zambrotta, Marco Amelia, Massimo Ambrosini, Mario Yepes, Stephan El Shaarawy

Juventus Starting XI (3-5-2): Gigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Marcelo Estigarribia; Fabio Quagliarella, Marco Borriello

Juve Bench: Mirko Vucinic, Alessandro Del Piero, Simone Pepe, Marco Storari, Martin Carceres, Alessandro Matri, Emanuele Giaccherini

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AC Milan Vs. Juventus, 2012 Serie A Week 25: Can Cautious Juve Grab All Three Points From The Rossoneri?

Juventus look to retake their lead at the top of the table as they travel to the San Siro to take on league leaders AC Milan. But will Antonio Conte's cautious football be enough to earn all three points for the Old Lady?

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