It was far from a routine win, but Udinese still managed to pick up all three points at home to Serie A's basement club Catania on Monday. Antonio Di Natale gave the zebrette the lead midway through the second half, before teenage goalkeeper Simone Scuffet single-handedly kept them in front with a string of astonishing stops.
Catania certainly started the match brighter than their hosts, dominating possession and pushing the zebrette back towards their own goal. Jaroslav Plašil forced two excellent stops from Scuffet within the first 15 minutes, with Udinese's classic counter-attack conspicuous by its absence.
However, by halftime the game had turned, and the home side were frustrated to not be ahead. They twice carved straight through the porous elefanti defence in the final 10 minutes of the first period, with Di Natale denied when one-on-one with Mariano Andújar before Nico López mishit Allan's cross just metres from goal.
The young Uruguayan was hauled off and replaced at halftime by Bruno Fernandes, in a substitution which very almost paid dividends. With practically his first involvement of the match, the young Portuguese midfielder drifted inside before curling the ball narrowly over Andújar's crossbar. He quickly became a headache for the Catania defence, and forced the Argentine keeper in an excellent stop from the edge of the area 10 minutes later.
Eventually Udinese had a deserved advantage, with Fernandes unsurprisingly heavily involved. His wonderful chipped pass behind the Catania defensive line was volleyed across goal by the equally dexterous Roberto Pereyra, allowing Di Natale to head in the opening goal. It was a kick in the teeth for Catania, but they could have few complaints after a lifeless second half.
But rather than sit back feeling sorry for themselves, the elefanti suddenly looked like a team fighting for their Serie A lives. They forced Scuffet into four excellent saves in the final 20 minutes; unable to draw level despite their newfound sense of urgency. Six points adrift of safety with seven games to play, Rolando Maran's side need a miracle.
Udinese: Scuffet; Domizzi, Danilo, Heurtaux; Silva, Pereyra (Widmer 82'), Allan, Pinzi, Basta (Badu 62'); López (Fernandes 46'); Di Natale
Goals: Di Natale (68')
Catania: Andújar; Monzón, Gyömbér, Bellusci, Izco (Peruzzi 87'); Rinaudo, Lodi, Plašil (Fedato 81'); Barrientos, Bergessio, Keko (Leto 65')