yeah yeah lazy two for the price of one football update. so sue me.
Had a mate over at the weekend who'd not been to an Italian match before so I took him with me for a bit of singing, swearing and jumping about. Apart from the heretical statement that being on the Sud reminded him of the old Shed (though I'm sure he meant it as a compliment) it went well. Shame the same can't be really said for much of the match, as we went 1-0 down in the first half and played fairly poorly, Totti very isolated up front and no support from Mancini or Taddei really whilst Panucci was having a shocker filling in at left-back, with Atalanta's enormous forward whose name now escapes me running him ragged. In the second half things got better, more support for Totti, Tonetto - recovering from injury - on for Panucci and a pair of penalties which Totti converted with calm. In fact he scored three, the second being discounted and retaken. But after getting to 2-1 we sat back again and it was by no means a comfortable evening. We need a forward or two, badly. And a system which doesn't leave Totti totally isolated as soon as our attacking midfielders/wingers get caught up in defending, or have a quiet day. Atalanta were organised and hard-working (and mostly boring...) and closed us down really well especially through the first half.
Tuesday night was the final group stage game with Valencia. Having already qualified comfortably and being guaranteed to finish top of their group, they pretty unconcerned - which was just as well for them since they had something like 14 players unavailable due to injury suspension or in Angulo's case bereavement, including Villa and all their other stars. So it was basically a youth & reserve team that Flores put out - the few first teamers available, such as Vicente and Baraja, were on the bench. We were without Totti - his ankle is playing up - Pizarro - suspended - and Perrotta - recovering from the wallop he took on Saturday night which led to a sending off for Donati, the Atalanta player concerned.
We scored after about 15 minutes, a Taddei free-kick, headed by Mexes on to Panucci (captain for the night) who headed it in. That was more or less our only chance on goal. Vicunic, handed a real chance to shine, worked hard but ineffectually. Our centre backs (Panucci and Mexes) were solid and effective. Cassetti and Tonetto were ok at right and left back. Otherwise it was woeful. Neither Mancini nor Taddei (filling in for Perrotta in the centre) did anything; 20 yr old debutant Virga on the left did ok, in that he didn't embarrass himself. But there was no creativity, no spark, no confidence, no inspiration, certainly no entertainment and no bloody chance of scoring. In light of the latest betting scandal (a bunch of current and recently ex pros investigated for forming part of a betting ring operating out of Udine, betting on Serie A games, with implications of both money laundering and match fixing) I was actually wondering whether Spalletti and the boys had put some cash on 1-0. Meanwhile Montella neither started, as he might have justifiably expected, nor even got to come on: which given how little Vucinic achieved looks like little short of a snub. Rumours of his imminent departure abound, though the fact that the papers make Fulham his most likely destination of choice fills me with scepticism. But anyway we ought to be BUYING strikers not selling them. Christ almighty.
Anyway as it was the last game before the derbv there was a good bit of anti-Lazio warm up stuff. Noi odiamo la Lazio, noi odiamo la Lazio, undici anni in B, undici anni in B. My housemates came along and enjoyed the singing but greeted the standing with a combination of disgust, outrage and incomprehension. You mean, you stand ALL throught the championship?, asked one in horror. But why? er, because football should be watched standing, imo. So you can jump up and down and suchlike. Why do you need to sit?
Meanwhile, in ultra-watch news, there was a fair old bit of internal fighting. First at half time some lads from the Sud had a huge row with some guys in the Distinti next to them: straddling the perspex barriers (in what I always think must be a painful position, potentially dangerous to the male anatomy) they had a big shouting match, with a bit of subsequent shoviong and what looked like the moving around of certain banners. This was in sector P, maybe about row 30, i.e. extremely close to where I normally stand (we were up top in an unfamiliar sector since there were 4 of us and couldn't find another place). Then later in the second half a huge brawl broke out, kicking, punching, hitting one another with flag poles, right down at the front in the centre. It looked like various capi ultra fighting either over territory or possibly over control of the main megaphones, it was right there in the centre. To my amusement, the chap with the large dark red laurel-wreath flag (one of those giant 2m square types) ,who was stood all of a foot away from this group of some 20 brawling kids, paid absolutely no attention whatsoever but contained to wave his flag tranquilly.
Anyway, partita di merda notwithstanding, we've qualified for the first knock-out stage. Woo! Potential opponents sadly do not include Celtic, who were my first choice. Instead we can draw: Man U, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Lille, Bayern. So a 2/3 chance of it being an English team. I guess I might go over for the away leg, in such a case, it might be a laugh. But I hope it's not Liverpool... not after our history with them. That's a long way off, at the moment everyone and everything is all about the derby, of which more (much more, I'm sure) in subsequent posts.
And finally: this is my 200th post! a testament to my ability to spout crap and talk about myself a lot, I'm sure you'll agree.