What a match in Torino! Juventus – Napoli lived up to expectations, electrifying the stadium and even signor De Laurentiis in the VIP section, who revealed emotionally how he has come to enjoy calcio Sundays since the arrival of Walter Mazzari. Juve was up 2-0 early in the second half though a spectacular Trezeguet goal and a gift from one of Napoli’s central defenders, but the man who greatly affected the course of the match was Datolo. Inserted at halftime, the former Boca Juniors man combined explosively with budding star Marek Hamsik and Argentine compatriots Lavezzi and Denis, repeatedly providing dangerous crosses and spear heading speedy breakouts. Datolo scored the tying goal himself, pouncing on a goalmouth scramble. Napoli’s impressive attacking formation was sensational and unstoppable, as Juve will attest. All of Serie A is on notice.
Napoli left Torino with three points for the first time since the Maradona era. Whether this is Walter Mazzari’s magical touch or just an overdue change of luck, Napoli’s young starlets are clicking and putting on an exciting display. Three consecutive wins have left them only four points behind second place Juventus.
Inter took care of business in Livorno. Combined with Juve’s loss, there is now a seven point gap between the two principal scudetto contenders, with only three rounds before they meet on December 5th. Fiorentina, Milan and Roma won, but Sampdoria, after a brilliant start, were held to a goalless draw at home by Bari.
A memorable individual effort from Spaniard Cesc Fabregas effectively settled the north London derby Saturday, after the two sides had played on fairly even terms for the first 40 minutes. Arsenal’s talismanic striker and playmaker Robin van Persie scored on each side of Fabregas’ sensational run to provide a categorical score line, but Spurs boss Harry Redknapp remained unimpressed and gave Arsenal no chance to win the Premiership.
Robbie Keane had declared that Spurs and Arsenal are now on par prior to the match. Correct attitude to bring into the derby, but not on display on the pitch. Arsenal’s game is enjoyable, fluid, attacking through possession. Despite the good results obtained this season, the same cannot be said about Tottenham’s game. There is a visible difference of class between the sides, although the gap has been narrowed indeed. Arsenal supporters are rejoicing this most delectable of all victories, but Spurs are on the right path.
All normal for Chelsea and Manchester United, but Liverpool suffered its fifth Premiership loss in eleven games, falling further from the leaders and re-igniting the pressure on Rafa Benitez. Gerrard was out, so were Glen Johnson and several others, but there is no real excuse. Fulham won the match after Fernando Torres, Liverpool’s only credible threat on the day was taken off after 60 minutes as a precautionary measure ahead of Liverpool’s crucial match in Lyon on Wednesday. Fulham went on to score twice in the last half hour and the knives are once again directed at Rafa for this strategy.
The anger is misdirected. Liverpool has a large roster of players who must be rotated to perform when regulars are injured or unavailable. It is why players like Voronyn, Degen and Kyrgiakos were brought to the club. All must step up when given the opportunity. The players lost this match and it is clear how thin Liverpool really is. For good measure, Degen and Carragher were eliminated. A lot is riding on the result in Lyon. If Liverpool are out of Europe and out of Premiership contention by November, big changes are certain to come very shortly.
Barcelona left Osasuna with only a disappointing point and will now head to Russia less relaxed than anticipated. Guardiola expects a top performance from his players to avoid complications in moving on in a tight Champions League group, but it will not be easy. Barca will encounter unfamiliar elements and a determined Rubin team who believes in its own chances.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid got three desperately needed points hosting neighbors Getafe, steadying the ship and saving Pellegrini, for the time being anyway. Gonzalo Higuain supplied the two goals, while Kaka, Marcelo and Benzema combined well throughout the match. Playing with 10 men after Albiol was harshly eliminated half way through the first half, Real elevated its game, making the feat more impressive. A good result in Milan on Tuesday and a redemption trouncing of Alarcon are entirely feasible. Together with Cristiano Ronaldo’s return, the Merengues could be on a good path with supreme confidence with and only two more rounds before the November 29 mega clash with Barcelona.
Sevilla, Valencia and Villareal got positive results, but Atletico continued to struggle and lost in Bilbao. What will lift this talented team? All hopes are that new coach Quique Flores will eventually get it right. A win on Sunday when their deeply loathed city rivals visit would be a huge step forward.