Serie A: Udinese’s win leaves Lazio fuming in race for Champions League
Kieran Beckles takes a look at a controversial weekend in Serie A as Lazio are left fuming by Udinese's 2-0 victory on Sunday night
Lazio fume as Udinese move into third
On Sunday night, Udinese and Lazio met in what was deemed a key battle between two sides fighting for the third and final Champions League spot in Serie A. The home side took the lead in the 68th minute as veteran striker Antonio Di Natale slid in to volley Maurizio Domizzi’s cross past Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti. Deep into injury time, Lazio piled forward for a final corner as they looked to rescue a point from a tricky trip to Udine. The ball was cleared and Udinese immediately counter-attacked with Marchetti, who had gone forward for the set-piece, racing back to his goal when a whistle sounded. Marchetti and the scurrying Lazio defenders came to a halt, leaving Udinese’s Roberto Pereyra to place the ball into the empty net. Referee Mauro Bergonzi, who had not signalled the end of the game, awarded the goal, sparking outrage amongst the Lazio players and staff, with Andre Dias sent off in the ensuing melee. It’s not the first time controversy has reigned supreme in Serie A this season, with AC Milan left furious after two ‘ghost goal’ incidents. The result leaves Napoli in third place, tied on 55 points with Udinese, Internazionale and Lazio, who drop to sixth.
Juve still in pole position for Serie A title
Juventus extended their unbeaten season with a resounding 4-1 victory over Novara and Antonio Conte’s side now have the chance to win the title this Wednesday – if AC Milan lose at home to Atalanta. Former Roma striker Mirko Vučinić settled the league leaders’ nerves with his 16th-minute opener, while Marco Borriello doubled Juve’s lead just before half-time. Arturo Vidal, who scored a spectacular brace in a 4-0 win over Roma last weekend, netted with a close-range finish and Vučinić completed a resounding victory. Meanwhile, Massimiliano Allegri’s side were 4-1 winners at Siena, with Zlatan Ibrahimović netting his 25th and 26th Serie A goals of the season. If Milan can avoid defeat in midweek then they face a tricky Milan derby on Sunday.
Cassano returns to first-team action
Milan’s victory was significant for other reasons as Antonio Cassano returned to the first-team after suffering an ischemic stroke last October. The 29-year-old was praised by the club’s doctors for working tirelessly to get fit following minor heart surgery. The Italy international marked his comeback with a 26th-minute goal to help Milan to a comfortable win over Siena, rushing to Dr Rodolfo Tavana who treated the forward after the stroke. “Dr Tavana was fundamental to Antonio and he knows what he has done for him that night,” said Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani. “Their embrace was beautiful and meaningful.” He added: “The real regret for this year, as I said it to [Silvio] Berlusconi on the phone, is about Genaro Gattuso and Cassano. With the two of them we would have gained some more points, the team has had more injuries than normal.” Milan midfielder Gattuso returned from injury for the trip to Siena on Saturday.
Goal of the week: Mirko Vucinic’s innovative strike against Novara
Juventus’ set-piece expert Andrea Pirlo chipped the ball towards Vucinic who, with the deftest of touches and facing away from the goal, caressed the ball past Novara goalkeeper Alberto Fontana. It was the Montenegro striker’s eighth goal of the season in Serie A.