Feature Photo: Emilio Andreoli / Getty Images
How many lives does Goran Pandev have? At 34, the Macedonian continues to be one of the best spare strikers in Serie A, and last night he led his Genoa to a sounding 2-0 win against Inter, for the Port City to celebrate the birthday of one of their dearest children and supporters – songwriter Fabrizio De André.
Luciano Spalletti’s Nerazzurri showed no reaction after a tragicomic own goal by Andrea Ranocchia had put the Grifone ahead: That’s perfect image of a team who has plummeted into an endless crisis since December. Last week’s win over Bologna was just an illusion, propelled more by Yann Karamoh’s isolated initiatives, than by some good play or team effort.
For the away match at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium, Spalletti was missing his captain Mauro Icardi, as well as Ivan Perisic and defender Joao Miranda. Karamoh won a new chance to play as left winger, and did use it as he could – resulting the most dangerous among the blunt Nerazzurri lines. Roberto Gagliardini, back in the center of the field, and one of the main disappointments in this year’s Inter campaign, was not able to overturn the impression.
Andrea Ranocchia, who looks like some distant kin of that rock-solid center back who dominated Inter defense in the glory days of the 2010 Triplete, was preferred to Lisandro Lopez to replace Miranda. He ended up becoming – not only for his fault – the symbol of yesterday’s setback. Another new joiner – Barcelona’s former player Rafinha – was also left on the bench again, only to get in during the last 30 minutes, and still leaving no significant trace. What purpose did the winter transfer market window serve then?
On the other side of the pitch, Genoa virtually reached safety with last night’s victory, casting away the ghosts of a possible relegation much earlier in the season than one year ago. Forced to renounce to Moroccan forward Adel Taarabt, the Rossoblu were taken by their hands by Goran Pandev – one that knows Italy defenses very well, having played in the Bel Paese in the last 16 years. By the way, it was Inter themselves to bring that young Macedonian striker in Italy back in 2001…
Pandev set the match standard just eight minutes into the game, with a powerful progression that was stopped by Samir Handanovic. Three minutes later, he tried a tricky cross from the right side: Oscar Hiljemark failed to catch it, but so did Inter’s goalie, and the ball hit the crossbar – sounding like a sinister premonition for Luciano Spalletti’s side.
Ranocchia had to spend a yellow card to stop a chainless Pandev, and, in the 40th minute, he risked even more when hitting Andrey Galabinov with his elbow high. The Luigi Ferraris supporters loudly reclaimed a second yellow for him, but referee Michael Fabbri showed mercy. Was he foreseeing what was about to come anyway?
Right before the referee could blow the half time whistle, indeed, Ranocchia became the unfortunate protagonist of Genoa’s lead. Ervin Zukanovic’s cross into Inter box didn’t seem too dangerous, yet Milan Skriniar decided to push it back like there was no tomorrow. The Slovakian center back’s violent clearance hit Ranocchia, with the ball bouncing back into the away team net. Simply absurd.
The Rossoblu legitimated their lead early into the second half, when Diego Laxalt caught a corner kick and delivered a left foot shot. Pandev – him again – found himself on the trajectory, and promptly corrected it, to give Handanovic his second frustration of the night. The good Goran also showed to be a gentleman in the occasion, avoiding celebrating in respect of the team for which he earned 47 caps in 5 years.
The Nerazzurri‘s reaction was all in a long-range shot by Antonio Candreva, which Mattia Perin easily blocked – replicating a duel that had already happened once in the first half. Yann Karamoh tried a lob shot from the left flank, with the ball flying over the crossbar. Then Perin stopped a potentially dangerous cross from him, and blocked another incursion by Marco D’Ambrosio. Definitely too little for a side where even substitutes – Marcelo Brozovic, Rafinha, and 18-year-old Andrea Pinamonti – couldn’t change the trend.
Luciano Spalletti could hardly imagine that. Remember December? Inter surpassing Napoli to gain the top spot of Serie A, and now facing a true crisis of identity – even putting their participation to the next Champions League at risk. Roma has just overtaken the Nerazzurri in the third spot, and Lazio could do the same tomorrow, should they win their home match against Verona – which doesn’t look like an impossible scenario.
Genoa supporters left their home ground on a totally different mood – happy on the notes of Il Pescatore (“The Fisherman”), a famous hit by Italian music legend, and Grifone hard core fan Fabrizio De André, who would have turned 78 today. Wherever he is now, he must have had some fun watching his Griffins tear Inter apart.
February 17, 2018 – Serie A 2017-18 Round 25
SCORERS: 45′ Ranocchia (I, o.g.), 59′ Pandev (G)
|GENOA (3-5-2): Perin; Rossettini, Spolli, Zukanovic; Rosi, Bessa (56’ Omeonga), Bertolacci, Hiljemark, Laxalt; Pandev (80’ Lazovic), Galabinov (77’ Lapadula) (Lamanna, Zima, Cofie, El Yamiq, Migliore, Rigoni, Pereira, Medeiros) Coach: Ballardini|
|INTER (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; Cancelo, Ranocchia, Skriniar, D’Ambrosio; Vecino (61’ Rafinha), Gagliardini; Candreva (77’ Pinamonti), Borja Valero (76’ Brozovic), Karamoh; Eder (Padelli, Pissardo, Lisandro Lopez, Santon, Dalbert, Emmers, Lombardoni) Coach: Spalletti|
REFEREE: Mr. Fabbri from Faenza
NOTES: Yellow card: Ranocchia (I); Extra Time: 1st Half 0′, 2nd Half 4′.