Thursday, 29 September 2011

Sampdoria V Torino Preview

With a combined eight Serie A titles between the two teams, Friday night's Serie B fixture between Sampdoria and Torino is one that would not look out of place in the top tier of Italian football.

Because of their impressive histories (and squads), both Sampdoria and Torino were expected to be amongst the leading contenders to gain promotion to Serie A, and so far this season, they have lived up to those expectations, as both sides have yet to be defeated this season.

Toro have enjoyed the better start and find themselves joint top of the division with four wins (three of which away from home) and two draws from their opening six matches. Sampdoria find themselves two points behind Toro as they have won one game less than their opponents.

One might be tempted to use the slogan made famous by boxing announcer Michael Buffer in order to the hype this game between two unbeaten teams, but as there is a 33.3% chance that this game will end in a draw, then the use of the aforementioned slogan -  'Somebody's "O" has got to go' would be quite pointless.

Instead, this game has received some attention due to the fact it could be seen as a head to head battle between two players called Angelo who still have ambitions of being included in Italy's squad for Euro 2012, despite playing their club football in Serie B.

Sampdoria midfielder Angelo Palombo surprised many by choosing to stay with the club following their relegation to the second tier and has already gained 22 caps for his country. Toro defender Angelo Ogbonna is yet to make his Italy debut, but has recently been included in two squads by Cesare Prandelli, and is expected to get a cap for the national team sooner rather than later.

Toro are expected to revert to their normal 4-4-2 (4-2-4) formation after playing an unfamiliar 4-3-3 formation against Nocerina last Saturday, whilst Juan Surraco and Biagio Pagano will compete for a place as one of the two wingers, with Alen Stevanovic likely to occupy the other wing.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Nocerina 1-2 Torino

Torino continued their unbeaten start to the season with a narrow victory at newly promoted Nocerina, their third away win of the season, and the first time they have won three consecutive away games since May 2006.

Giampiero Ventura made a number of changes to the team that drew at home to Brescia on Monday night, with Kamil Glik, Luciano Zavagno, Giuseppe Vives and Mirco Antenucci all coming into the starting eleven, with captain Rolando Bianchi left on the bench.

The home side made a bright start to the match, and Toro defender Matteo Darmian made a great tackle to deny Manuel Scalise who appeared to be through on goal. Torino's first chance of the match once again fell to Alen Stevanovic, but the winger could only hit the side netting with his left footed shot.

Torino took the lead after twenty minutes, and it was one of the players brought into the side, Mirco Antenucci, who scored the goal. Initially, it looked as though Antenucci had wasted a great chance to give Toro the lead after his scuffed shot had hit the post. But he didn't have long to dwell on that miss, as just seconds later, after another exquisite pass by Manuel Iori, he was put through on goal, and this time he made no mistake and put Torino 1-0 up.

Torino nearly doubled their lead after a clever free kick routine saw the ball passed along the ground to Giuseppe Vives (who had been a part of the wall) but the midfielder dragged his shot wide of the target. Just before half time, Nocerina had a great chance to equalise, but Ferdinando Coppola made a good reflex save from Luigi Castaldo's header.

Torino extended their lead on the hour mark, and once again the goal was created by outstanding wing play from Alen Stevanovic. The Serbian knocked the ball past the full back as if he wasn't there before getting to the byline and cutting the ball back to Giulio Ebagua, who controlled the ball with his right foot, turned, and then finished powerfully with his left foot to score his first goal in a Torino shirt.

However, less than ten minutes later, Nocerina were handed a way back into the match after Matteo Darmian upended substitute Emanuele Catania in the area to give the home side a penalty. Catania picked himself up to take the penalty himself, and sent Coppola the wrong way to ensure a nervy last twenty minutes for Torino.

Nocerina nearly equalised through defender Roberto Di Maio towards the end of the match, but his volley was cleared off the line by Manuel Iori, and Toro held on for a vital victory.

This result put Torino level on points with Brescia and Padova at the top of the Serie B table, and their next match promises to be an intriguing encounter as they travel to Genoa on Friday night to face Sampdoria.

Forza Torino

Friday, 23 September 2011

Nocerina V Torino Preview

For the first time since the opening weekend of the season, Torino will be playing on a Saturday as they travel to newly promoted Nocerina in search of a third successive away victory.

Although Monday's 0-0 draw with Brescia did have a number of positives, one slight worry for Torino is the fact they have only scored once in the last two matches, and that was Rolando Bianchi's last second winner against Vicenza in their last away match, so Toro will certainly be eager to create more goalscoring opportunities.

Whilst on paper, a match against a newly promoted side may be seen as an easy game, but coach Giampiero Ventura is fully aware that Nocerina will be tough opposition, as they will still be full of confidence from gaining promotion last season.

As seen with Novara last season, who, after being promoted from Lega Pro 1, had a great season in Serie B, and gained promotion via the playoffs, and are still continuing that momentum in Serie A this season after beating Inter 3-1 in midweek. Now I'm not suggesting that Nocerina may be promotion contenders, but they have made a solid start to the season by gaining 5 points from as many matches.

Giampiero Ventura has already confirmed that Kamil Glik will be given a start in defence in place of Valerio Di Cesare, and Uruguayan winger Juan Surraco may make his first start for Torino in place of Simone Verdi who has a slight injury.

Forza Torino

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Torino 0-0 Brescia

Torino maintained their unbeaten start to the season, but were unable to find a goal as they were held to a scoreless draw against Brescia.

Giampiero Ventura made a couple of changes to the team that beat Vicenza in the last match, with Simone Verdi coming in to replace the injured Stefano Guberti, and Giulio Ebagua replacing Alessandro Sgrigna in attack.

It was Brescia who had the first chance of the match, when Fabio Daprela broke down the left, and his cross found Omar El Kaddouri, who was unlucky to see his volley rebound off the post. Torino had a good chance to opening themselves after Manuel Iori's free kick found Rolando Bianchi, but his header went well wide.

On the stoke of half time, Brescia had arguably the best chance of the half, but El Kaddouri scuffed his shot when well placed, and then former Torino midfielder Alessandro Budel had a shot from distance that went wide.

Toro had the first chance in the second half, as winger Alen Stevanovic drove into the box and unleashed a powerful low shot that was just inches away from the target. Giulio Ebagua also came close for Torino as he was eager to stake his claim for a regular starting birth, but his long range shot was also off target.

In the closing stages, Torino almost stole the three points once again after Alessandro Parisi's volley was almost diverted into the net by substitute Alessandro Sgrigna, but unfortunately for Toro, like so many chances beforehand, it went wide.

In the end, a draw was probably a fair result, and Brescia would probably be the happier of the two sides, as they seemed to be content with a point for the duration of the second half. However Toro should not be too disappointed, as Brescia are one of the better sides in the division, and it means Torino remain unbeaten, and have had clean sheets in their last three matches.

Forza Torino

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Torino V Brescia Preview

For the second consecutive week, Torino have to wait until Monday night to play their match, as they face high flying Brescia at the Stadio Olimpico.

The game against Brescia promises to be a tough one, as like Toro, they find themselves near the top of the Serie B table with 10 points from their opening four games.

After last Monday's last second victory against Vicenza, confidence in the Torino camp will undoubtedly be high. However, Toro were dealt a massive blow in mid week after Stefano Guberti injured his cruciate ligament in training, and the winger is expected to be out of action for at least six months. Fellow wingers Biagio Pagano and Juan Surraco have been included in the squad for the first time this season, however as both players are recovering from injuries, question marks remain regarding whether the players are match fit to play any part in the match.

The last time these two sides met was in the 2010 Serie B playoff final, and it was Brescia who emerged victorious over two legs to gain promotion to Serie A. Both of those games were fiery and controversial encounters, especially the first leg where Toro had a goal disallowed in the last minute, and Rolando Bianchi was continual provoked by the Brescia players throughout the match.

This video below gives a taster of what type of "defending" Brescia employed in order to try and stop Bianchi, and one wonders whether il capitano may have revenge on his mind on Monday night.

Forza Torino

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Vicenza 0-1 Torino

Torino earned their third victory of the season after a dramatic last minute winner by captain Rolando Bianchi gave them all three points against Vicenza.

After impressing in Torino's last outing against Varese, Alen Stevanovic and former Vicenza player Alessandro Sgrigna retained their places in the team, whilst captain Rolando Bianchi also started, in place of Giulio Ebagua who had to make do with a place on the bench.

Torino had the first opportunity of the match, with the goal scorers from the last match once again combining to good effect, but Alessandro Sgrigna could only head Alen Stevanovic's cross wide of the goal.

Vicenza also had opportunities in the opening stages, and Toro were thankful to Ferdinando Coppola who made a magnificent save to tip a vicious swerving shot from Alemao onto the bar. From the resulting corner, the home side should have taken the lead, as defender Daniele Martinelli found himself unmarked, but his diving header went over the bar.

Torino almost took the lead in spectacular fashion, when Rolando Bianchi unleashed a curling shot from 25 yards that had the Vicenza goalkeeper beaten, but unfortunately for Toro, it hit bar.

Vicenza had the first chance in a quieter second half, when Gianvito Misuraca had a shot from long range, that Coppola did well to save with his legs after he appeared to lose his footing. Former Toro striker Elvis Abbruscato also went close for the home side but his header went narrowly wide of the target.

Toro coach Giampiero Ventura brought on Mirco Antenucci and Giulio Ebagua as he went in search of a winning goal, and it was Antenucci who played a part in the winning goal.

In the last minute of injury time, Antenucci chipped a hopeful ball into the box that the Vicenza defence failed to deal with, and the ball fell perfectly to Rolando Bianchi, whose half volley found the corner of the net with the last kick of the game.

The result was harsh on Vicenza, who probably deserved a point for their second half performance, but the fact that Toro did not give up and kept fighting for the victory until the last kick of the match was particularly pleasing, and the team showed a togetherness that has not been present in the last couple of seasons.

Forza Torino

Monday, 12 September 2011

Vicenza V Torino Preview

After Brescia and Padova both recorded victories at the weekend, Torino will need to win in Vicenza on Monday night to regain their position as joint leaders of Serie B.

After two victories in their opening three matches, Torino have started the season well, and another three points tonight will certainly increase belief that Toro are serious promotion contenders.

Torino's opponents,Vicenza, have had a disappointing start to the season, and only have one point from their opening three matches, so will be looking for their first win of the season.

Polish defender Kamil Glik has returned from international duty, so may return to the centre of defence in place of Valerio Di Cesare, and captain Rolando Bianchi should regain his place in the starting eleven.

Forza Torino

Monday, 5 September 2011

Torino 2-0 Varese

Torino joined Padova and Brescia at the top of Serie B after a hard fought 2-0 victory over Varese on Sunday night.

After only managing a draw with Cittadella in their opening home match, Giampiero Ventura's side were looking for their first home victory of the season, and the experienced tactician gave Alessandro Sgrigna and Giulio Ebagua starts up front, and left captain Rolando Bianchi on the bench.

Toro started the match brightly and Serbian winger Alen Stevanovic, making his first appearance of the season after an injury, delivered a fantastic cross in the early stages, but Alessandro Sgrigna was unable to direct his header goalwards.

The next chance fell to former Varese striker Giulio Ebagua, but when he slid in to meet Stefano Guberti's teasing cross, his effort went wide of the post. The build up play before Ebagua's chance was particularly pleasing, as Manuel Iori's pass with the outside of his foot found Guberti in space, who in turn delivered a first time cross into the area, but unfortunately Ebagua could not score.

Toro took the lead just five minutes before half time, after Stefano Guberti's fierce cross was only palmed away by the Varese keeper into the path of Alen Stevanovic, who calmly rearranged his feet, and curled a shot into the far corner.

Torino added to their lead just four minutes into the second half, after a nice lay off by Ebagua found Alen Stevanovic, and the Serbian then found Alessandro Sgrigna who unleashed a vicious shot from 20 yards to give the keeper no chance.

Despite dominating much of the game, Toro nearly presented Varese with a route back into the match, when keeper Ferdinando Coppola's mis-hit clearance went straight to Neto Pereira, but his shot was well blocked by Valerio Di Cesare.

Toro had a great chance to score a third, after a sloppy back pass by a Varese defender sent Ebagua through on goal but he was twice denied by Mathieu Moreau in the Varese goal, who also saved a shot from substitute Simone Verdi in the same move.

Although Toro were guilty of some unconvincing defending in the closing stages, they held on to the victory, and remain unbeaten so far this season, and are currently the joint leaders of Serie B.

Forza Torino.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Torino V Varese Preview

Torino will play their third Serie B game in eight days tonight, when they face last season's surprise package Varese at the Stadio Olimpico.

Torino will be eager to get their first home victory of the campaign, after only managing a draw against Cittadella on Wednesday night. However, Varese will certainly be tough opposition, and last season did the double over Toro as they surprised everybody by finishing in 4th position.

Much of last season's success was thanks to former coach Giuseppe Sannino, but he left in the summer to join Siena, and has been replaced by former Torino striker Benito Carbone. Varese have started the season with two 0-0 draws, and will therefore be looking for their first victory of the season.

Torino winger Nnamdi Oduamadi, who scored the winning goal in the opening game at Ascoli, is out for a month with an injury, and defender Kamil Glik is still away with Poland on international duty. Striker Giulio Ebagua, who signed from Varese in the summer, will be looking to score his first goal in a Torino shirt against his former team.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Torino 1-1 Cittadella

Torino could only hold on to their lead for three minutes, as Cittadella fought back to gain to deserved point at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday night.

There was a lot of optimism surrounding Torino, after their impressive win at Ascoli at the weekend, as well as the fact they were able to retain key players Angelo Ogbonna and Rolando Bianchi in the transfer window.

However, Torino did not start the game well, and they looked a shadow of the team that were victorious on Saturday. Perhaps one of the reasons for their slow start was because there were six changes to the side that started in Ascoli, with D'Ambrosio, Di Cesare, Zavagno, Vives, Oduamadi and Antenucci all gaining starts.

Another reason for their poor start could be that Torino underestimated Cittadella, and assumed that this would be an academic home victory, they were wrong, as for much of the game, it was Cittadella who looked like the team challenging for promotion.

Torino had the opening chance of the match, when Nnamdi Oduamadi, broke free on the left wing, but his right footed shot hit the side netting. Cittadella should of taken the lead minutes later through striker Robert Maah, but his free header went wide of the target. Maah turned provider soon afterwards, as Cittadella broke away on a quick counter attack, and his pass found Thomas Job, but the midfielder slipped and his tame shot went harmlessly wide.

It was then Torino's turn to miss an easy chance, as Rolando Bianchi failed to make contact with Danilo D'Ambrosio's cross from six yards, when it had seemed easier to score.

The second half began in similar fashion to the first, as both sides were guilty of inept finishing. Once again Bianchi had a great chance to open the scoring, but after being set up by strike partner Mirco Antenucci, the captain dragged his shot wide of the post. Next up it was Cittadella's captain, Tommaso Bellazzini who entered the 'How not to finish a chance when ideally placed' competition, as he, like so many before him, dragged his shot wide.

Finally, in the 81st minute, the deadlock was finally broken as Torino took the lead in bizarre fashion. After a long goal kick from Toro keeper Ferdinando Coppola, substitute Alessandro Sgrigna forced his way into the area, and his shot hit the arm of opposition keeper Alex Cordaz and slowly rolled into the net.

However, just three minutes later, Cittadella were level, and much like the opening goal of the match, this goal could accurately be described as a fluke. It was substitute Nunzio Di Roberto who scored the goal, after converting Robert Maah's cross, but it looked as though the ball just hit Di Roberto's standing foot, before agonizingly looping into the corner of the net.

The game finished 1-1, and after taking the lead, Torino will be disappointed that they did not hold on to all three points, but overall it was certainly a fair result. The match will also have given Toro coach Giampiero Ventura a much clearer indication of what his strongest eleven is, and in Sunday's home match against Varese, we should see what Ventura believe his strongest team to be, now that the majority of the squad have been given game time.

Forza Torino