Friday, 30 March 2012

Empoli V Torino Preview

After their fantastic 6-0 victory over Gubbio last week, Torino are back in action on Saturday afternoon with a difficult looking away game against relegation threatened Empoli.

The away side will make at least one change from the team that thrashed Gubbio as Giuseppe Vives has been given a rest, with Manuel Iori likely to replace him. Alen Stevanovic also returns to the squad and will be looking for a recall, whilst Cristian Pasquato may earn his first start after an impressive cameo off the bench.

Empoli are currently in 17th position, just two points above the relegation play-out zone, and for a team that was in Serie A as recently as 2008, relegation to the Lega Pro would be almost unthinkable. The Tuscan side have only won five matches at home this season, but with a strike force of Francesco Tavano and Massimo Maccarone, they should have the fire power to cause the Toro defence some problems.

Torino's record against the Tuscan side is not great, as they have never beaten Empoli away from home in the league, although they did record a victory there in the 1984/85 Coppa Italia.

Empoli 1-1 Torino

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Torino 6-0 Gubbio

After disappointing results against Hellas Verona and Juve Stabia, Torino bounced back in scintillating fashion with a 6-0 thrashing of lowly Gubbio.

Stefano Guberti was given his first start since being injured in September, whilst Rolando Bianchi was preferred to Alessandro Sgrigna upfront.

It was Bianchi who had Torino's first chance of the match, after a long ball from the back but him through on goal, but his shot went just wide of the post. Stefano Guberti also came close to scoring a spectacular goal on his return, but his curling shot was tipped over the bar by Antonio Donnarumma.

The away side came close to taking the lead against the run of play, but Mattia Graffiedi's volley was easily saved by Francesco Benussi. And five minutes before Half Time, it was Toro who finally got the breakthrough when Juan Surraco's through ball found Bianchi who powered through the defence, and although his initial shot hit the post, he reacted quickest to put the ball into an empty net.

Less than a minute into the second half, Torino doubled their lead as Stefano Guberti showed the home fans what they had been missing when his sublime cross was turned into the net by Mirco Antenucci. Guberti was replaced by Alessandro Sgrigna soon after that assist, and his return is certainly a massive boost for Torino's promotion challenge.

And with 25 minutes remaining, Torino added a third goal as Juan Surraco got his first goal for the club with a low shot from the edge of the area. The fourth goal arrived just three minutes later, and Bianchi got his second goal of the match with a stunning half volley from Sgrigna's pass.

With a quarter of an hour left, Cristian Pasquato came off the bench to make his long-awaited Toro debut after arriving on loan from rivals Juventus, and his impact was immediate. Alessando Sgrigna's shot from inside the area was parried by Donnarumma, but Pasquato was on hand to score Torino's fifth goal of the afternoon.

There was still time for another goal, as with ten minutes remaining Pasquato turned provided as his deft header put Antenucci through on goal, and he finished well to get his second goal of the match.

After receiving much criticism for their performances against Hellas and Juve Stabia, this performance emphasised that reports of Torino's demise had been greatly exaggerated and that they were still promotion contenders. With both Pescara and Hellas Verona suffering defeats, this victory puts Torino four points clear at the top of the table.

Forza Torino

Friday, 23 March 2012

Torino V Gubbio Preview

After only gaining one point from their last two matches, Torino will be looking to regain their early season form when they face Gubbio at home on Saturday afternoon.

Manuel Iori should return to the starting eleven after being rested against Juve Stabia last Saturday, whilst Stefano Guberti will be pushing for a start after recovering from the injury he suffered in September. Cristian Pasquato is also included in the squad and could make his long-awaited debut after his loan move from Juventus.

Gubbio have been in a relegation battle for much of the season since their surprise promotion last season, but it should be remembered that it was the Umbrian side who inflicted Torino's first defeat of the season in the reverse fixture in October.

Torino 2-0 Gubbio

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Torino's 'Cult Heroes' #2 : Roberto Stellone

When I travelled to Turin in October 2006, to see my first live Torino match (a narrow 1-0 defeat to Fiorentina), it was the performance of target man Roberto Stellone that stood out.

The strange think is, he didn't even play very well, but for what ever reason I took an instant liking to him and until he left the club in 2009 he was one of my favourite players. Maybe I liked him because we shared the same first name (sort of), and as a fan of the Rocky films, I appreciated his surname as well. Or maybe it was just because he exudes coolness (just look at the picture) - its probably just him and James Richardson who can pull off the 'bald head and stubble' look.

Stellone signed for Torino from Genoa in 2005, with the striker having just enjoyed the most prolific season of his career, scoring 17 goals in just 28 games. However, with Genoa demoted to Serie C due to a match fixing scandal, Stellone ended up at Toro, who themselves had been denied promotion to Serie A due to financial difficulties.

Roberto could never replicate his Genoa goalscoring form at Torino, and only found the target 16 times despite making over 100 appearances. However, Stellone contributed numerous assists for his teammates during this time at the club - with one example being this fantastic flick on for Rolando Bianchi against Napoli in 2009.

It is difficult to pinpoint a moment for which Stellone is most remembered for by Torino fans, but this opening goal against AC Milan was the only time he scored against a traditional 'big club' in a Toro shirt so it seems appropriate.

After leaving Torino after their relegation in 2009, he signed for Frosinone and scored six goals in two seasons before (I assume) retiring. Like I said earlier, he was by no means the best player to wear a Torino shirt, but his hardworking and selfless performances should still be remembered.

Grazie Roberto

P.S To add to his image of being very cool, pay attention to the last ten seconds of this video from the Torino-Genoa brawl in 2009. With this being the match that effectively relegated Toro, and his teammates losing their heads, look at the way Stellone still manages to coolly stroll into the changing rooms.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Juve Stabia 1-1 Torino

Torino came from behind to gain a point against Juve Stabia, but with their promotion rivals winning, this game could be viewed as a missed opportunity.

Toro made six changes from the side that were beaten at home by Hellas Verona, as Kamil Glik, Francesco Pratali, Migjen Basha, Juan Surraco, Alessandro Sgrigna and Riccardo Meggiorini came into the starting eleven.

However, those changes didn't seem to work because it was the home side who dominated the early exchanges, with Marco Sau, Horacio Erpen and Mezavilla all having opportunities to score. Juve Stabia should have taken the lead after twenty minutes when Ivano Baldanzeddu cross found Sau, but his header rattled the post.

But Juve Stabia didn't have to wait long to take a deserved lead, as fifteen minutes later Marco Sau finally got the goal he had been threatening all afternoon. Toro failed to adequately clear a free kick, and that gave Erpen room to deliver a looping cross that Sau volleyed into the bottom the corner.

After seemingly being happy with passing the ball amongst the back four, that goal forced Torino to come out of their shell, and they should have equalised immediately. Juan Surraco's weak shot was parried by home keeper Simone Colombi, but somehow, with the goal wide open, Riccardo Meggiorini's shot went straight back to the goalkeeper.

However, five minutes before the break, Torino did get their equaliser when Matteo Darmian's outstanding cross was headed into the net by Alessandro Sgrigna - his seventh of the season.

Torino had the better chances in the second half, and they should have taken the lead when Angelo Ogbonna's wayward shot was diverted goalwards by Kamil Glik, but from just six yards out the, his effort clipped the post. Toro had half chances in the closing stages from Sgrigna and substitute Rolando Bianchi, but they couldn't find what would have been an undeserved winner.

The failure to win this game was obviously a disappointment, but Toro's lacklustre performance for large spells of the match is perhaps more worrying. With their rivals continuing to win, a victory at home to Gubbio next Saturday is of the utmost importance.

Forza Torino

Friday, 16 March 2012

Juve Stabia V Torino Preview

After their surprise defeat at home to Hellas Verona on Monday, Torino have the chance to make amends against Juve Stabia on Saturday afternoon. It is has been a strange week for Toro, because despite that defeat they have moved to the top of the Serie B table after their defeat against Padova was overturned and the Granata were awarded a 3-0 victory.

As you may remember from December, Torino's match against Padova was abandoned because of floodlight failure after 76 minutes with the home side 1-0 ahead . However, despite the remainder of the match being replayed eleven days afterwards, it has now been decided that result was void and Torino have been awarded the points. With many Torino fans agreeing that this may be the incorrect the decision, we can expect this saga to continue as Padova are expected to appeal.

However, now that is out of the way, its time to focus on the football on the pitch, and Torino will make at least two changes for their visit to Juve Stabia. Valerio Di Cesare and Manuel Iori have not made the trip, and are expected to be replaced by Kamil Glik and Migjen Basha. Stefano Guberti has once again been included in the squad following injury, and he could make his first appearance since September's victory against Vicenza.

Torino's opponents Juve Stabia have done well since being promoted last season and are currently in mid table, but will need to secure some more points in order to ensure they are not dragged into a relegation battle. Much of their success has been built on their good home form, as of their eleven victories, eight have came at the Stadio Romeo Menti. Striker Marco Sau has scored 15 goals this season, so a Torino defence fresh form conceding four goals on Monday will have to be wary.

Juve Stabia 1-2 Torino

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Torino 1-4 Hellas Verona

Torino had a night to forget on Monday as they lost their unbeaten home record with an unexpected 4-1 defeat to Hellas Verona.

Toro made just the two changes from the side that beat Grosseto last weekend, as Valerio Di Cesare came in for the suspended Kamil Glik and Rolando Bianchi replaced Riccardo Meggiorini upfront.

The away side started brightly, almost as if they knew that a victory in this match was vital to keep their chances of automatic promotion alive. Therefore, it was not a surprise when Hellas took the lead on twenty-four minutes, when Panagiotis Tachtsidis' back heel took four Toro defenders out of the game and allowed Juanito Gomez to score from fifteen yards out.

Torino had a half chance to equalise immediately when Alessandro Parisi's cross found Rolando Bianchi, but his header was off target. Instead, it was Hellas who nearly scored a spectacular second goal when Matthias Lepiller's audacious 30 yard volley forced a good save from Francesco Benussi.

However, just eight minutes before half time, Hellas did double their lead when Tachtsidis' fine left footed cross was stabbed past the on rushing Benussi by Nicola Ferrari. Toro made one change at half time as Alessandro Sgrigna replaced Nnamdi Oduamadi, but that made little difference, and just eleven minutes after the break Hellas added a third when Lepiller's free kick was headed home by Gomez.

With fifteen minutes remaining, Hellas defender Domenico Maietta scored a spectacular fourth goal as he intercepted the ball in his own half before continuing his run, he then knocked the ball past substitute defender Francesco Pratali before finally lobbing Benussi from 30 yards. Whilst it was certainly a 'Goal of the Season' contender, questions could be asked why the Toro keeper was so far off his line.

Torino got a late consolation goal towards the end of the match, when Giuseppe Vives' wayward shot was diverted goal wards by substitute Sgrigna who finished well. However, there was to be no miraculous comeback and Toro lost by more than a one goal margin for the first time this season, and Hellas closed the gap between the teams to just two points.

Whilst this embarrassing defeat is undoubtedly a major blow to Torino's promotion hopes, the fact that it was such a surprise speaks volumes about Toro's consistent performances this season. Hopefully, the team will be able to forget this performance as quickly as possible, and remember that it is just one game. Toro will have a chance to make amends on Saturday when they face Juve Stabia, and that should tell us a lot more about the character of this Torino team.

Forza Torino

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Torino V Hellas Verona Preview

Torino can edge a bit closer to their aim of automatic promotion on Monday night and will know that a victory over Hellas Verona would give them a six point lead over third place Sassuolo.

Toro will be without the suspended Kamil Glik, so Valerio Di Cesare should partner Angelo Ogbonna in defence. Rolando Bianchi will be confident of returning to the starting eleven after ending his goal drought last time out, and he is likely to replace fellow striker and Hellas fan Riccardo Meggiorini.

Hellas have surpassed all expectations since gaining promotion in the summer, and currently sit in fourth position and will be looking at this match as a great opportunity to close the gap on Toro. Much of Hellas' success has been built on their fantastic home form, and Toro's 3-1 victory at the Bentegodi in October is one of only two defeats they have suffered in Verona. However, Hellas Verona have not been as successful on the road and have not won away from home since beating Livorno in December.

Torino 2-0 Hellas Verona

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Grosseto 0-3 Torino

Torino bounced back from a last Sunday's defeat at Brescia with a 3-0 win in Grosseto - their first win away from home since November.

Giampiero Ventura made just the one change from that game, with Nnamdi Oduamadi replacing Migjen Basha as Toro reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation.

It was a great start for the away side as after just twelve minutes they took the lead with their first chance of the match. Mirco Antenucci broke free down the right and rounded the keeper, and although his shot was cleared off the line, Nnamdi Oduamadi was on hand to score from three yards out.

Grosseto reacted well and almost had an equaliser when Francesco Benussi's punch fell to former Juventus midfielder Simone Esposito, whose stunning volley hit the stanchion behind the goal.

As the second half began, the home side continued to look for an equaliser, and another long range shot from Martin Petras forced Benussi into a fine save. Alessandro Parisi and Riccardo Meggiorini both had half chances for Toro, but Grosseto still looked the more likely to score.

However, in injury time, the moment all Torino fans had been waiting for arrived, as substitute Juan Surraco broke down the right and delivered a pinpoint cross for fellow sub Rolando Bianchi to head home his first goal since October 15th.

Incredibly, the scoring did not finish there, as in the final minute of injury time, Giuseppe Vives' long pass found Mirco Antenucci in space, and the striker calmly lobbed the onrushing Grosseto keeper before continuing his run and side-footing into an empty net.

Although the performance at Brescia last weekend was arguably better despite losing, the most important thing was that Torino got the three points. In the process of victory, Toro also ended two long-running and unwelcome statistics (last away victory and Bianchi's last goal) as well as extending their lead at the top of the Serie B table to four points.

Forza Torino

Friday, 2 March 2012

Grosseto V Torino Preview

Torino will travel to Grosseto on Saturday afternoon looking to rebound after suffering a defeat against Brescia last time out.

Valerio Di Cesare has recovered from injury and should therefore partner Angelo Ogbonna in central defence, who impressed whilst playing for Italy in midweek. Cristian Pasquato is still not available to make his debut following an eye injury, whilst Rolando Bianchi will once again be looking to end his goal drought.

Grosseto are currently in 12th position in the table, and whilst they may still be dreaming of sneaking into the playoffs, a mid-table finish is probably more likely. After a 2-0 victory at Ascoli in their last fixture two weeks ago, confidence will be high and therefore they should not be taken lightly.

Torino won the reverse fixture 1-0 in October after a late own goal by Angelo Iorio, and given Toro's recent struggles on the road (their last away win was November 1st) any type of victory would certainly be welcome in order to maintain their lead at the top of the table.

Grosseto 0-1 Torino