Sunday, 23 December 2012

Torino 2-0 Chievo

Torino ended 2012 on a high by securing only their fourth win of the season with a 2-0 victory against Chievo on Saturday afternoon.

Gianluca Sansone was preferred to Alessandro Sgrigna upfront, whilst Salvatore Masiello started in place of Danilo D'Ambrosio.

football formations
Despite a quiet start to the game, Torino took the lead after twelve minutes when Gianluca Sansone's corner was diverted past Chievo keeper Stefano Sorrentino. On first look it seemed as though Kamil Glik had got the final touch, but on the replay it was clear that it was an own goal from Chievo defender Gennaro Sardo.

That goal gave the Granata momentum, and fifteen minutes later they doubled their lead after fine play from Alessio Cerci. The former Fiorentina winger beat full back Boukary Dramé before delivering a right footed cross which fell to Alessandro Gazzi, and the hardworking midfielder found the back of the net with the aid of a deflection.

The away side came back into the game into the second half, and Jean-Francois Gillet was forced to make an outstanding save to deny Perparim Hetemaj scoring from long range. At the other end, Alessio Cerci and then Gianluca Sansone came close to adding to Toro's lead, but both of their efforts went wide of the target.

Despite being unable to add to their lead, Torino had done all of the hard work in the first half, and with many of their rivals losing - this victory moved them up to 13th place and gave both the players and fans reasons to celebrate before Christmas.

Whilst the first half of the season has certainly had its ups and downs, I'm sure that the majority of fans would have been delighted with their tally of 19pts from 18 matches, and it gives Toro an excellent chance of maintaining their Serie A status in the second half of the season. 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Torino V Chievo Preview

Torino will hope to give their fans an early Christmas present when they face an important clash with Chievo on Saturday afternoon.

Despite a promising start to the season, the fact remains that Torino have only won three games all season, and they go into this fixture with a lengthy list of absentees. Mario Santana, Simone Verdi and Alen Stevanovic are all injured, so Giampiero Ventura is struggling for attacking options.

Gianluca Sansone, who is rumoured to be leaving the club when the transfer window re-opens in January, could be given one last chance to impress - although Ventura is probably more likely to pick Alessandro Sgrigna or Riccardo Meggiorini to partner Rolando Bianchi upfront.

Often mocked for their poor attendances and lack of supporters, Chievo are in fine form having won their last three games under the management of former Torino favourite Eugenio Corini. Former Milan striker Alberto Paloschi has scored four goals in his last three matches for the 'Flying Donkeys', whilst Sergio Pellissier (who began his career at Toro) scored the winner in their surprise victory against Roma last weekend.

Torino 2-1 Chievo

Monday, 17 December 2012

Genoa 1-1 Torino

Despite taking the lead for the second successive week, Torino had to settle for a point in the relegation six-pointer on Sunday afternoon.

The Granata started the game in an unfamiliar 4-2-3-1 formation (something that I suggested a week ago on Twitter) with Alessio Cerci playing as a trequartista behind lone striker Rolando Bianchi. This allowed Valter Birsa to start a match in Serie A for the first time, whilst Giuseppe Vives and Danilo D'Ambrosio also came into the team.
football formations
Genoa had the first shot at goal in the opening five minutes, but Marco Boriello's low shot was easily saved by Jean-Francois Gillet. At the other end, Alessio Cerci was inches away from giving Toro the lead, but his long distance shot whistled just past the post. Toro's attempted 4-2-3-1 experiment lasted less than ten minutes, as Mario Santana picked up an injury, and was replaced by orthodox striker Alessandro Sgrigna.

Torino were lucky not to concede when Kamil Glik's attempted clearance was charged down by Ciro Immobile, and Borriello was put through on goal - but once again he was thwarted by Gillet, who was rebuilding his confidence after making two mistakes against Milan last weekend.

The Granata took the lead after twenty minutes, when Valter Birsa delivered a fine cross from the left wing that was headed in by Rolando Bianchi, although I'm still not sure whether the Toro captain knew too much about it, as he seemed to turn his head and let the ball bounce off of it at the last second. 

However Torino's lead only lasted ten minutes, as a Genoa corner was inadvertently flicked on by Alessandro Gazzi, and that touch diverted the ball into path of Andreas Granqvist who had the simple task of heading in from three yards out.

Both teams struggled to create clear cut chances at the beginning of the second half, but Torino should have taken the lead in the closing stages. A defence-splitting pass from Alessio Cerci put Sgrigna through on goal, but his shot crashed off the crossbar. Moments later Toro had another great chance to pick up three vital points, but Giuseppe Vives' header from another Cerci assist went narrowly wide of the post.

The match finished 1-1, and although another draw is not ideal - it was also essential that Toro didn't lose to a direct relegation rival, and therefore it should be looked upon as a point gained. However, next Saturday's match against Chievo (the last game before Serie A goes on a two week winter break) is now even more crucial, and anything but a victory is almost unthinkable.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Genoa V Torino Preview

After suffering defeats in their last two matches, Torino make the short trip to Genoa on Sunday afternoon in search of a must-needed victory.

Angelo Ogbonna will be out for up to six weeks after undergoing a hernia operation in midweek, so the returning Kamil Glik should partner Guillermo Rodriguez in defence. After coming on at HT last weekend, Valter Birsa provided an assist for Rolando Bianchi in the AC Milan defeat, and if he is rewarded with a start, he will have an added incentive to impress because he is on loan from Genoa.

Genoa have been in dreadful form since Gigi Del Neri replaced Luigi Di Canio, and the veteran tactician has lost seven of his eight games in charge, including a 2-0 defeat against Pescara last time out. With the confidence of the home side being even lower than Torino's, this is a great opportunity to record a first away victory since September - although the Granata will have to be wary of Grifone strikers Ciro Immobile and Marco Borriello.

Genoa 1-1 Torino

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Maratona and Elsewhere #2 : Mutinous Rumblings

Torino 2-4 AC Milan - 9.12.12

Hardly a dull moment. A strangely circular day: we began with 'Berlusconi! Pezzo di merda!' and ended with 'Cairo! Pezzo di merda!'. In view of the fact that Berlusconi is Cairo’s former boss (look it up), I guess we were reading from the same agenda throughout the match. But this still is not a political blog, so no more Berlusconi references, no matter how tempting they might be in the week of Mario Monti’s resignation announcement.

The over-riding feeling in the Curva before kick-off was one of nervousness, and I think that was evident in the 12th man’s performance. We were a bit subdued. Clearly, we don’t expect champagne-and-caviar football from this team, but maybe we’re feeling weak after nearly half a season of cat food? Even beans on toast would be an improvement. Whether or not that anxiety transmitted itself to the players, I can’t be certain.

I was reminded, however, of a column Harry Pearson wrote in The Guardian a few years ago, reminiscing about being taken to Ayresome Park on one occasion to watch Middlesbrough when he was a kid.  His father remarked upon how lovely and green the pitch was, and a voice behind him said, 'not surprising with the amount of shit that’s been on it.'

We retained the classic 4-2-2 formation from the Derby. We showed no speed of foot or thought. We remain allergic to crossing the ball (the heading of which is Bianchi’s only strength). We gave the ball away ad nauseam, and provided our usual masterclass in passing the ball sideways.

Some notable individuals:

Jean-François Gillet has made himself a firm favourite with the fans this season, which in itself tells you the kind of season we’ve been having, but he only appeared to have one oar in the water against Milan.  Il Gattone di Liegi (the “Big Cat of Liege”) was more gateau than gattone.

Riccardo Meggiorini. Ah, Meggiorini. According to Opta, the worst passer of a ball in Serie A at the moment (61% accuracy). According to Wikipedia, once valued at €5 million. I don’t like to kick a bloke when he’s down, and hearing the whistles when he was substituted didn’t give me any pleasure, but the fact he was substituted did. He has contributed nothing this season, and I can only guess that he has Ventura’s grandchildren locked in his cellar in order to guarantee his continued selection;

Rolando Bianchi. Header. Goal. Otherwise, nothing. I think a parting of the ways in January is on the cards. Interesting, too, how we (and the stadium announcer) all shouted Santana’s name 5 times after his goal, 0 times for Bianchi after his;

Speaking of parting of the ways, I have read on and off for months that Angelo Ogbonna would be off to pastures new and more lucrative (Bayern last summer on loan, Milan or Manchester United in January for £13 – 15 million). He has been quoted recently as saying he wants to play for a “top team”, and for him the top team is Real Madrid. But injury, a few lacklustre performances of late and a refusal to give a straight answer to the Giuventus question is trying the patience of some – I even heard somebody in the Curva call him a gobbo.

As for Milan’s Stephan El Sharaawy, the current hot property of Serie A, I wondered pre-game if he would live up to his nickname Il Faraone – the Pharaoh; he is half-Egyptian – or if he would be La Faraona (the guinea fowl, thanks to his silly haircut). Well, he didn’t do a lot wrong, nor did Robinho for that matter, but we made it easy for them both to look good.

Referee? Well, we never seem to get a good one! No foul by Pazzini? No handball on Sansone’s overhead kick? Di Cesare booked for shaking Amelia’s hand after Amelia had fouled him? Seven Milan players left the playing area to celebrate each of their goals, delaying each restart; not one yellow card. No point complaining about any of that. No news there. 

And so the game petered out to a chorus of anti-Cairo chanting - 'Spend some money, you prick' being perhaps the most polite. As is customary, after the final whistle the players moved towards the Curva for what is usually a moment of mutual applause. Not this time. We waved them away with a flea in their collective ear: 'fuori le palle!' (Show us some balls!)

Dark mutterings. The “R”-word (relegation) circulated around the crowd as we filed out. 

I understand that Giampiero Ventura was taken ill after the game, but was given the all-clear (migraine, and a drop in blood pressure). He wasn’t the only one feeling a bit sick after that performance.

And there I was, thinking I’d have nothing to write about after invading enemy territory last week…

Steve is a season ticket holder who moved to Torino in 2009 after meeting a Torinese lady called Raffaella on Facebook - you can follow Steve on Twitter here.

*A Correction* - Last Week I erroneously reported that Giuventus paid €0,58 per square metre for the land for their stadium. The €0,58 figure is for land at Continassa, upon which the Agnelli family intend to build a go-karting track – just what a city on the verge of bankruptcy needs! For the stadium and adjoining shopping centre, they paid a whopping €4,20 per square metre.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Torino 2-4 AC Milan

Torino lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, as despite taking the lead, they fell to a 4-2 defeat at home to AC Milan on Sunday afternoon.

Giampiero Ventura made two changes to the side beaten by Juventus last weekend, as Valerio Di Cesare replaced the suspended Kamil Glik and Salvatore Masiello was given a start in place of Danilo D'Ambrosio.
football formations
Mario Santana had the first chance of the match, but his long range shot went well wide of the AC Milan goal. Milan also had chances to take the lead, but Stephen El-Shaarawy ballooned his shot over the bar when well placed.

The Granata did take the lead on the half hour mark as Santana capitalised on a poor back pass from Antonio Nocerino, and the Argentinean kept cool to take the ball around Marco Amelia before side-footing into an empty net. However five minutes before half time, Milan equalised when an outrageous dummy from Robinho bamboozled Valerio Di Cesare in the area, and that gave him the space needed to fire the ball into the roof of the net.

And just eight minutes after the break, Milan completed the turnaround by taking the lead as Jean-Francois Gillet gifted the away side a goal. El Shaarawy's cross from the left seemed to be going harmlessly out of play, but the Belgian keeper tried to claim it anyway - but he only succeeded in parrying the ball straight to Antonio Nocerino, who made up for his earlier error by nodding in from six yards.

The home side thought they should have had a penalty when Mario Yepes pulled Rolando Bianchi to the ground, but referee Andrea Romeo waved away the Toro skipper's appeal. And on the hour mark Milan doubled their lead, as Giampaolo Pazzini barged past Salvatore Masiello before firing a powerful shot past Gillet. Once again the Granata complained to the referee, as they felt that Pazzini had fouled the former Bari defender before the goal.

Torino's normally reliable defence seemed to be in disarray, as Milan hit the woodwork twice in quick succession, firstly from Urby Emanuelson and then from a Pazzini header. With fifteen minutes left, Gillet once again presented the Rossoneri with an early Christmas present, as he fumbled a harmless Nocerino cross to allow Stephan El-Shaarawy to score and put the result beyond doubt.

With ten minutes remaining, Torino scored a consolation goal as Rolando Bianchi ended his three month goal drought by heading in Valter Birsa's excellent cross, but that did not mask a disappointing performance from the home side. Despite a promising start to the season, this result has put Torino just one point away from the relegation zone, and their next fixture against 19th placed Genoa promises to be a tense affair.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Torino V AC Milan Preview

After last Saturday's disappointing defeat against Juventus in the Derby Della Mole, Torino face another tough fixture against a resurgent AC Milan side on Sunday afternoon.

The Granata will be without the suspended Kamil Glik so he should be replaced in central defence by Valerio Di Cesare, whereas elsewhere, Gianluca Sansone could be given a start upfront in place of Riccardo Meggiorini.

AC Milan have struggled this season since the departures of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Thiago Silva in the summer, but after winning their last two games (including a 1-0 victory against Juve) they have moved up to 7th place. However, Massimiliano Allegri will be without a number of key players - as Riccardo Montolivo, Kevin Constant and Alexandre Pato are all injured, whereas Kevin-Prince Boateng is suspended.

Torino have not beaten Milan in their last nine attempts, with their last victory coming eleven years ago thanks to a goal from Cristiano Lucarelli.

Torino 1-1 AC Milan

'Maratona and Elsewhere' #1 : The Derby

Since Juventus moved into their new stadium last season, we have often heard only positive things about their club-owned stadium, something that is unique in Italian football. But what did English Torino fan Steve Rose make of his visit to the stadium last Saturday, as he witnessed Torino's 3-0 defeat in the Derby Della Mole.

I couldn't sleep when I eventually got home after the derby. I was disturbed, but I couldn't pinpoint what it was that disturbed me. That was around 1 o'clock on Sunday morning. Nearly a week later, I think I'm beginning to understand.

To live in this city and to wear the colours of Torino is a political statement. It's good-versus-evil. It's the honest-but-difficult way fighting against the dubious (and dubiously-managed and financed) easy option. It's not always left against right (Turin has been called ‘New Stalingrad’: but doesn't explain the election of a left-wing mayor (Fassino, who is, in fact, a Gobbo), but it's always right against wrong. And it's always better to lose than to steal.

But this is not a political blog. So….

Juventus aren't even from this city in the first place (try Venaria), and their original fan base certainly wasn't (try Puglia, Sicilia, Calabria), so the decision to drive to their new (not paid for by the club, on ground leased for 99 years at 58 cents a square metre from the aforementioned Fassino-led city council) stadium in a beaten-up old car and to hide our colours didn't impress me. 'We're from here, and we live here.'

The stadium. From this away fan's - I mean “guests” - perspective, entering it was as I'd imagine prison would be like. Helicopters overhead, lights, cameras, concrete, rusting metal (stadium in its second season).  But when you get to the top of the stairs and get a glimpse of the pitch, it does look like a football stadium - good sight lines, fans close to the playing surface. But look again. Monstrous tree-like CCTV structures in every corner of the pitch, vast PA system that appears to amplify the sounds they want you to hear (them), but not the sounds they don't want (you) - as I understand happens at Manchester City.

So pre-match we had some entertaining banter: people on both sides of the Plexiglas showing their bare arses, or filling their empty beer cups with piss and throwing them, etc.The Gobbi unveiled a vile banner mocking the dead of Superga for which their club was fined €10,000 - roughly the value of our 2099 away tickets and beer. So no fine, effectively. But when they tried to unveil a massive flag with the name of their club on it, and somebody underneath grabbed it somewhere between the U and the V and tore a 3 metre wide hole in it, it raised a smile.

As for the game, well... for the first half hour, Toro were the better team, and had Riccardo Meggiorini been a footballer of any quality and taken his one-on-one chance against Buffon, we would have taken the lead. After that, some premonitions came home to roost. I was expecting red cards and penalties anyway, but when I heard that Rocchi  (awarded Man City a penalty against Real Madrid recently that wasn't - either Serie A refs are honest but incompetent, or they are dishonest and incompetent) was to be refereeing, I knew it would be so.

And so it was: Glik sent off for a robust but FAIR challenge; a comedy penalty that Pirlo was gentlemanly enough to kick into the Curva Sud. But no more red cards or penalties after we began chanting "PENALTY! PENALTY!" or "RED CARD! RED CARD!" every time we won possession, strangely enough.

And so, with Bianchi and Meggiorini doing nothing, we effectively had a 4-2-2 formation at kick-off. 4-2-1 after the red card. Ventura said before the game that we would approach the fixture with ‘humility’ WHAT THE FUCK? No, you face your sworn enemy with everything EXCEPT humility - the 2099 of us who represented our club from the stands were certainly not humble.

Indeed, when the patronising ‘would our guests please remain in their seats after the game’ bullshit announcement came over the PA, 2099 people reminded the Gobbi that it is they who are the guests in this city, not us. After the game, as per request, we remained in the stadium. Er, no. There were 20 or so riot police with shields and batons PREVENTING us from leaving the stadium for an hour. And, as I have already said, we live here.

The match was secondary to all of this. What really happened was something like a day trip to a prison operated by Disney and McDonalds. But the prisoners seem happy. They wear striped uniforms, and stand up and shout on cue (but otherwise watch the "show" seated). I'm glad our stay was only temporary.

Mark your diary for April 28th for the next exciting instalment.

Steve is a season ticket holder who moved to Torino in 2009 after meeting a Torinese lady called Raffaella on Facebook - you can follow Steve on Twitter here.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Juventus 3-0 Torino

Torino's seventeen year wait for a Derby della Mole victory will continue after they were beaten 3-0 by Juventus on Saturday night, but the turning point was undoubtedly Kamil Glik's 36th minute red card.

Somewhat surprisingly Giampiero Ventura started the game with the same team that gained a point against Fiorentina six days ago, a bold move as that 4-2-4 line up included strikers Riccardo Meggiorini and Rolando Bianchi, as well as wingers Alessio Cerci and Mario Santana.

football formations
The Granata started brightly, and Mario Santana cut in on his right foot to test Gianluigi Buffon with a low shot, but the experienced goalkeeper dealt with the shot easily. The away side were continuing to take the game to the league leaders, and after capitalising on a mistake by Leonardo Bonucci, Riccardo Meggiorini should have given Toro the lead, but his shot went wide of the far post.

That scare seemed to wake La Vecchia Signora up, and young midfielder Paul Pogba tested Jean-Francois Gillet with a volley from 25 yards out, which was initially parried by the Belgian stopper before being cleared for a corner by Kamil Glik. Pogba again tried his luck from distance minutes later, but this time Gillet was able to tip the ball over the bar with little difficulty.

The turning point arose on 36 minutes when Polish defender Kamil Glik was shown a straight red card by referee Gianluca Rocchi for a foul on Emanuele Giaccherini. Whilst Glik did get the ball, the challenge was somewhat reckless, and was also unnecessary as the ball was on the half way line. 

If it was a tough ask to get anything from this game with eleven men, it was almost impossible after being reduced to ten - and Riccardo Meggiorini was sacrificed in order for centre back Valerio Di Cesare to come on. Five minutes before half time Juventus were awarded a penalty after Migjen Basha slipped and inadvertently upended the impressive Pogba . 

However, the pressure of the derby seemed to get to the usually reliable Andrea Pirlo, and he blasted the penalty over the bar  - and somehow Torino got to the half time break with the scores level at 0-0.

Juventus should have taken the lead immediately after the restart, when Mirko Vucinic's cross was flicked on by substitute Niklas Bendtner, but somehow Pogba put his header over the bar. However with just over thirty minutes to go, the bianconeri finally took the lead, as two Turin-born players combined when Claudio Marchisio met Sebastian Giovinco's fine cross to plant a diving header past the helpless Gillet.

The home side doubled their lead ten minutes later, when Giovinco got on the score sheet himself as he fired a low shot into the far corner from just inside the area. Juve had chances to extend their lead as Paul Pogba once again continued his individual battle with Jean-Francois Gillet, and once again the Torino goalkeeper prevailed as he made another fine save to deny the Frenchman. 

With six minutes remaining Juventus scored once again, as Vucinic chested the ball back to Marchisio who scored his second goal of the night with a powerful left footed shot into the far corner, and once again Gillet had no chance of saving it. The Granata had half chances to end their decade wait for a Derby della Mole goal, but they will now have to wait until the end of April to try and end that unwanted statistic as the game ended 3-0.

As Giampiero Ventura stated in his post match interview, the game was effectively finished as a contest after Kamil Glik's first half red card - although Toro fans may wonder what would have happened had he not been dismissed, as the Granata had certainly matched their opponents up until that point. However, it wasn't to be, and Torino must quickly forget about this game and focus on the next one - at home to a resurgent AC Milan next Sunday afternoon.

Forza Torino