Sunday, 31 March 2013

Torino 3-5 Napoli

Despite briefly leading the match with ten minutes to go, Torino fell to defeat in an eight goal thriller against Napoli at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday evening.

Giampiero Ventura decided to re-inforce the midfield against Napoli, so Migjen Basha made a rare start in a 4-3-3 formation. Rolando Bianchi was once again left on the bench, as Paulo Barreto was preferred as the main striker.
football formations
Napoli took the lead after ten minutes, when a short corner found Blerim Dzemaili on the edge of the area, and the former Torino midfielder hit a vicious shot that gave Jean-Francois Gillet no chance. Toro should have equalised five minutes later, but somehow former Napoli winger Mario Santana missed a free header from just six yards out.

However just before the half hour mark, Toro scored a deserved equaliser as Napoli failed to clear a corner, and the ball fell to Paulo Barreto who scored his first goal for the club - and his first in Serie A for over three years.

Eight minutes before half time, Napoli had an excellent chance to regain the lead as they were awarded a penalty after Matteo Darmian's clumsy foul on Christian Maggio. However, Marek Hamsik's low penalty was well saved by Gillet, and the scores remained level at the break.

But Napoli did not have long to wait in order to take the lead, as two minutes into the second half Blerim Dzemaili scored against his former team once again. Hamsik's made amends for his earlier penalty miss by cutting the ball back to the Swiss midfielder, and despite being fouled by Giuseppe Vives, he was able to side foot the ball into the bottom corner.

Giampiero Ventura made two changes in order to find an equaliser, as Riccardo Meggiorini and Salvatore Masiello came on to replace Vives and D'Ambrosio. And Meggiorini should have won a penalty for his team, after Paulo Cannavaro's reckless challenge on the striker, but referee Antonio Giannoccaro waved away Toro's appeals.

Toro were pressing for an equaliser, and came extremely close when Kamil Glik headed the ball back for Alessio Cerci, but the Italy international's volley went narrowly wide of the post. Torino were awarded a penalty of their own when Masiello's cross was handled by Napoli substitute Edinson Cavani. With regular penalty taker Rolando Bianchi on the bench, the responsibility fell to sub Jonathas, who despite not looking too confident, calmly dispatched the ball into the bottom corner to equalise.

Incredibly, Torino took the lead for the first time in the match four minutes later, when Riccardo Meggiorini capitalised on Miguel Britos's heavy touch to round Antonio Rosati and score his first home goal of the season. However, Napoli responded immediately and just ninety seconds later were level - as Juan Zuniga cut the ball back for an unmarked Dzemaili, who completed the unlikeliest of hat tricks with an outstanding finish with the outside of his right foot.

And just three minutes later Napoli took the lead once again, as Edinson Cavani showed why he is one of the most in demand players in world football by curling a 25 yard free kick past Gillet, who was once again helpless. With Toro chasing an equaliser, the Uruguayan was able to score again before the final whistle, as he converted Pablo Armero's fine cross with a glancing header in the ninetieth minute.

Whilst Torino may have only held the lead for two minutes, they will be extremely disappointed to get absolutely nothing from a game that they controlled for large periods. However, they certainly did contribute to arguably the most enjoyable Serie A match of the season, although their recent defensive struggles (thirteen goals conceded in five matches) will continue to be a worry. 

Forza Torino

Friday, 29 March 2013

Torino V Napoli Preview

After being out of action for two weeks due to the international break, Torino will look for back-to-back home victories against Napoli on Saturday evening.

The Granata's victory at a snowy Stadio Olimpico a fortnight ago eased fears of them being dragged back into a relegation battle, and Jonathas, the goalscorer from the match could be rewarded with his first start for the club. Angelo Ogbonna is included in the squad after recovering from the injury he suffered against Parma, whilst Abou Diop is also available for selection after sitting out the last three matches due to his red card against Cagliari.

Despite being Juventus' main scudetto rivals for much of the season, Napoli have been in poor form recently - and have only won one of their last six matches. Walter Mazzarri could be also without top scorer and talisman Edinson Cavani, after the Uruguayan's flight back to Italy was delayed following international duty.

Torino 2-1 Napoli

Monday, 25 March 2013

Maratona and Elsewhere #8 : “Will be held indoors next time if the new Pope hasn’t booked the Church hall.”

Torino 1-0 Lazio - 17.03.13

A fair amount of “& Elsewhere” to be had this week.

The new Pope is from Asti. He’s local. Well, his family is, anyway. I know he supports San Lorenzo. Not enough Granata in their shirts for my liking.

Much comment in various media regarding racism in football of late. I feel I should comment.

Inter were sanctioned by our good friends - the lovely, transparent, cuddly UEFA - for alleged racist chanting during their defeat on away goals to Tottenham Hotspur in (as “The Fiver” in The Guardian calls it) the “Big Vase”. Lazio were instructed by lovely, transparent, cuddly UEFA to play their next two European home ties behind closed doors for similar reasons.  Please don’t think I’m an apologist for either Inter or Lazio. Clear that from your mind.

A €50,000 fine for the season thus far is peanuts to Inter. That’s a week’s wage to a guy who isn’t good enough for the first team. It’s less than the Spurs fans paid for their tickets to the game. Moratti probably spends more than that each week having his teeth yellowed.

But if LTCUEFA are vicious jungle beasts, Lega Serie A are pussies. The gobbi were fined €4k – four grand! - last week for their charming “If you jump, Balotelli dies”, and for their assertion that there are “no black Italians”. As a teacher, I must be careful when discussing the educationally subnormal. For the record, I usually blame the parents.

[Not that the gobbi actually watch Balotelli in the act of playing football when they embarrass themselves: he was a Manchester City player between 12 August 2010 and 31 January 2013 and he probably hasn’t visited their stadium on many more occasions than I have (one).]

The response of the Laziali (whose own fascist tendencies – and, indeed, history – are well-documented) to their LTCUEFA sanction was trenchant, to say the least. Banners at their previous game addressed to the President of LTCUEFA left little to the imagination (quote/translation from Paolo Bandini in “The Guardian” on March 11):

"Heysel, 29-05-85," read the banner on display at the Stadio Olimpico this weekend. "You had the strength to carry on playing … the courage to celebrate in front of 39 dead. Platini, you pig, we won't take moral lessons from you."

At the Stadio Olimpico in Turin, I can happily report a shared gut reaction regarding Platini but no evidence of racism or sexism. The only important colour is that of our shirts. I have attended possibly 40 games at the Olimpico thus far and have not once heard any derogatory singing or chanting of a racial nature, and I’m in the Curva with the Ultras. This is where the singing begins. Compare that with Venaria Town who have been averaging a fine every other home game for racist chanting for the last two seasons. This is not as widely reported as it could be (possibly due to the Agnelli family owning “La Stampa”), so I attach this link again:

For a team owned by a company whose wealth is largely derived from the blood, sweat, tears and occasional death of immigrants, that’s shameful. Stile Juventus.

They also like to sing a charming ditty about Vesuvius erupting and burying Napoli in lava. We play Napoli next. I’ll let you know if I hear anyone in the Maratona singing it. I very much doubt that I will.

And so to the game.

Snow. All day. It made for a pretty spectacle, but a pretty unspectacular match. The weather, combined with the late kick-off (8.45pm) on a Sunday, didn’t make for a capacity crowd, but I thought the turn-out was quite impressive in the circumstances. Minimal away support; can’t imagine why.

Maximum support in the stadium from the Granata women, however. In their thousands, as always. And very vocal. These women and their children – some of whom kick a ball around under the Curva during the match and simply exude football – are the soul and lifeblood of this club. Without them, what do we have? Macho bullshit. Moneyball. There are no female equivalents to Platini and Blatter, because a woman wouldn’t be stupid enough to destroy something beautiful for cash and power. Unless her maiden name was Roberts, perhaps.

Glik and Rodriguez were restored as the central defensive partnership following Angelo Ogbonna’s nightmare against Cagliari and injury against Parma. Not many complaints about this. In fact, instead of a mooted summer move to Lazio, at least one commentator suggested that on recent form we’d prefer to see him at Venaria Town. (Agent Ogbonna, all will be forgiven.)

Referee Paolo Tagliavento deserves special ridicule mention for a number of reasons. Carlo Quaranta on described him as “stroppy”; a Diego Bedeschi on Facebook noted that he told il gattone Gillet in the tunnel to pull his shorts up. (Cue disbelieving look from goalkeeper who is 34 next birthday and has no doubt been able to dress himself for a while.) Kamil Glik was so incensed about being booked for simulation that he uploaded a photo of Lazio’s ‘keeper Marchetti’s challenge on him to Twitter: (

My preferred back four was in place, Gazzi and (Man of the Match) Brighi in the middle, Cerci wide right, so far so good… there was some head-scratching about Santana/Barreto/Meggiorini, considering the conditions probably warranted a more direct, Birsa-crossing-to-Bianchi approach. That said, it was pointed out to me that in conditions that make playing football impossible it’s sensible to pick somebody who can’t play football. No prizes for guessing to which player my colleague was referring.

Three very welcome and unexpected points. The next six matches on the Granata agenda, where points will probably be few and far between, will be tough – Napoli, Roma and the gobbi at home and visits to Bologna (a six-pointer, with both clubs – and four others – on 35 points at the time of writing), Fiorentina and Milan. A win here, a draw there, and it won’t hurt too much. Watching it will be a challenge, though. Time can pass slowly. As it does as the dentist, for example. Fingers crossed.

Said three points for Toro were, clearly, not welcome in the opinion of Lazio President Claudio Lotito, who can, quite frankly, fuck himself. He bitched and moaned after the game that the pitch wasn’t fit for play. I would like to make four observations:

  1. he wouldn’t have bitched and moaned about the pitch had Lazio won the game;
  2. he asked for the game to be moved back from the original 3p.m. to 8.45p.m. because his team played on the previous Thursday and needed an extra few hours to recover. We had the Winter Olympics here in 2006.
  3. his club went bust but miraculously stayed in Serie A but we were demoted and had to rebuild from scratch;
  4. whose team played in white on Sunday when it was snowing?
Next up, Napoli – at 2100 hours on Easter Saturday (shakes head).

Don’t forget to put your clocks forward.


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.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Torino 1-0 Lazio

Torino overcame some dreadful weather conditions to finally record a victory against a top ten side, as they beat Lazio 1-0 on Sunday evening.

football formations
Alessio Cerci came back into side following his suspension, whilst Riccardo Meggiorini was surprisingly preferred to Rolando Bianchi upfront.

Despite a large downfall of snow before kick off, that made the stadium look more like a scene from Game of Thrones rather than a football pitch, the game went ahead as normal, although these conditions meant that it was not the most entertaining match for the neutral.

Lazio had a great chance to take the lead when Alvaro Gonzalez's cross found Lorik Cana, but the Albanian's header rebounded off the post and was cleared away. However, the turning point of this match occurred after only sixteen minutes, when Lazio defender Michael Ciani was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in 43 seconds - both for fouls on Paulo Barreto.

That incident gave Torino an obvious advantage, but they were struggling to adapt to the conditions, and that meant clear cut chances were rare. In the second half, Lazio almost took the lead against the run of play after Senad Lulic's lung-bursting run found Libor Kozak, but the giant striker's poor touch meant he could only lay the ball off to Ogenyi Onazi's, whose shot was easily saved by Gillet.

Torino brought on strikers Rolando Bianchi and Jonathas in order to find a breakthrough, and it was the Brazilian striker who scored the crucial goal with his first touch. Alessio Cerci's corner was skillfully volleyed past Federico Marchetti by the former Brescia striker, although he did seem a little surprised himself that he scored - his first goal for the club.

Given the conditions and the one man disadvantage, Lazio were unable to find an answer to Torino's late goal, and this victory moved the Granata up to 12th place. The Torino players celebrated after the final whistle as if they knew that this was an important victory, and one that should secure their Serie A status for another season.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Torino V Lazio Preview

Torino will look to end their run of three games without a victory when they face Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday evening.

The Granata will once again be without Angelo Ogbonna who was injured in the defeat against Parma last weekend, so Guillermo Rodriguez will deputise. Alessio Cerci returns to the squad after serving a one match suspension, but after Valter Birsa's impressive performance in his absence - Giampiero Ventura may try and find a way to get both players into the starting eleven.

Despite advancing to the Europa League quarter finals in midweek, Lazio have struggled domestically in recent weeks. Defeats to Siena, Milan and Fiorentina in their last four matches have pushed the  Biancocelesti out of the European places, and they will be looking to keep their chances of Champions League qualification alive with a victory against Torino.

Torino 1-1 Lazio

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Maratona and Elsewhere #7 : Gasperini and the “torti arbitrali”

Torino 0-0 Palermo - 03.03.13 gives a number of useful translations: “torti” is the plural noun for “wrongdoing” and “injustice” and is also the plural adjective meaning “bent”; “arbitrali” is a plural adjective meaning “of the referee” or “of referees”.

It can be a demoralising experience, supporting a football club. You stand on the terraces, sing and shout and swear and applaud, but it doesn’t always end well. Sometimes one wonders if investing so much time, money, and emotional energy is healthy. Poor performances. Millionaire players not deserving of the shirt, in economically difficult times. This can leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

But what if the coach has made all the correct choices and the players have done their best, only to be undone by incompetent and/or corrupt officiating? Sir Alex Ferguson is quoted to have said “It’s hard to keep your faith in the game” last Tuesday following Nani’s debatable red card during Manchester United’s Champions League defeat by Real Madrid. Even 60% of the readers of “Marca”– by common consent Real’s in-house newspaper – thought the sending-off was incorrect!

Speaking of Real Madrid, they (and Manchester City) will recognise the name of the official who was in charge of Toro v Palermo: Gianluca Rocchi. He gave City a penalty and sent off Alvaro Arbeloa during their Champions League group match in Manchester last November.

When I heard pre-match that Rocchi was going to be our referee, my comment was not one suitable for publication. Combining this unwelcome revelation with the fact that no team in Serie A – or, for that matter, the English Premiership, Ligue 1, La Liga or Bundesliga – has had more penalties awarded against it this season than Toro gave me a sense of foreboding. Add to this the comedy performance of Rocchi’s colleague Sebastiano Peruzzo the previous week when refereeing Cagliari v Toro (two penalties and two red cards against; one penalty for but two other more obvious shouts not given) and I was feeling decidedly nervous. I needn’t have been.

It seemed to at least one observer that somebody had taken Signor Rocchi to one side and told him that it wouldn’t look good for Lega Serie A if Toro had (yet) another controversial game. It also seemed that the players had been given the same message. This game had 0-0 written through it like a stick of Blackpool rock.

And if (big if; humour me for a moment) the officials and the players had been spoken to, who else might have known? Gigi Buffon’s gambling friends? The Mafia? Oriental betting syndicates? Let’s go all conspiracy theory and say 'some or all of the above' and throw in UEFA (Michel Platini, let us not forget, is a gobbo). Lovely, transparent, cuddly UEFA. Sponsored by lovely, transparent, cuddly Gazprom; amongst other equally lovely, transparent, cuddly organisations whose products I boycott. Gazprom whose wholly-owned subsidiary Zenit St. Petersburg play in the Gazprom-sponsored Champions League! I expect some interesting refereeing decisions during Zenit’s surge next season to a semi-final clash with either Giuventus (see Platini above) or PSG (employer of Platini’s brother). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s final is Giuventus v PSG.

The Five Cs: Conspiracy. Connivance. Collusion. Conflict of interest. Corruption.

Palermo, meanwhile, strike me as a sort of decaffeinated (de-E.P.O.’d?) version of the gobbi: pink shirts, large gobbi fan base (much immigration south-to-north to work in FIAT’s factories); there’s even a gobbi shop in Palermo somewhere. I expect their tifosi to renew their allegiances with our striped so-called cousins with relegation looming, their best players being sold (Pastore and Sirigu to – well, well! Look who’s here! – PSG), and a president who is somewhat trigger happy.

But before I continue, an anecdote.

(Cue wavy lines)

About 18 months ago I was working for a language school in Corso Unione Sovietica – Soviet Union Street! They don’t call Turin “the new Stalingrad” for nothing! The school shall remain nameless as the bastards still owe me money and don’t deserve any publicity. Nevertheless, one afternoon I was introduced to a diminutive, grey-haired gentleman, who, it appeared, had just finished an English lesson: his name was Gian Piero Gasperini, then ex-Genoa manager and soon-to-be Inter manager for five whole games. He in turn was replaced by Chelsea’s current flavour-of-the-interim, Rafael Benìtez.

Gasperini recently replaced Alberto Malesani who had replaced him as Palermo coach only 19 days previously. Palermo president Maurizio Zamperini has a great deal of previous in hiring and firing, and he could no doubt give Roman Abramovich a few pointers in this regard. The legendary James (@ACJimbo) Richardson in his Guardian European football papers review quoted from “Gazzetta dello Sport” that Zamperini has gone through 43 coaches in 26 years. I’ll take Jimbo’s word for it, as I don’t read the Gazzetta; it seems to be turning into another “Tuttosport”, which itself is only fit for the bottom of a birdcage.

[Hmm… English lessons, Benìtez connection, trigger-happy club owner,… Gasperini to Chelsea!]

Gasperini isn’t flavour-of-the-anything with the Granata family. Here’s a little clue (from Wikipedia):

“Gasperini entered the Juventus youth system at the age of 9. In 1994 he returned, this time as a coach. He was initially coach of the Giovanissimi (U-14) for two years, followed by two other years with the Allievi (U-17). In 1998 he became head coach of the Primavera (U-20) squad.”

Yes, Palermo even have a gobbo manager!

[I don’t wish to appear fixated upon Venaria Town, but there is evidence of their existence (though not their actual supporters, who remain invisible whenever possible) all over this city, and so perhaps one adopts a bunker mentality when discussing an invisible enemy with superior resources and the occasional Jeep.]

So, to the game itself. Hazy sunshine, pleasant company. I had been hoping for a cold day, to disadvantage our Sicilian opponents, but it was not to be. I’m not a fan of 12.30 kick-offs as they disrupt the rhythm of an Italian Sunday, but I was mellowing after a couple of beers on a largely empty stomach. Then the game started…

Clearly, I had not had access to the script. Our friend Rocchi appeared to be refereeing a different game to the one I’d paid to see. I thought we had a couple of decent appeals for penalties, but that wasn’t going to happen after the previous week as previously discussed. There is a bizarre kind of temporary blindness common to Serie A officials, normally lasting only 45 minutes or so (but can recur after half-time), which seems to affect the 5th official on the goal-line especially. In fact, I have only ever seen the 5th official do anything at all on one occasion – and that was to erroneously award Roma a penalty against us last November. [See previous complaints regarding the quality of officiating in Toro games. Mind you, it was shit in Serie B last season, too.]

Many (ahem) interesting decisions from Signor Rocchi; some simply bizarre. On 35 minutes, Alessio Cerci raised his arms to protect himself from an incoming flying boot to the face and was booked, presumably for handball, thereby incurring a suspension. On 45, Cerci was fouled and stayed down. Rocchi waved play on. Within seconds, Kamil Glik had gone through the back of a Palermo player (a challenge worthy of a yellow card), but Rocchi realised he’d fucked up with the Cerci challenge and so waved play on again for another 5 seconds until Matteo Darmian was fouled and Rocchi remembered what his whistle was designed for. Unsurprisingly, the Maratona wasn’t overly impressed with this performance and in unison called him “figlio di puttana”, which might be a tad unfair on his mother. Or might not. Never met the woman.

Just to show that we don’t show any favouritism, Gasperini was also serenaded with the evergreen classic “Sei solo gobbo di merda!”. We were indeed in generous mood! There was a “Cairo, vattene!” for our beloved President, the new television magnate, and a “Palermitani! Gobbi di merda!” for our visitors. I tried my best to insert the word “decaffeinati” in there, but to no avail.

After 55 minutes, I noted that I couldn’t recall seeing a shot on goal. This made me think of something I wrote in a previous “M&E” regarding goalkeepers freezing parts off when they have nothing to do on a cold day. No chance of that happening on this occasion. Dying of boredom, perhaps, but not of cold.

I stopped writing on 77 minutes. There seemed little point. A lot of muttering and shaking of the head as we left the stadium. A certain amount of shrugging and “This is Italy”-ing, which is a common reaction to being shafted by the powers-that-be in this country. But possibly none of that applies to this match and Rocchi is simply incompetent and the players not much better?

Enough. If you’ve read this far, many thanks.

Here’s hoping for a genuine, fair, and fairly-officiated game of football when Lazio come to play next Sunday - famous last words!

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.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Parma 4-1 Torino

Despite leading the game with fifteen minutes remaining, Torino managed to capitulate in extraordinary fashion and fall to a 4-1 defeat against Parma on Sunday afternoon.

With in-form winger Alessio Cerci suspended, Giampiero Ventura decided to line up with a new 4-3-3 formation - as Valter Birsa and Mario Santana came into the starting eleven.

football formations
The home side should have taken the lead after fifteen minutes, when former Juventus striker Amauri glided past Kamil Glik before blasting his shot over the crossbar. Torino were also creating chances, and they had a great chance to take the lead from a quick counter attack, but Rolando Bianchi failed to control Valter Birsa's fine cross.

On the stroke of half time, Amauri had an excellent chance to give Parma the lead - but his acrobatic overhead kick was excellently saved by Jean Francois Gillet. From the resulting corner, Amauri had another chance to open the scoring, but this time his header was cleared off the line by Danilo D'Ambrosio.

Ten minutes after half time, Torino took the lead when a piece of intelligent skill from Valter Birsa allowed the Slovenian to go past two Parma defenders before crossing for Mario Santana who tapped into an empty net. As they did in their last away game against Cagliari, the Granata had chances to extend their lead on the counter attack, and Rolando Bianchi was guilty of missing an excellent chance - although to be fair, he was denied by an outstanding Antonio Mirante save.

And once again Torino were made to pay for that miss, as with fourteen minutes remaining Amauri finally got his name on the score sheet as he converted a left wing cross. Toro were somewhat unfortunate in the fact that the player marking Amauri was Angelo Ogbonna, who had suffered a thigh injury seconds before the goal, which may have effected his ability to deny the former Juve striker.

Just two minutes later Parma completed the turnaround, when a horrendous piece of defending by Salvatore Masiello presented the ball on a plate to Nicola Sansone, and the German-born striker curled the ball into the bottom corner from fifteen yards out. Torino's self-destruction continued as they conceded a third goal soon afterwards, when Amauri was allowed to run with the ball for thirty yards, before firing the ball past Gillet.

In injury time, Torino's humiliation was complete when Parma scored their fourth goal, as Nicola Sansone skipped past Kamil Glik's challenge before picking out an unmarked Amauri who completed his hat trick.

Whilst for 76 minutes this was an impressive away performance by Torino, the way in which they collapsed in the final fifteen minutes was extremely worrying. Despite being eight points clear of the drop zone, if the Granata fail to pick up any points in difficult home games against Lazio and Napoli, then they could once again become embroiled in a relegation battle.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Parma V Torino Preview

Torino travel to fellow mid-table side Parma on Sunday afternoon, and the Granata will be looking to record their first away win since January.

Toro will be without the suspended Riccardo Meggiorini and Alessio Cerci, with Alen Stevanovic and Mario Santana perhaps the most likely candidates to replace the former Fiorentina winger. Angelo Ogbonna has also returned to the squad after his own suspension, and should replace Guillermo Rodriguez at the heart of the defence, despite the Uruguayan's impressive recent performances.

Despite an impressive start to the season, Parma have struggled in recent weeks - and have gone eight games without a win, with their last victory coming in early January against Palermo. In October, the reverse fixture was won by the Crociati, with Gianluca Sansone's harsh red card for simulation being the turning point.

Parma 2-2 Torino

Friday, 8 March 2013

Angelo Ogbonna - should The Granata be worried?

It is widely expected that this will be Angelo Ogbonna's last season in a Torino shirt, with the Italian international seemingly destined for a move to a Champions League team in the summer.

However, after recently recovering from an injury that kept him out of action for over three months, Ogbonna has been less than convincing in his last two appearances for the Granata. Firstly, in his comeback match against Atalanta three weeks ago, he was partly at fault for the Nerazzurri being awarded a penalty after he was caught out of position, which then allowed Marko Livaja to nip in and win a spot kick for his team.

A week later against Cagliari, the highly rated defender had an even worse afternoon when he conceded two penalties himself - the second of which resulted in him being sent off for the first time in his career. Despite one of the penalties being extremely debatable, it is still a worry that Ogbonna has made three costly mistakes in successive games - especially given his imperious form in the previous two campaigns.

So, what could explain this sudden dip in form?

After his performance to forget against Cagliari, there was some speculation on Twitter that there may be a correlation between this performance, and the fact that he had recently been linked to a £17m move to Arsenal. However, considering the fact that Ogbonna has been linked with a number of top European clubs in recent seasons, I find it difficult to believe that transfer speculation would begin to get to the player, especially considering the fact he is now much older, and hopefully much wiser. Furthermore, without wishing to be too disrespectful towards The Gunners, considering the fact Angelo has stated that his main ambition is 'to play in a Champions League final' a move to a team who may not even qualify for the competition next season may not have even been the most appealing proposition.

Another explanation for Ogbonna's recent poor performances could be his lack of experience in Serie A, and despite excelling in Serie B for Torino in the past two seasons, he is still yet to play fifty matches in the top tier of Italian football. However, the Cassino born player has impressed many pundits in his five appearances for the Italian national team, and he has certainly not looked out of his depth when up against higher quality opposition. However, it could also be argued, that on form alone this season, Ogbonna's understudy - the Uruguayan Guillermo Rodriguez has actually been the more impressive performer, and he has been a big reason for Toro's impressive defensive record. Whilst this is certainly true, I am almost certain that despite his recent mistakes, the majority of Granata fans would probably still prefer Angelo Ogbonna to partner Kamil Glik in central defence for the match against Parma on Sunday.

Therefore, we are left with one explanation for his dip in form, and it is a simple one as well - a lack of match practice. Fortunately, Angelo has rarely been injured at all for the past three seasons - and therefore a three month absence was bound to have a negative effect on the player, and it would have been naive to think otherwise. Hopefully, after having to sit out yet another match due to being suspended, it has given Torino's vice captain an opportunity to improve his match fitness.

So if Ogbonna is selected by Giampiero Ventura against Parma on Sunday,  he will hopefully give a performance that will show why so many of Europe's top clubs have been chasing him - and it may even add a few million euros to his price tag, if as expected, he departs Turin this summer.

Forza Torino

Monday, 4 March 2013

Torino 0-0 Palermo

Torino's lack of firepower once again proved to be their downfall as they could only manage a goalless draw (their sixth of the season) against bottom of the table Palermo.

As expected, Guillermo Rodriguez came into the team in order to replace the suspended Angelo Ogbonna, whilst Matteo Brighi also came into the midfield to replace Alen Stevanovic.

football formations
Toro had an excellent lead to open the scoring in the opening stages, but after good interplay between Matteo Brighi and Alessio Cerci, the ball fell to Giuseppe Vives on the left wing - but the former Lecce man blazed his shot over the bar.

The Granata continued to look the more likely team to score, and were extremely unlucky when Rolando Bianchi's vicious volley rebounded off the post. Whilst Palermo were only creating half chances, they were were looking like a better side than their league position suggested. 

The Rosanero's Slovenian midfielder Josip Ilicic seemed to be responding to having the added responsibility of the captain's armband, but his left footed shot went well wide of the target. Substitute Fabrizio Miccoli sparked some more energy into the away team, and the former Fiorentina striker almost troubled Jean-Francois Gillet with an audacious chip, but it went over the bar. 

With ten minutes remaining, both teams seemed to think that the three points were there for the taking, and Torino substitute Danilo D'Ambrosio came agonisingly close to giving the Granata the lead. Alessio Cerci's corner was flicked on at the near post by Riccardo Meggiorini, but somehow D'Ambrosio failed to make contact with the ball from only two yards out.

And Torino had an even better chance moments later when a poor clearance by the Palermo defence gave Riccardo Meggiorini an outstanding opportunity, but his tame shot meant that former Granata keeper Stefano Sorrentino was able to deny him. 

Whilst a draw was probably a fair result, and it actually increased the gap between Torino and the bottom three to eleven points, Toro will look on this match as a missed opportunity in their quest to finish in the top half.

Forza Torino

Friday, 1 March 2013

Torino V Palermo Preview

After last weekend's dramatic ending against Cagliari, Torino will be hoping for a less eventful ninety minutes against bottom-of-the table Palermo on Sunday afternoon.

The Granata will be without Abou Diop and Angelo Ogbonna who are both suspended after being dismissed last Sunday, and the latter will almost certainly be replaced by the reliable Guillermo Rodriguez. Matteo Brighi and Danilo D'Ambrosio will also be looking for a recall to the starting eleven after missing out against Cagliari.

After drawing against Genoa last weekend, Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini has made his fourth managerial change of the season in an attempt to avoid an almost unthinkable relegation to Serie B. Despite initially being sacked in favour of Alberto Malesani, Gian Piero Gasperini has returned for his second spell in charge of the Rosanero, and he will be looking to secure Palermo's first victory since November against Toro on Sunday.

Torino 1-1 Palermo