Monday, December 29 th, 2014
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Football migranti: Balo makes a fool of Man United, Immobile misses a penalty
SuperMario's controversial tweet triggered violent replies; after the great goal in Champions; the Borussia's striker committed a decisive error in Bundesliga
by Jem Bosatta
In a hectic week that has seen Champions, Europa League and domestic leagues there have been Italian exports hitting the headlines across the continent. Here’s a roundup of what the Azzurri have been doing outside of their homeland this week.

ENGLAND: Mario Balotelli & Fabio Borini, Liverpool vs Ludogorets (H) 2-1 & West Ham (A) 1-3 Mario Balotelli showed his sense of timing in the Champions League on Tuesday night by opening his account with Liverpool when they needed it most. Locked at 0-0 with the hardy Bulgarians, Balotelli found himself with the ball at his feet in the box – he shrugged off two defenders with his bullish strength and poked it across the keeper. The match finished 2-1 for the Reds; Balo did his bit. Fabio Borini, still goalless this season, was a super-sub against Ludogorets and injected some energy into the game, but as a starter against West Ham he and Mario both were largely dead weight. The fans were split – some appreciated his work ethic and indeed he was industrious, but the lack of cutting edge frustrated many others leading to a lot of Twitter abuse – very little of it printable. Mario Balotelli was also involved in a Twitter scandal when he tweeted a big “LOL” at Manchester United’s 5-3 loss to Leicester City. That wasn’t the shock – that would be the reply telling him to go and eat bananas and contract Ebola. The guilty account was later closed down.

ELSEWHERE IN ENGLAND – Graziano Pellé, Swansea vs Southampton 0-1. Pellé could not continue his goalscoring streak against a stubborn Swansea side but did register an assist for team-mate Victor Wanyama to finish the game 1-0. At Sunderland Emanuele Giaccherini managed to land himself a rare spot on the startin XI (as well as Vito Mannone) but was withdrawn after 73 frustrating minutes out of a total of 90 frustrating minutes against Burnley, who held out for a 0-0 draw.


GERMANY: Ciro Immobile, Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal (H) 2-0 & 1. FSV Mainz 05 (A) 0-2 On Tuesday evening Immobile caught the media’s eyes across the Channel when he ran half the pitch and finished coolly in the far corner against Arsenal in an extraordinary solo effort that marks his first official goal for the club. His antics in the 2-0 defeat of the Gunners earnt him a second appearance that week in the weekend league fixture against Mainz, replacing Adrian Ramos (his rival for the starting spot) in the 65th minute. Away from home he could not replicate the magic and missed a penalty on the seventy-minute mark which would have allowed the visitors to equalise. The schwarzgelb army went on to lose 2-0. The ex-Pescara boy is yet to score a league goal for Dortmund, who are currently lagging in 10th after four matchdays.


FRANCE: Marco Verratti & Thiago Motta, PSG vs Ajax (A) 1-1 & Lyon (H) 1-1 PSG this week mustered two disappointing 1-1 draws, first against Ajax for the Champions League match and then against Lyon for the league. But their Italian contingent cannot be to blame as time and time again Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti prove themselves worthy of a place in the top XI of the best team in France, taking turns to shine. In Wednesday’s fixture the Parisians struggled with possession and were frustrated by a late Schoene goal for the hosts but Thiago Motta was the player to complete the most passes out of anyone (joint with opposite number Niklas Moisander). He and David Luiz both attempted 66 but the Italian international completed sixty of his, including some more ambitious efforts, while his Brazilian team-mate only managed to land 55. In Paris on Sunday Verratti was far and away the best passer on the pitch, only missing three passes out of 91 attempted; he completed 19 more than the next best PSG player (David Luiz) and 36 more than the best of the Lyon tally (Maxime Gonalons). He is not a player who often finds himself on the scoresheet or the assist register and yet his influence on the pitch especially in possession is staggering, even without considering his tender age (21). There have also been behind-the-scenes dramas at the club; firstly you may remember that a couple of weeks ago Thiago Motta was headbutted by an opponent in the tunnel after the game. Brandao, the assailant, has now been disqualified for six months for his actions.


Secondly, whispers continue of dressing room divisions at the Parc des Princes all swirling (somewhat predictably) around Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The story goes (as reported by L’Equipe) that those members of the squad who are Zlatan’s friends – Motta and Verratti included – receive preferential treatment from the management. Particularly disgruntled is Blaise Matuidi who until recently had an insdisputable starting spot and now has to fight off Pastore and Cabaye to line up alongside Motta and Verratti. The French-vs-everyone-else in-fighting has been a fixture since Ancelotti’s days but it has emerged again from dormancy.


SPAIN: Alessio Cerci, Atletico Madrid vs Olympiakos (A) 2-3, vs Celta de Vigo (H) 2-2 Cerci in his new home in Madrid continues to be an impact sub without the impact as last year’s league champions struggle to find form. Substituted on for the last half hour in Greece he had little influence on the game and failed to help turn around the deficit; in the league he was given only ten minutes but the stalemate already seemed decided. The former Torino player is yet to wow the Spanish crowds and yet to play to his full potential.


USA: Marco Di Vaio, Montreal Impact vs San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 A quick update on a Juventus and Italy veteran, who at 38 years of age is still plying his trade for Major League Soccer and has scored 6 goals in 15 appearances, including two assists and a goal in his last three games. The tradition for Italians continuing to play long past conventional retiring ages is being proudly upheld across the Pond – and he’s no token player yet.

Monday, September 22 nd, 2014
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