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Catania is Serie A's early surprise package
by Ian Plenderleith, September 25th, 2008 7AM



[ITALY] There were two striking aspects to Catania's appearance at Juventus in Wednesday's Serie A clash. The first was its red and sky-blue striped uniforms, the kind of shirt that either makes you giddy or makes you run to the nearest replica jersey shop to shock your friends and get you noticed. The second was the Sicilian team's positive approach. They took the game to Juve for the first 15 minutes and then, after falling a goal behind, refused to fold or, once they'd equalized, shut up shop and settle for the point.

Catania is coached by former Italian national team goalkeeper Walter Zenga, the man with the undistinguished 13-23 record as coach of the New England Revolution back in the birthing days of MLS. The team has never finished higher than eighth in Serie A, and last season they escaped relegation by a single point on the season's final day. Just another one of those no-names lower down the Italian first division you expect to be easy fodder for the big boys at the Champions League end of the table.

After four games this season, they are a giddy seventh after Zenga strengthened the squad with summer signings such as Pablo Ledesma from Boca Juniors and Nicolae Dica from Steaua Bucharest. On Wednesday, though, it was veteran Italian striker Gianvito Plasmati, scoring his second of the season, who helped win Catania a deserved point.

Juve coach Claudio Ranieri knew who to blame, or rather what -- the poor field at the Stadio Olimpico. "We'd scored on our first chance, but we were unable to play our usual game tonight," he said. "With the field in this state, the boys were forced to play a lot of long balls. We had to open up to try and score and so we let one in, again because of a bad bounce."

A line of credit though to Juve's Brazilian striker Amauri for his goal. Coaches should study and then, if at all possible, teach the forward's heading technique. Closely marked by a defender, Amauri elevated himself to reach a Sebastian Giovinco cross placed almost behind him. He half-twisted himself around, then headed the ball downward onto the goal line and into the net. Both he and Alessandro del Piero hit the Catania woodwork, but couldn't finish the game off, losing top spot to Inter in the process. The reigning champions squeezed past Lecce at home, 1-0, on a late goal from veteran Argentine striker Julio Cruz seven minutes after he'd come off the bench.

Ronaldinho was left warming the pine as AC Milan won its second game in succession, a 2-1 win at Reggina. New signing Marco Borriello scored his first goal for the club, while young Brazilian star Alexandre Pato scored the winner, his second of the season. Lazio beat Fiorentina 3-0, while Roma fell 3-1 to Genoa.



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