Free At Last

Many would be forgiven had they seen the scoreline on the first of April and credited it to some sort of practical joke. Yet, the result was true and Palermo had finally earned their first road victory of the season…one with only eight games remaining. Only fitting with the date that the first away win would come without the likes of Miccoli, Balzaretti and Silvestre and after 45 minutes of play, the Rosanero would be without their two fullbacks Pisano and Aguirregaray succumbing to injury. Nevertheless, the 1-3 victory lifted a tremendous burden off the team’s back and set them free to finish out this forgettable season as soon as possible.

The game in itself was not pretty – not in the least. The team looked lifeless in attack and seemed to be going through the motions as Bologna just edging out the action in what proved to be a fairly boring first half. Ilicic showed a marked improvement over last week, noticeable because he was actually trying. Abel Hernandez was also lively but his runs led to dead-ends. Milanovic was thrown on when Pisano took a bad knock on the top of his foot and the Serbian once again proved to be ready for the challenge.

In the second half, Mutti had to make another change as Aguirregaray pulled up with a hamstring injury. Being without any more proper defenders, former Bologna man Francesco Della Rocca took the wingback’s place and the team switched to a four man back line, manned by Mantovani, Labrin, Milanovic and Munoz. Five minutes after the switch, the weekly defensive lapse occurred as Della Rocca let Sorensen run past him and collect a through ball. Milanovic was late in charging the Bologna defender down, and Sorensen took a nice shot that beat Viviano at the far post.

Two events changed the course of this game in Palermo’s favor. Despite being 1-0 down, Emiliano Viviano emphatically underlined why he is such a promising talent when he denied Marco Di Vaio the goal that would have effectively closed the match. It was an incredible save that gave Palermo a lifeline and kept them in the match.

With the team down 1-0, Mutti went for broke. He introduced Igor Budan for Giulio Migliaccio, giving Abel Hernandez a striking partner to work off of. The move paid dividends as Budan was the spark that the team needed on the offensive end. Donati tied the game from a free kick, one that almost grazed the top of the Croatian striker’s head, but it was the go-ahead goal where Budan’s fantastic workrate was seen. He was a torment on the Bologna defense and it was his initial attempt on goal that allowed the rebound to fall to Donati and Abel Hernandez who ended up scoring the go ahead goal. Budan has been invaluable to the team during this second half of the season. Based on where he was just six months ago, nobody could have ever expected this – not even the Croat himself. As he stated, it’s a credit to hard work and maintaining professionalism, something that is lost on most modern footballers these days.

On a final note, Donati played another fantastic game while Labrin was another positive mark. Mantovani was having a good game till he picked up a foolish second yellow and Milanovic showed glimpses of promise despite making one mistake. It’s nice to know that there are quality reserves on the bench, it’s a shame it took this long to realize which ones they were.

Now, with Serie A safety virtually secured, Palermo can play out the remaining games with a free conscience as well as give deserving players a chance for game action (see: Vazquez, Mehmeti). With Juve looming on Saturday and a long list of question marks regarding who will be available, Mutti will have to replicate some of the magic that he bottled last Sunday against Pioli’s Bologna.

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