When Padova’s new manager Michele Serena signed up to take over from ex-Palermo manager Bertolo Mutti, Serena knew his first managerial experience would be taking on the Rosanero at the Renzo Barbera. The good news was Palermo were yet to claim all three points since the winter break with back-to-back draws against Empoli and Modena. The bad news was Palermo have only lost two of 11 games at home, whilst his 21st place Padova have only won once on their travels.
105 kilometres West of Palermo 5th Empoli travelled to the in-form Trapani including Serie B’s top scorer Marco Mancosu. Palermo may just have a second chance to stretch their narrow lead. With Stefano Sorrentino back from injury, Ujkani found himself back on the bench after several impressive displays between the posts. As predicted by Ultra Palermo, Morganella’s ban meant a debut start for Achraf Lazaar. Noticeable absentees were fan-favourites Andrea Belotti, Paulo Dybala and Edgar Barreto all out of this game.
Palermo: Sorrentino; Munoz, Terzi, Andelkovic; Pisano, Bolzoni, Maresca, Verre, Lazaar; Lafferty, Abel Hernandez
Bench: Ujkani; Di Gennaro, Troianiello, Stevanovic, Vazquez, N’Goyi, Daprela, Vitiello, Embalo
Padova: Mazzoni; Almici, Santacroce, Carini, Osuji; Cuffa, Ceccarelli, La Camera; Pasquato; Rocchi, Vantaggiato
Bench: Nocchi, Bendetti, Vinicius, Improta, Iori, Moretti, Feczesin, Melchiorri.
Palermo pushed from the first minute pressing Padova deep into their half, a quick succession of shots and corners; Francesco Bolzoni’s shot deflected only yards from goal, Kyle Lafferty shot from a tight angle and forced a save from Padova keeper Luca Mazzoni. Finally, after some great movement from Abel Hernandez, he passed across goal, but the stretching leg of Eros Pisano couldn’t guide it towards the net. Palermo really threw everything at Padova early on in this game.
Shortly after, it was Pisano causing trouble again. Bursting down the left-hand side, Padova defender Alberto Almici could only take him down as he tried to stop the speedy wingback. Almici earned himself the first yellow card of the game in the process.
A great piece of teamwork from Kyle Lafferty and Abel Hernandez outside the area followed; however, Abel’s first touch let him down and the deflected ball didn’t quite sit up for Kyle Lafferty’s rebound. Stefano Sorrentino was called into action for the first time in the game as Daniele Vantaggiato set up Giovanni La Camera for a shot outside of the 18 yard box. Another opening came straight after for Padova, Vantaggiato’s deflected shot bounced high in the area for Wilfred Osuji to head straight at the Palermo keeper. Vantaggiato struck a hard-rising shot from long range wide of the goal. Despite these chances Padova still yet to find a good opportunity in front of goal.
Cristian Pasquato was the first to gain any sight of goal in the second half, another long range shot that was never going to hit the net. Palermo were doing an excellent job of keeping Padova outside of the 18 yard box until a quick succession of passes ended with a great chance on goal for Osuji. But his first time shot blasted over the goal. It was the first nervous moment for the Rosanero fans.
New signing Achraf Lazaar placed a magnificent cross from 35 yards and managed to find Abel Hernandez, out-jumping Filippo Carini, but heading the ball straight into Mazzoni’s gloves. The captain’s armband fitting Abel Hernandez well, he was looking dangerous throughout this game.
A manic attack at goal followed. Beginning with Munoz’s header from an in swinging corner, it was kept out with a clearance header, but eventually found its way back into the box, Sinisa Andelkovic’s (subbed on from Pisano 71’) header was kept out by a fantastic save from Mazzoni. The score still incredibly 0-0.
Palermo found their early-rhythm again now dominating the play, Lazaar constantly finding the ball out on the left. It was Bolzoni who’s header was gratefully caught by Mazzoni this time. The game looked to be one of those that was destined to be 0-0 as countless attempts at goal proved fruitless. Finally, luck struck our Rosanero, after a scruffy exchange in Padova’s box, Alen Stevanovic hit a well-timed acrobatic volley and the ball struck the arm of Filippo Carini who spun to block the shot. Penalty.
As Padova protested surrounding the referee, il capitano Abel Hernandez had already placed the ball, patiently awaiting the whistle. He struck, sending the keeper the wrong way, and the ball hit the back of the net! Abel Hernandez ran half the length of the pitch to celebrate in what can only be described as a duck-like fashion.
Palermo now had the advantage, the game looked all but sealed with ten minutes remaining. Padova didn’t take the script provided. A quick passing move opened up space for Pasquato to shoot 19 yards out, his left-footed shot not testing Sorrentino once again. Haunted by last season’s problem of conceding late goals, fear set in.
More drama followed as tempers flared. Fabiano Santacroce pushed Kyle Lafferty in the face in an off-the-ball situation. It was a straight red card in injury time and a needless ban for the Padova defender.
The final note of the game came as Lafferty made way to welcome the debut of Roberto Vitiello. The former-Siena man making a return to football after his supposed involvement with the match-fixing scandals. Great to see him back on the field.
The final whistle sounded but this was by no means over. After the match, scenes of Vantaggiato being pulled down the tunnel by his team. The player seemingly unhappy by the refereeing decisions. In contrast to this a touching embrace between Sorrentino and Ukjani after the game, you have to feel for Samir Ukjani who played well before Sorrentino’s return.
Palermo 1 – 0 Padova
(P) 80’ Abel Hernandez (Pen)
So it will be listed in the history books as a win for Palermo but the Biancoscudati, Palermo’s affiliated fan club, can leave holding their heads high. It was an excellent display worthy of a higher position within Serie B. It will be interesting to see if they can fight the drop this season.
An impressive performance from Abel Hernandez, he looked sharp in Saturday’s game and Lazaar played a solid game providing some brilliant crosses. The game is an important milestone for Palermo after claiming their first win in 2014, now unbeaten in their last five games. Palermo now hold a four point lead at the top of Serie B as Empoli played out a 0-0 draw with Trapani.
Palermo’s next match is a real test away to 4th-placed Cesena. The Seahorses are unbeaten in their last seven league games, most recently playing out a 1-1 draw with Virtus Lanciano. In the reverse fixture, Palermo took all three points against them in a 2-1 home win. The upcoming game will include the likely return of Michel Morganella to the starting line up, the player returning from his one-match suspension.