A late goal from Pipo Gonzalez helped Palermo to claim their first win in front of their home fans with a 2-1 victory over 10-man Cesena. The game was listed by many as imperative to salvaging Palermo’s start to the season and in truth, Beppe Iachini’s position.
After impressive performances against Verona, Inter and Napoli failing to bring Palermo three points, back-to-back defeats at the hands of Lazio and Empoli left the Serie B champions at the foot of the table.
Both line ups were missing key players, the Rosanero were without il capitano Edgar Barreto and fellow central midfielder Enzo Maresca. Their unavailability meant good news for newcomer Ivaylo Chochev who got the start. The faltering backline saw Ezequiel Munoz and debutant Pipo Gonzalez also make the first XI for the first time this season. Andrea Belotti, after his successful international break with the under 21s, started from the bench.
Cesena had four players out in Emmanuel Cascione, Riccardo Cazzola, Stefano Lucchini and Andrea Tabanelli. It was also a homecoming for fan favourite Franco Brienza in the starting line up for the Seahorses.
Palermo: Sorrentino; Munoz, Gonzalez, Andelkovic; Morganella, Bolzoni, Rigoni, Chochev, Lazaar; Vazquez, Dybala.
Cesena: Leali; Perico, Capelli, Volta, Magnusson; Defrel, De Feudis, Coppola, Renzetti; Brienza; Marilungo
The time spent at Maurio Zamparini’s home over the international break seemed to reinvigorate a Palermo side that began the game convincingly. The opening saw a Rosanero squad deserving of the shirt. Early pressure and movement began to pay off as Paulo Dybala had an unsuccessful opportunity to take the early lead – closely followed by a free kick that struck the crossbar.
A goal seemed inevitable and it was the young Argentine who finally put Palermo ahead. Paulo Dybala skipped forward in the penalty area after a quick one-two from a corner with Franco Vazquez. The number 9 opened his body and struck a curling shot with his preferred left foot across goal and past the highly rated Nicola Leali to give Palermo a well deserved lead.
In the second half, Cesena looked more likely to concede a second before substitute Alejandro Rodriguez broke through the defence only for Stefano Sorrentino to bravely collect the ball before the Spaniard could get a touch. It was not long before the Spaniard would have another chance at goal though after Sinisa Andelkovic pulled down Hordur Magnusson in the box whilst defending a corner. In truth, the Cesena man went down easily, but Andelkovic clearly had not learned from a similar situation with Luca Toni in Week 2 away to Verona. The substitute Rodriguez sent Stefano Sorrentino the wrong way to level the score.
In a match that should have been over already, it was Palermo now searching for a goal to keep Beppe Iachini’s job alive. Not one for burying his head in the sand, the manager introduced the not-so-secret-weapon Andrea Belotti for Ivaylo Chochev with 25 minutes remaining.
At this point all outfield players were in the Cesena half of the field, the Seahorses clearly trying to hold out for a draw. In the build up to the game Maurizio Zamparini asked for luck and that’s exactly what happened after two quick fouls by Manuel Coppola saw Cesena reduced to 10 men with 11 minutes remaining. More substitutions arrived as Achraf Lazaar made way for the Brasilian Emerson. When that wasn’t enough, a final moment of desperation followed from Beppe Iachini; defender Ezequiel Munoz came off for the giant Simon Makienok to enter the frame – designed to give the hopeful crosses a clear target in the final third.
With two minutes remaining in stoppages a corner from Paulo Dybala saw a last minute winner for a desperate Palermo. Debutant Pipo Gonzalez was expected by many as the answer to the recent defensive insecurities, but today, he also proved to be the saviour offensively by out-jumping the Cesena defence to plant a powerful header into the net.
A much needed first win for Palermo finally arrived in Week 7 of Serie A. The looks on the players (and coach’s) faces said it all: this was a godsend for this side. The result moves Palermo joint with 6 points in the league alongside promoted Empoli and Cesena. The three points should more importantly secure Beppe Iachini’s place for another fortnight at least. Maurizio Zamparini’s side travel to Turin next week to face Juventus, the fiery chairman won’t request a win against the champions…surely?