Palermo traveled North to Liguria to take on one of the surprise’s of this year’s Serie A campaign, Genoa. Sitting comfortably in a Europa League spot, Genoa have endured a marvelous season so far, topping the likes of Juventus, Lazio and Udinese. Traveling into the Luigi Ferraris has been a daunting task for Palermo, having not picked up three points there since the late 1970s.
The stage was set, two teams on the rise in Serie A, one in Genoa who have seemed to have already arrived and the newly promoted Rosanero, looking to play the spoiler. The game started out fiercely with back and forth play. The Rosanero made good on their first chance on goal. After a turn over in midfield, Franco Vazquez picked up the ball and played a wonderful through ball down the right flank to Paulo Dybala who tipped the ball forward on his right foot, only to see him cross over his defender and place an immaculate left-footed, Messi-like curled shot past the fully outstretched body of Mattia Perin and into the top left corner. Only seven minutes in, and Palermo drew first blood; the Grifone faithful were left stunned and in silence.
Dybala staked his claim as the Man of the Match while the two goal keepers were the very close runners’ up. Both Mattia Perin (who has drawn such lofty praise as “Gigi Buffon’s heir”) and Stefano Sorrentino earned their wages on Monday evening. Both keepers were called into duty multiple times with each keeper coming up in big ways for their respective clubs. For every as bit as good as the keepers were, the strikers did miss some chances to put their mark on the game. Alessandro Matri had a wonderful back heel goal called off by the linesman for the ball going out of play prior to the pass to the Genoa striker to cleverly flick in (replays showed the referee was correct in making the call). The only blemish on Sorrentino’s evening was made from a poor clearance from Enzo Maresca who slipped while attempting to clear the ball out of the box. Genoa midfielder Andrea Bertolacci capitalized on the error and drove a low ball into the bottom corner past a diving Sorrentino. Dybala had another golden opportunity to add to his goal tally in the first half when he ran down a long, high ball and had an exquisite first touch on it, pushing it past Genoa’s last man and leaving the Palermo man with the keeper to beat. Perin came off his line, and with a defender on his back and the keeper coming towards him, Dybala decided to chip the ball, only to no avail as Perin got his fingertips to the ball and put it out for a corner.
The second half saw an onslaught of possession from the Rossoblu with moments of brilliance from the Rosanero on the counter attack. Franco Vazquez took a strong left-footed shot from well outside the box to only hit the left upright. Moments later, Robin Quaison’s header hit Perin directly in the chest. The last quarter of an hour saw Palermo sit back and defend and do something they have rarely been able to do in the past, not concede late in the match. The duo of Giancarlo Gonzalez and Ezequiel Munoz is to the thank for that. The tandem have formed an excellent rapport with one another as well as with Sorrentino and that has aided Palermo’s four game unbeaten streak.