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Parma strike late against Juventus to remain only Serie A side with unbeaten home record

Dylan Fahy
Amauri 300x225 Parma strike late against Juventus to remain only Serie A side with unbeaten home record

Amauri challenges for the ball with Paul Pogba

In an intense final quarter of an hour at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, Palermo goalkeeper Francesco Benussi contrived to allow Parma striker Amauri’s half volley slip through his arms in farcical fashion. The result handed the Gialloblu a third successive home victory, but dramatic developments elsewhere on a surprising Sunday in Serie A also left the club as the only remaining side unbeaten on home soil all season.

The return of the peninsula’s top league following the winter break left the two in form teams of 2012 at a standstill, following superb performances by two 20-year-olds. Holding champions Juventus were defeated in Turin by a 10-man Sampdoria inspired by striker Mauro Icardi. Elsewhere, Fiorentina could not break down goalkeeper Mattia Perin, and Pescara went on to pick up all three points in Florence.

Icardi’s brace at the Juventus Arena and Perin’s heroics at the Stadio Artemio Franchi left Parma in a remarkable yet precarious position. The Tuscan club’s defeat left the Crociati as the only team yet to lose at home this season, and the aftermath of the Piedmont’s outfits loss meant they would have to defend their new record against a fired-up Old Lady the very next weekend.

Parma took the initiative from the start, and pounced on several tired Juventus legs following their extra-time victory in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals against Milan on Wednesday. Ishak Belfodil eagerly probed the visitor’s defence, and linked up effectively with strike partner Amauri on several occasions. Injuries to Claudio Marchisio and Giorgio Chiellini coupled with Kwadwo Asamoah’s absence due to African Cup of Nations duty were also clearly evident from the onset.

Paul Pogba capitalised on a start and attempted to raise the game’s intensity with a burst of energy, which culminated in a curling effort that flew wide. Former Bianconeri youth goalkeeper Antonio Mirante kept Fabio Quagliarella and Andrea Pirlo at bay with several fingertip saves before the first half ended. Both sides matched each other in the majority of departments, while the home side’s danger man Jonathan Biabiany failed to make an impression on Gianluigi Buffon’s goal.

After the interval Antonio Conte’s men pressed continually, and eventually took the lead when Pirlo’s free-kick deflected off Biabiany and left Mirante in no man’s land. The strike ended the run of pressure, and another former Bianconero in Marco Marchionni began to find joy in the middle of the park for the Gialloblu. However, Arturo Vidal was imperious with several vital interventions. The respective five-man midfield were crowding the centre circle, and neither playmaker could make a definitive contribution.

Upon being brought on for Amauri with over half an hour to play, Nicola Sansone used his pace to burst past Martín Cáceres and kept his nerve to level the scoring. The 21-year-old netted a similar goal against Inter in November, and with only six touches in the entire game guaranteed a point for his side. Parma maintained their unbeaten record with the 1-1 draw when up against the ultimate challenge, while Juventus will have to go back to the drawing board, as they are yet to pick up a win in 2013.

Roberto Donadoni has molded Parma in a robust and clinical team since his arrival exactly a year ago. The momentum from their six successive victories at the backend of last season has been carried into the current campaign. The Italian tactician has created a fortress at the Tardini, and to date they have beaten both Roma and Inter while taking points away from Fiorentina and Milan.

The squad has a healthy balance of youth and experience that has blended perfectly through Donadoni’s guidance. Mirante has the protection of a back-three filled with experience in Cristian Zaccardo, Gabriel Paletta and Alessandro Lucarelli. In midfield dynamic players such as Marco Parolo, Afriyie Acquah, Marchionni and Sansone have complimented the ageing playmaker Jaime Valdés. Exciting youngsters such as Belfodil, Biabiany and Sotiris Ninis have also combined superbly with a level-headed Amauri.

The Italian press has jumped on Donadoni’s performances in recent days, and a possible return to his former club Milan’s bench has been touted. “The atmosphere here is perfect for my project,” admitted the 49-year-old recently. Based on recent results, the Parma faithful will be crossing their fingers that the former international midfielder will continue to patrol their touchline for a long time to come.

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