The noise rolling down from the stands of the Stadio Luigi Ferraris was cacophonous, but TV microphones still picked up Ivan Juric’s final lament. “You have no souls!” protested the Genoa manager as officials ushered him out of the home dugout. “This is the derby!”
Note his use of the definite article. The Derby della Lanterna might not have the international profile of big-city rivalries from Milan or Rome, but it is felt every bit as keenly. Or perhaps even more so. Sampdoria have claimed a single Serie A title in their history. Genoa have nine, but none since 1924. When major trophies feel like a distant goal, local bragging rights carry greater weight.
As a city, Genoa is still recovering from the collapse of the Morandi bridge in August: a tragedy which cost 43 lives and has had dire consequences for so many more. There had been suggestions in the buildup to Sunday’s derby that supporters of both clubs might come together and produce a shared choreography to commemorate the victims.
In the end, they opted against it. The Morandi disaster remains a daily reality for residents of Genoa. On Monday morning, the local newspaper Secolo XIX led its front page with a picture from the derby. Immediately beneath that was a story detailing the government’s latest promise to compensate families displaced from their homes as a result of the bridge coming down.
Sport does not heal wounds like these, but it can offer moments of escape. For one evening, the Ferraris was a world unto itself. Genoa fans in the Gradinata Nord unveiled tall banners of derby heroes from years gone by. The Sampdoria end was a roiling sea of flags and flares.
The match began at a tempo to match the energy in the stands. There were not yet 10 minutes played when Sampdoria took the lead, Fabio Quagliarella heading home a Gastón Ramirez cross from close range. Genoa were level by the 17th, Krzysztof Piatek converting a penalty that he had earned.
Both teams arrived here on the back of three consecutive defeats. Sampdoria had conceded 11 goals in that stretch, a perplexing sequence for a side that previously boasted the stingiest defence in all of Serie A. But it was Genoa’s manager, Juric, who found himself under the greatest pressure.
Appointed to replace Davide Ballardini in mid-October, the Croatian began with a promising 1-1 draw at Juventus. His team had only picked up a single point since, however, drawing at home to Udinese before losing to Milan, Inter and Napoli.
That is a tough run of fixtures, yet Genoa’s limp display in a 5-0 mauling by the Nerazzurri still raised concern. So too did a dry run in front of goal for Piatek. The Polish striker, signed from KS Cracovia in the summer, had scored in all of his first nine games for the club before Juric’s appointment. He had failed to find the net even once thereafter.
Was that simply a matter of coincidence, influenced by the tough run of games? Or was Juric misusing the team’s prize asset, demanding too much from the striker in terms of buildup play and thus denying him the freedom to stay close to goal and focus on doing what he does best?
Regardless, the team’s owner, Enrico Preziosi, was unlikely to tolerate such a state of affairs for long. Genoa’s business model relies on signing and developing younger players before selling them on for a profit. Piatek had cost only €4.5m and, if he kept banging the goals in, could be flipped for 10 times that sum.
His penalty on Sunday alone will have come as a relief to Juric. But the manager could feel more encouraged by the team performance that followed.
After a slow start, Genoa now took command of the game, wing-backs Romulo and Darko Lazovic pushing high up the pitch to exploit the narrowness of Sampdoria’s 4-3-1-2. Only a series of saves from Sampdoria’s goalkeeper, Emil Audero, kept the scores level.
The 21-year-old had given away the penalty, bringing down Piatek as the striker burst through on goal. In truth, the fault was much less with him than with defender Joachim Andersen – who misjudged the flight of Davide Biraschi’s long pass forward down the right and found himself caught between ball and man.
Under previous interpretations of the rules, Audero would have been sent off. Sampdoria can feel grateful for the greater leniency introduced by the International Football Association Board since 2016. He was correctly shown a yellow, and went on to deny Piatek a second goal with a reflex stop on a close-range effort before the break.
He had kept out a Romulo effort moments earlier, but more impressive still was the save he made from Christian Kouamé after the interval. The Ivorian had met a cross from the right with a glancing header on the edge of the six-yard box. It hopped awkwardly off the ground, yet Audero kept his co-ordination while diving at full stretch to push it away.
That was the last big chance of the game, Genoa fading even as their manager was sent off for straying too many times from his technical area. Juric’s frustration at the decision was understandable. His team had played the better football, and a win against these opponents might have gone a long way to easing the pressure on him. Genoa have not won the derby since 2016.
Perhaps for the city, though, this draw was the ideal outcome. An entertaining game, contested furiously, supported loudly and without any enduring rancour. One evening of happy escapism, at the end of a desperate year.Talking points
• Perhaps buoyed by such a successful derby, Genoa’s city council has written to the presidents of River Plate and Boca Juniors offering to host the second leg of their postponed Copa Libertadores semi-final. The letter makes reference to the significant demographic in Buenos Aires who can chart their family history back to immigrants from Genoa.
• Juventus extended their lead atop Serie A to eight points, thanks to Napoli’s draw with Chievo. Cue laments of the title race already being over. Am I the only one who finds this hard to get worked up about in November? Inter were top last December. If Juventus do run away with it, that’ll be because they kept on winning, not just because they have a lead right now.
• Napoli were flat against Chievo and have drawn four of their last six games across all competitions, though given that the other three were against Roma and PSG (twice) we’re hardly into troubled waters.
• The Giallorossi themselves have more cause for concern after a 1-0 defeat to Udinese. They have now taken only five points from their five games immediately preceding Champions League matches, and the lack of a viable alternative to Edin Dzeko remains as glaring as ever.
• Some strike from Joaquín Correa for Lazio’s 93rd-minute equaliser against Milan. The Biancocelesti remain fourth despite ongoing struggles in the big games.Topics Serie A Genoa Sampdoria European club football features Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via Email Share on LinkedIn Share on Pinterest Share on Google+ Share on WhatsApp Share on Messenger Reuse this content