Matri nails ‘Viola’ debut, Milan win first with Seedorf


Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - Page 19

Alessandro Matri scored twice on his debut for ACF Fiorentina to help his new team win 3-0 at bottom club Catania in Serie A on Sunday.

Matri had only scored once in six months for AC Milan, but now has more goals for Fiorentina after a brilliant first half.

“Today was an afternoon I dreamed about,” Matri said. “I really wanted to get back to helping the team. It’s been a difficult six months — in which I suffered — and I thank those who were close to me, my family and my girlfriend; I dedicate the goals to them.”

“I came to Fiorentina because I believed in this project. It was my decision to leave Juve[ntus] first and then Milan, two great clubs, but at the age of 29, it’s too early to remain on the bench and wait for your turn,” he added.

The win moved Fiorentina three points behind SSC Napoli in the race for third place — Serie A’s final Champions League berth — after the Naples club were held to a 2-2 draw by 10-man Bologna.

Napoli thought they had won after goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon, but Rolando Bianchi scored his second of the game in the final minute.

In Genoa, Inter lost 1-0 to the Rossoblu to rack up their third defeat in five league matches.

In the earlier kickoff, 10-man SS Lazio fought back after trailing twice to win 3-2 at Udinese, while elsewhere on Sunday, Parma toppled AC Chievo Verona 2-1, Atalanta BC edged Cagliari 1-0 and Torino blanked US Sassuolo 2-0.

In the evening game, former Netherlands midfielder Clarence Seedorf got off to a winning start as Milan’s coach after Mario Balotelli’s penalty helped the Rossoneri beat Hellas Verona 1-0.

“It is a victory that we dedicate to Seedorf, the first game is the most difficult,” Balotelli said.

“In a difficult situation we managed to win. We organized it and played very well. The new coach asked us to play with four forwards and to press from the start. It worked as we kept winning back possession. A good start means you’re halfway there,” the striker added.

After the game, Seedorf claimed that the Serie A giants have rediscovered the joy of playing soccer, despite requiring the late spot-kick to secure their precious win.

Seedorf has been heralded as Milan’s potential savior since former coach Massimiliano Allegri was sacked after a 4-3 defeat to Sassuolo last week left the San Siro side 30 points behind leaders Juventus.

For his first game at the helm of the side for whom he made 300 appearances in 10 golden years from 2002 to 2012, Seedorf sent out an ultra-offensive 4-2-3-1 formation with Robinho, Kaka and Japan’s Keisuke Honda behind Balotelli.

However, despite creating many chances against Andrea Mandorlini’s high-flying visitors, Milan had to rely on Balotelli’s 82nd-minute penalty to secure what was only their sixth win in 20 games.

Seedorf was pleased with the Rossoneri’s performance on what was effectively the first real day of his fledgling coaching career.

“Milan have rediscovered the joy of playing football,” said the 37-year-old Dutchman, who gave up his playing career with Brazilian side Botafogo last week.

Milan’s aim over the remaining 18 league games is to clinch a top three place in the Champions League, although with Juve, AS Roma and Napoli flying high and Fiorentina showing promise, that task looks very difficult.

Juventus and Roma were both on form in their respective games on Saturday, and Juve’s 12th successive win — a feat not achieved since the 1928-1929 season — allowed Antonio Conte’s men to retain their eight-point lead over the Giallorossi.