Posts Tagged ‘Marco Rigoni’

I am sad to report that “Novara week” came to a disappointing end on Sunday. The Biancoazzuri lost 2-1 away to fellow Serie A returnees Atalanta to cap-off a rollercoaster week that started with a 3-1 defeat of Inter. Novara were excellent on Tuesday, bettering the Nerazzurri in every department and well-worth their historic win. Their fire and grinta were too much for an Inter side too uncomfortable and wobbly to pose a threat, they had a far rougher time this weekend.

Novara were admittedly unlucky. They’d been playing well until Giuseppe Gemiti’s defensive lapse gave Ezequiel Schelotto a free header on 34 minutes. The goal was harsh on the away side who’d created more opportunities than Atalanta in the opening stages with Riccardo Meggiorini looking particularly threatening.

Unfortunately the Biancoazzurri amped-up the sloppiness after the opener and chance after chance went begging. Marco Rigoni flashed a header across goal before Meggiorini wasted two great chances from close range. Attilio Tesser’s side had nobody else to blame but themselves when Luca Cigarini scored Atalanta’s second after 59 minutes, such was Novara’s wastefulness in-front of goal.

Novara refused to give-up. They continued to push Atalanta and Rigoni come close again midway through the second-half. Eventually Novara got the goal they’d been looking for when Filippo Porcari struck on the 89th minute. The comeback was on, and the Biancoazzurri had the ball in the net again in stoppage time but substitute Pablo Granoche’s tap-in was ruled offside.

Replays, however, clearly show that this was the wrong decision. The speed of Porcari’s through-ball caught the Atalanta defence flat-footed which gave Granoche plenty of space behind them, but he was evidently onside when the ball was played.

The Biancoazzurri were unfortunate not to get something from the game. Their equalizer definitely wasn’t offside and they balance of play was even throughout with Novara managing 11 shots and 47% possession. But as unlucky as Novara were, they really shot themselves in the foot by not taking their chances. They probably could’ve had the game won by half-time and definitely created enough goalscoring opportunities to earn at least a point.

I’ve talked about Novara’s lack of a goal threat before but never has it been more apparent. The Biancoazzurri are going to run into serious difficulties this season if their frontmen don’t sharpen-up. As decent as their general play is it’ll mean little if they can’t take their chances, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Novara signed a striker or two in January.

This has been the most enjoyable week of the season so far. I’ve learned a lot about Novara, their history and some of the people who’ve shaped the club. I can’t wait to revisit Silvio Piola’s legacy when I look at some of his other clubs, and I loved researching Attilio Tesser’s managerial career and the uplifting change in fortunes he’s gone through lately.

I’ll definitely be revisiting Novara Calcio when the fixtures repeat themselves in the new year. For now, though, it’s onto this week’s feature club…

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Takayuki Morimoto and Yuto Nagatomo share a moment before kick-off.

I should’ve seen this coming. A team of title contenders travel to a newly promoted side for a midweek tie. The bigger team haven’t won all season. Rudderless players have struggled to adapt to their leader’s way of thinking and fluidity looks a million miles away. The new coach is already under pressure: his inflexibility is costing the team and his stubbornness, if it continues, will drag him to the gallows.

The smaller side are fired-up. This is their first season in the top flight in over 50 years. A modest side, they play in a tiny stadium and lack the star power of their prestigious opponents. Their shoestring-assembled squad has taken has won as many points as the bigger side in the first two games, but it shouldn’t be long before the gulf in class evens things out and the teams are far apart.

This is the minnows’ biggest game in years. More accustomed to Lega Pro than Serie A, they are like a mouse walking into the jaws of a lion. They’re huge underdogs despite their visitors’ woes, and they’d be delighted to snatch a draw and walk away with a point…

The script was perfectly set for an upset, but I still made the “sensible” prediction. The difference between these groups of players was too big, I thought. Inter would labour to a single-goal victory, overcoming a few scares from their opponents but convincing nobody of their Scudetto credentials.

Oh, how wrong I was. Inter were second best in every department. Disorganised at the back and sloppy in possession, this was one of the worst Nerazzurri performances I’ve ever seen. They created next to nothing with their 64% possession, and it took a defensive clanger for them to find the back of the net. In short, Inter were dire and I’m not at all surprised that Gian Piero Gasperini has lost his job.

Novara, on the other hand, played very well. They didn’t dominate but their lead rarely looked under threat and the scoreline could’ve been even higher if they’d been more clinical. Marco Rigoni was excellent in central midfield and showed no compromise in his battle with Cambiasso and Sneijder. Novara’s enforcer rounded-off a battling display with two goals, and his contribution will be vital if the Biancoazzurri are to survive this year.

A lazy clearance from Luigi Giorgi that gifted Inter their goal was the only blemish on a good team performance. Andrea Mazzarani caused plenty of problems sitting behind the forwards, and Takayuki Morimoto put in a lively display alongside Riccardo Meggiorini. The Japanese striker isn’t the most prolific goalscoring but he certainly doesn’t lack determination.

This was a great team performance, a historic result, and a game that Novara fans will remember for the rest of their lives. The Biancoazzurri put Inter to the sword in an exciting David vs. Goliath tie, but browse the internet and you could be forgiven for forgetting Novara had even played last night. Inter’s capitulation and Gasperini’s sacking have dominated the headlines, with Novara receiving scant praise for their performance last night.

I’m pretty disappointed by this. Inter Milan are a huge club and it’s big news when they change manager, but it almost feels like Novara’s performance has been swept under the mat and forgotten about. Yes Inter were dreadful last night, and yes their managerial change deserves column inches, but so do Novara Calcio.

This is a club that was playing in the third tier just two seasons ago, has one of the smallest budgets in the league, and has an unheralded group of players none of whom I’d even heard of at the start of the week. They’ve just beaten Italian football’s most successful side of the past ten years. They play in the same division, but the difference in stature between Novara and Inter is huge, and these players have just accomplished something monumental. To put things into perspective, Inter were lifting the Champions League in the same season that Novara won promotion from the Lega Pro Prima Divisione.

It’s such a shame that their triumph hasn’t been given more credit. I’m sure they wouldn’t have fared so well against a more cohesive Nerazzurri, but lets not take anything away from the Biancoazzurri. They played exactly how a newly-promoted side should against a club of Inter’s size, and they fully deserved the three points. I can’t wait to see how they play against Atalanta on Sunday.

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Novara players celebrate last season's promotion, their second in a row.

Novara Calcio are currently enjoying their first season back in Serie A after a 55-year absence. Having won the Lega Pro Prima Divisione (Italian football’s third tier) in the 2009-10 season, Novara defeated Padova in last season’s Serie B promotion playoff thus securing back-to-back promotions after over three decades in Serie C/Lega Pro’s doldrums. This remarkable ascension is even more incredible by the fact that this has happened twice in as many years in Italy, with Cesena taking the same trajectory one year prior.

Currently 15th in the table, Novara have picked-up one point from their first two games. The Biancoazzurri fought back from 2-0 to snatch a credible draw away at Chievo on the opening day. They weren’t so fortunate in last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Cagliari, but Novara definitely haven’t disgraced themselves thus far. Tomorrow night they’ll face the strongest test of Novara’s mettle yet as they entertain Inter Milan in their first home game of the season.

On paper this should be a relatively straightforward walkover for the Nerazzurri, but things aren’t that simple at Inter Milan these days. Coach Gian Piero Gasperini has had a difficult start: a drab draw with Roma and losses to Trabzonspor and Palermo mean the former Genoa man’s position is already under scrutiny. A loss to Novara could mean the chopping block for Gasperini and Biancoazzurri coach Attilio Tesser will have his players fired-up for the occasion.

Can Novara win tomorrow? It’s a huge ask. Inter are wobbling at the moment, the difference in stature. Compare Novara’s trophy haul of two Serie B titles and a handful of lower league trophies to Inter’s outrageous list of honours, and you only need to glance at the squad lists to understand the gulf in class. Nonetheless, Inter are performing very poorly at the moment. If I was a betting man I’d still predict an Inter win, but anything could happen.

Novara's home ground, the Stadio Silvio Piola.

Formed in 1908 but not debuting in the Italian league system until 1912, Novara aren’t a big club by any stretch of the imagination. Aside from usually plying their trade in the lower tiers, the Biancoazzurri’s Stadio Silvio Piola only holds a meagre 17,000 (up from 10,106 last season) and their squad was assembled on a shoestring. Additionally their artificial playing surface has drawn criticism from other clubs, but there’s little to suggest that it gives them a significant advantage on the field.

Squad-wise, Novara fans’ biggest concern this season will be where the goals are coming from. Ricardo Meggiorini, Jeda and Takayuki Morimoto are the men tasked with leading Novara’s line, but none of them are exactly prolific. Between them they mustered a total of 5 goals in 53 Serie A games last season: they simply must do better this year if the Biancoazzurri are to survive. Novara’s inability to sign a proven goalscorer could cost them big time.

Midfielder Marco Rigoni is Novara’s main man. He’s been with the club since 2009 and played a vital role in both of their promotions. An uncompromising battler and a true leader, Rigoni has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders this season and he will be expected to drag his team-mates through the trenches on occasion. Elsewhere, defenders Massimo Paci and Paolo Dellafiore have both signed from Parma, and will be expected to shore-up the Novara backline.

I shan’t delve too deeply into Novara’s history just yet as I plan on saving that for later in the week. At the moment I’m just looking forward to watching tomorrow night’s match and seeing how this squad copes against Gasperini’s superstars. My fingers are crossed: here’s hoping the Biancoazzurri get something out of the game.

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