x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Big Serie A clubs are getting all the 'lucky' breaks

Since the clocks went back to mark the beginning of winter, the Serie A table began to take up its customary shape.

Once the clocks went back to mark the beginning of winter, the Serie A table began to take up its customary shape. The summer romances of the early weeks are fading.

Cesena, who shot briefly to the summit on their return to the top flight, are now embedded in the relegation zone. Roma and Fiorentina have climbed out of their crises. And Lazio, though still top, lost for the second time.

Above all, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus are all, now, within the top four. The cream rises, and when it does, there is grumbling from the 16 or 17 underdogs across the peninsula. This was the weekend when the heavyweights got lucky. And it was the weekend when television viewers became nostalgic for "la moviola".

La moviola is an institution in Italian football. It is the slow-motion scrutiny of refereeing controversies.

Analyses of where and how match officials may have got things right or wrong (usually, the focus is on the wrong calls) are not unique to Italian television, but in the age of wall-to-wall football broadcasting, Italy traditionally devoted more time than any football nation to dissecting, with cameras, the decisions of referees and their assistants.

Until last July, when RAI, the state broadcaster, announced that its highlights shows would no longer have la moviola as such a central feature.

La moviola was popular with fans who liked to nourish a grudge. It was unpopular with referees, whose slip-ups would be endless replayed and criticised. Managers regarded it as intrusive - though sometimes useful - and when RAI made their statement, it was welcomed.

Carlo Ancelotti, the former Milan head coach who now works in England, where refereeing controversies are highlighted but tend not to fester for so long, said the curtailing of la moviola "would have a civilising effect" on Serie A.

Yet taking la moviola off the biggest public platform does not make controversies go away.

In the era of the internet download, of YouTube and Twitter, almost anybody can stage their own moviola and build a community of complainers around a decision. And by the end of Sunday, Lazio, Brescia and Cesena supporters had all mobilised around their moviola moments.

Lazio lost the Rome derby thanks to two Roma penalties, converted by first Marco Borriello and then Mirko Vucinic.

According to Edy Reja, the defeated head coach, the outcome would have radically altered had Emidio Morganti, the referee, applied the correct standards when Roma's John Arne Riise held back Lazio's Stefano Mauri. Roma led 1-0 at that stage.

Massimo Ficcadenti, the head coach of Cesena, saw his team have a 1-0 lead in Turin wiped out by a Juventus penalty, converted by Alessandro Del Piero.

Ficcadenti reckoned the tussling between Max Pellegrino and Juve's Leonardo Bonucci had been started by Bonucci. Pellegrino evidently felt angry, too. Ten minutes later he was sent off for a tackle on Simone Pepe.

Depleted Cesena conceded a second goal almost immediately, and a late third as they tired.

When Juve get a lucky break, moviola addicts remember that fans are excessively interested in refereeing decisions because there has, in recent years, been cause to suspect bias among officials.

Juve were relegated four years ago because their directors had been found to be influencing the appointments of match officials to certain games.

There is a will to improve refereeing in Italy, and to support officials. Milos Krasic, the Juventus winger, missed Sunday's game with a suspension for diving.

In the case of Samuel Eto'o's fall in the Brescia penalty area at the weekend, there may not have been an intention to mislead the official, but a quick, DIY moviola endorses the initial impression he simply lost his balance.

The penalty allowed Inter to salvage a point and if they continue to get the lucky breaks like these, the champions will stay confident they can retain their title.