Milito refinds his regal form as Inter fire five past Parma
Written off more times than Italy's debt, Diego Milito has found a few stray goals in his back pocket to suddenly more Golden Boot than Bidone dÃ¢ÂÂOro [Golden Bin] Ã¢ÂÂ Italian footballÃ¢ÂÂs least sought-after award, for the year's worst player.
The Inter striker Ã¢ÂÂ and many were using that word lightly following his annus horribilis in front of goal Ã¢ÂÂ joined such notable such names as Rivaldo, Christian Vieri and Adriano (a three-time loser) in landing the Ã¢ÂÂprizeÃ¢ÂÂ last month.
However, it hasn't signalled once and for all the demise of the instinctive goal-poacher known as El PrÃÂncipe [the Prince]. Indeed, it seems to have become more of a spur than a burden.
The Argentine had failed to find the net in the league since the end of September Ã¢ÂÂ and had even upset his most ardent backer Massimo Moratti after missing an absolute sitter at Atalanta Ã¢ÂÂ although he finally got back on the scoresheet in the 4-1 win over Lecce just before the winter break.
RESULTS Sat 7 Jan Siena 4-0 Lazio, Internazionale 5-0 Parma Sun 8 Jan Udinese 4-1 Cesena, Atalanta 0-2 Milan, Bologna 2-0 Catania, Cagliari 3-0 Genoa, Lecce 0-1 Juventus, Novara 0-3 Fiorentina, Roma 2-0 Chievo, Palermo 1-3 Napoli
The pressure was still on the 32-year-old coming into the first game of 2012, at home to Parma, but he answered the call with a dominant performance at the San Siro where he scored twice and had a part to play in two of the other three goals as a 5-0 romp nicely set up Claudio RanieriÃ¢ÂÂs men for SundayÃ¢ÂÂs derby.
The visitors contributed in part to their own downfall and were a shambles in every area of the pitch, but with Milito drifting out to either flank and basically picking when and where to make his runs there would have been very few defences capable of holding on to his royal coat-tails.
"Hugs!" Milito (2nd l) is mobbed by Pazzini, Maicon, Zanetti and Alvarez
Even through his long barren period and lack of form, the Buenos Aires man was always an unselfish runner into space and never hid from his duties of showing for his team-mates Ã¢ÂÂ and the biggest smile of Saturday evening came not in celebration of either of his two sublime finishes but his weighted pass to send Gianpaolo Pazzini through to score a goal of his own.
The Italy international has suffered as much as Milito this season but he too will have taken heart from his performance, remaining as he did as the target man while his strike-partner scurried off along the frontline. The pair may have done enough to start against AC Milan next weekend, even though Diego Forlan is expected to be fit for what promises to be a titanic tussle at the San Siro.
Inter were coming into the Parma match on the back of four straight wins, albeit against modest opposition, but Ranieri knew the importance of making it five in a row: the team failed in that feat last season under Leonardo even though they pushed their city neighbours for the title in the second half of the campaign.
It was of course Jose MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs Treble-winners who had last enjoyed a five-game winning haul and the bulk of the Special OneÃ¢ÂÂs team were still on show at the weekend.
The result was not lost on the players at the final whistle as they celebrated with more gusto than usual when they defeat Parma at home Ã¢ÂÂ maybe they were still smarting from last yearÃ¢ÂÂs crucial setback at the Tardini Ã¢ÂÂ but more likely they were sending out a message to their own fans and their rivals that there is plenty of fight in the Nerazzurri yet.
Milan, for their part, answered in kind by inflicting a first home loss of the season on Atalanta, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic once again head and shoulders above everyone else. The Swede scored the opener from the penalty spot and set up Kevin Prince Boateng for the second in a comfortable 2-0 win.
Home defender considers single-fingered "itchy-face" gesture
It was a good weekend overall for forwards, with Alessandro Matri scoring the only goal of the game at Lecce to ensure Juventus kept pace at the top of the table while Antonio Di Natale, who has never grasped the concept of a goal drought, grabbed a brace for Udinese in their 4-1 win over Cesena.
So the weekend may have belonged to the Prince (Milito, not Boateng), but the King of Rome caught the eye too: Francesco Totti hadn't scored all season and had even been barracked by some of his own fans at the tail-end of last year when Gigi Buffon saved the Roma captainÃ¢ÂÂs penalty effort.
Presented with the opportunity to make a amends early on against Chievo, the veteran of many a one-on-one strode up to the spot and buried the ball with such power that goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino had no time to move.
He then doubled his tally for the season with a second goal by repeating the feat from 10 metres, although at least the keeper got a hand to the ball.
As with Milito, Totti knew he'd come good in front of goal again and had already prepared one of his famous T-shirts, this time reading Ã¢ÂÂSorry I was lateÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ a statement the Inter man would no doubt agree with.