Genoese-y does it at top of Serie A

Genoa has a glorious past as a centre of trade, and now it seems the port city is set for a glorious future on the football pitch.

It’s been 18 years since the league title found its way to Liguria. But the city known as La Superba – the Proud One – is currently living up to its moniker at the top of the Serie A table.

Genoa and Sampdoria have set off with a fair wind in their sails, with only Juventus keeping them in sight while the cities of Milan and Rome are left in the doldrums.

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We may only be three games into the campaign, but it’s a refreshing change to see the table take on such an unfamiliar look.

For football purists, the compact Luigi Ferraris stadium is the place to be - and this most English of Italian grounds was packed to the rafters for the visit of another seafaring town on Sunday evening.

Napoli brought an impressive travelling support to add a real cup-tie feel to the occasion and the referee played his part by sending off Genoa’s Domenico Criscito before the half-hour mark.

Generally this would be the signal for both teams to close ranks and wait for the official to “even” things up – but not in this new era, where entertainment has replaced good old-fashioned cynicism around the league.

The ref did bring parity to the contest just before the break when Hugo Campagnaro saw red, but it was not as if anyone had noticed that the home side were a man down and goal down.

Whatever the circumstances, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side just keep coming forward, looking to create chances and generally running the opposition ragged.

While many felt that the loss of Diego Milito and Thiago Motta would see the Rossoblu drop off the pace, that incoming Inter money has been well-invested and looking along the bench there is a enough quality and quantity to seamlessly replace tired limbs or change the tactical approach to unlock any defence.

This was the case on Sunday when the livewire Rodrigo Palacio took over from Giuseppe Sculli on the left to exploit the space created by Campagnaro’s dismissal.

Then, when Sergio Floccari had run himself into the ground, Genoa introduced the forgotten man of Serie A: Hernan Crespo.

Both subs played their part in sweeping a talented but lightweight Napoli side away, but rather than any indivudiual it is the team’s driving force that gets the job done.

With Samp, it’s the other way round – and the individual who sparks the team is of course Antonio Cassano.

What a shame that the most naturally-gifted Italian player of his generation will never grace a World Cup finals.

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For Samp fans of a certain age it must be like watching Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli rolled into one, in the manner which the former “Bari Bawler” navigates his way around the pitch while the rest of the team go about their tasks in unruffled fashion.

For a man who had the ability to spark a bad thought on even the most beautiful of days, a certain calmness has now descended.

Maybe it’s the settling influence of a steady girlfriend, staying off the ice-cream and employing a full-time personal trainer to ensure that he’s still sharp in the final quarter.

And that new-found fitness told at Atalanta when he ran almost the length of the pitch to get into a position to unlock the defence with a slide-rule pass for the only goal of the game.

These are heady days indeed for the fine Genoese citizens who no doubt will be patting each other on back this morning as they cast their gaze over a very pleasing looking league table.

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