The tilt between Udinese and Napoli was the most tantalizing on the fixture list for the last round of Serie A, and the match itself did not disappoint.
Napoli, still seemingly in a post-Champions League funk, came out slow and lethargic and allowed Udinese the control they rarely give to opposing squads.
Giampiero Pinzi put the hosts ahead half an hour in and when Di Natale scored early in the second half it looked as though the Zebrette would comfortably skip back past Napoli (and Lazio, losers at Catania) and reclaim 3rd place.
But then all hell broke loose for Udinese, and the subsequent events led to Antonio Floro Flores receiving one of the funniest 2-match bans I’ve ever heard of. And he wasn’t even one of the two Udinese men red-carded.
Young Diego Fabbrini was sent off on the hour mark after a very harsh second yellow. This obviously left Udinese with 10-men and Napoli with plenty of time to mount a comeback.
The officials almost sped the inevitable up with another questionable call which gave Edinson Cavani a penalty and saw an irate Francesco Guidolin red-carded and removed from the touchline.
The Uruguayan blasted straight at Handanovic (who did well to stay home) but would not be denied from a free kick in the 81st and another lovely finish just 4 minutes later.
Udinese might actually count themselves lucky that they still managed to hold on for the point, Napoli’s bid for victory coming agonizingly close in the dying seconds. The points were shared, and Udinese remained fifth, tied on points with their visitors but far behind on goal differential.
Neutrals were treated to a great game, but the crowd in the Stadio Friuli was understandably displeased, as was Udinese striker Floro Flores who then treated us to one of the best kiss-offs to the officials I’ve ever heard.
After the final whistle the 28-year old Italian approached assistant referee Gianluca Rocchi and asked him if he wanted to trade shirts. (Italian link)
It’s a comical, concise way to make the obvious point, but Serie A disagreed and handed Floro Flores a two-match ban for his impudence.
For those unfamiliar, his targeting of Rocchi makes the affair all the more humorous, as there is not a single team in Serie A who the official has not been accused of working for. He was even investigated for his part in the 2006 Calciopoli scandal.
Rocchi’s incompetence is perhaps the only thing fans of both Milan and Inter can agree on as both were victimized by his special brand of refereeing in subsequent weeks earlier in this campaign.
Udinese may miss the striker, who gives them a dynamic foil for Di Natale as they head to Sicily to face Palermo. He’ll also miss a trip to Siena
But if you ask me, for delivering a memorable and scathing bit of defiance to Serie A’s version of Phil Dowd, that’s two matches well worth it.