Italian Football: Anglo-Dutch axis inspires high-flying Sampdoria again

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The Independent Online
MILANESE unease at life without their Dutchmen has given Serie A an unexpected competitive edge this season as a host of hopeful clubs like Parma and Sampdoria vie for the Italian championship. Yesterday, with Parma holding the champions 0-0, Sampdoria made it a threesome at the top by dispatching Cremonese, writes Henry Winter.

With sponsors like Parmalat, it is no surprise to find Parma among the big cheeses. Astute midsummer investment in the Italians Massimo Crippa and, particularly, Gianfranco Zola, as support men for a pair of foreign maestros, Tomas Brolin and Faustino Asprilla, has paid off with Parma becoming pleasing leaders.

Samp's inspired closed-season signings, David Platt and Ruud Gullit, helped the Genoese to leapfrog Milan. The Englishman's header against Cremonese was cancelled out by Gustavo Dezotti just before half- time. Platt will definitely miss the World Cup finals but it seems a travesty that Gullit might as well. The Dutchman, at odds with his country, continued his scoring spree with two second-half goals, a shot and a penalty.

Ruben Sosa prevented Juventus also closing on the leaders as his last- minute penalty secured a point for Internazionale in the San Siro. The Uruguayan had earlier put Inter ahead with a stunning free-kick, but second-half goals from Roberto Baggio and Andreas Moller seemed to have won the game for Juventus until Sosa's spot-kick.

Lazio can survive without a certain Geordie, but without their chief Giuseppe they are toothless up front. Against Genoa, Giuseppe Signori, last year's leading scorer and much missed in early season, was irresistible. Allowing Diego Fuser the initial limelight with an early goal, Signori soon took over with two instinctive strikes and a penalty.

Not that Serie A's current top scorer, Andrea Silenzi, will tremble. The Torino attacker moved to 11 by hitting all the goals in a 3-0 home win over Lecce - the second was a gem, a meaty shot which whistled past Giampaolo Ceramicola. Silenzi's silencing of the Lecce lambs was emulated by Daniel Fonseca in Napoli's 5-0 romp over Reggiana.