Two long shots stretch the netting inside the goal. One skids almost 30 yards along the ground, denting the tips of weary grass and divots of mud. The keeper Zucconi, just entered as a substitute, positions himself on the right side, but — his view shielded — he dives too late, eyes shoving his head back as he twists to watch the ball skid past. The other steams nearly 40 yards into the upper right corner as Zucconi flies helplessly past. Both come off the feet of a 22-yr. old Portuguese no. 10, Pedro Miguel Costa Ferreira, who was shooting at nearly every opportunity, and whose persistence (or selfishness) paid off in the second half for A.C.R. Messina in their 2-0 defeat of Castel Rigone. The YouTube highlights of the game (below) have now had more views than the 1000 who watched the match in a stadium that holds nearly 38,000.

It was a victory over Messina last September that first brought my attention to Castel Rigone. David and Goliath story. Plucky mountain club over troubled city team.

The score of that first match was 2-0 to the Rigonesi at home.

Now Messina is the plucky contender, winners of three out of their last four, still in an automatic relegation slot, but fighting for the surface only four points behind a Castel Rigone squad that was cruising towards survival but now has lost three straight. Castel Rigone still refuses to draw matches (only two all year), and their 10 losses match the tallies of the lowest teams in the standings. Aggressive play, searching for three points, marked the first twenty minutes of this latest match, when the visitors dominated. Avoiding early opponents’ goals which had sunk their previous two games, Castel Rigone looked creative and dangerous.

The moment when joy was still alive: Agostinelli before the miss.

The moment when the chance was still alive for Agostinelli. From the Lega Pro Official Match Video (below).

Cutting in from the left, Tranchitelli served a sharp pass to his strike partner Agostinelli at 10 minutes, who trapped with his right and stepped back slightly to fake the last defender to the ground. The keeper stuck in his heels and raised his arms. But Agostinelli blasted it over the bar, and a goal which would have rewarded the Umbrian side’s early energy was now only a regret slivered in the striker’s head as he rubbed it with both hands out of disbelief and despair.

As their manager Fusi remarked, Castel Rigone dominated the first twenty minutes, but after that it was nearly all Messina. The visitors were lucky to avoid two penalty calls in the second half, but Ferreira’s goals from distance redressed the balance of fortune.

Fusi “non fa drammi” (“isn’t making a big drama”), says the Giornale dell’Umbria (28 Jan., 2014, p. 35) a sentiment echoed by the starting keeper Franzese (who will return from his injury for the next match): “la mentalità è sempre quella che ci ha portato a collezionare cinque vittorie di fila” (“[the team’s] mentality is ever the same as it was during the five-match win streak”); Giornale dell’Umbria (29 Jan., 2014, p. 51). Nevertheless, sporting director Quarta is searching for midfielders before the transfer window closes. They need stability and strength in midfield, where the team has been most inconsistent. As of 29 Jan., one new midfielder has now arrived: Mauro Calvi from Carrarese (languishing near the bottom of Lega Pro Prima Divisione A), who will defend in front of the back four. His seven yellow cards this season indicates a certain tenacity. Bringing in reinforcements is one way of “doing something;” the key will be whether the new players will have time to integrate.

Next week becomes critical. The opponent is U.S. Poggibonsi, from near the famously towered town of San Gimignano. Castel Rigone sits just one point immediately in front of their rivals from Tuscany. The table is tightening up, and excepting the top four teams who are almost certain to survive, and the bottom two who are destined for demotion, the other twelve teams will be contesting fiercely for the five slots available in Serie C. What are the ethics of a dogfight?

Poggibonsi beat Castel Rigone in the first match, 1-0.

I may attend the rematch to see whether what goes around…

Official Lega Pro video highlights of the week 20 loss v. Messina:

 

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