The line has been trotted out so often lately as to become a little tedious. "Clamoroso al Cibali" (sensation at the Cibali [stadium]) – the words famously uttered by the commentator Sandro Ciotti when Catania ended Internazionale's title challenge with an upset victory back in June 1961, had long since been transformed into a journalistic cliche used to describe any significant home result for the Sicilian side, but the real problem is that these days under Vincenzo Montella such triumphs are far too routine.
Inter, Lazio and Napoli are among the sides to have tasted defeat at the Stadio Angelo Massimino (formerly the Cibali, and still referred to as such by many supporters) this season, while Milan, Juventus and Roma have each had to settle for a draw. Despite a rare defeat away to Chievo on Easter Saturday, Catania began this week with 43 points already secured – just three shy of their all-time record in Serie A – with seven games left to play.
And yet when the staff at Corriere Salentino decided to give Ciotti's words another airing in Thursday morning's edition, it was not to commemorate another remarkable victory at all. Even in a less brilliant season, the Sicilian side still would have hoped for a win on their own turf against a Lecce side ranked third from bottom. They certainly would have expected to get something out of the game if they were leading 1-0 in the 89th minute.
That was the situation on Wednesday night when Catania's Pablo Barrientos carelessly gave the ball away deep inside the opposition half. Within seconds it was nestled in his own team's net, Luis Muriel squaring the ball for Daniele Corvia to sweep home at the end of a lightning counter. The hosts' keeper, Juan Pablo Carrizo, was then sent off – shown first a yellow card for protesting that the goal had been offside, then a red one after he sarcastically applauded that initial booking.
Having used all of their substitutions, Catania were forced to put Francesco Lodi, a forward, in goal for the game's dying seconds. Within moments he had spilled a Corvia shot into the path of David Di Michele, who blasted the rebound home. "One of those matches to tell your grandkids about," reflected Corriere Salentino's Dario De Carlo. "I never thought the match could finish like that – it was an unthinkable epilogue for any rational person," concluded Lecce's manager, Serse Cosmi.
And yet it was somehow in keeping with an increasingly irrational campaign. Barely six days ago Cosmi was reflecting on "the ugliest week since I have been at Lecce", a goalless draw at home to last-placed Cesena having been followed by fresh allegations of match-fixing involving the club. The Bari defender Andrea Masiello had told investigators that he was offered money to score an own goal during his team's derby defeat to Lecce last year. It was subsequently claimed that the money had been provided – via a third party – by the club's then president Pierandrea Semeraro, a charge that has been strongly denied.
Despite it all, Lecce – who had failed to win any of their five previous fixtures – would go on to produce their best performance of the season in their next game, routing Champions League-chasing Roma 4-2 with the same starting XI who had drawn with Cesena. If that all felt a touch implausible, then it was trumped on the same afternoon by the achievements of the team immediately above them in the table, 17th-placed Fiorentina beating the league leaders Milan at San Siro.
That was some kick in the teeth for Cosmi, who despite the aforementioned winless run of five games has generally worked wonders simply to give Lecce even a hope of escaping the relegation zone. When the manager replaced Eusebio Di Francesco at the club in early December, Lecce were last with eight points from 13 games and, though he too made a slow start, the improvement since has been marked. Since the season's midway point, Lecce have collected 21 points from 13 games – a figure bettered only by Milan and Juventus.
Tactically the key has been tightening up at the back, performances improving as Cosmi's players have become more comfortable with his preferred 3-5-2. But more than tactics the club's recent success may also be down to the continued emergence of Muriel – a 21-year-old Colombian forward whose acceleration and technical ability have marked him out as a cut above his team-mates. Dominant in the win over Roma, it was his perfectly judged run that created the space for Corvia's equaliser. Even while his team-mates were toiling in the first half, Muriel had a shot deflected on to the bar.
The assist for Corvia was his fifth of the season – the most in the team – and his seven goals place him second only to Di Michele. Five of those have come in the past nine games, indicative of the growing confidence of a player experiencing his first season in Serie A. His form is good news for Udinese too, who own the player and will presumably recall him over the summer.
Before then he has a crucial role to play for a team who despite their impressive form in the second half of the season remain trapped in the relegation zone, albeit now only two points behind the new tenants of 17th place, Genoa. "The requirement for safety has gone up from 40 to 42 points," said Cosmi after the win over Catania – a judgement which, if correct, would leave his team needing eight points from their final six fixtures.
The next is at home to Napoli on Sunday. That would once have looked an impossible task, but with the Partenopei suffering a third consecutive defeat on Wednesday – this time at home to Atalanta –the thought that Cosmi's team could get a result is not so sensational after all.
• Of course it had to be Alessandro Del Piero – making his 700th appearance for the club at the age of 37 – who secured victory for Juventus over Lazio. Il Pinturicchio has started only six games in all competitions this season yet he has scored crucial goals in games against Roma, Milan and Inter to help his team remain unbeaten in 32 league games and reach the final of the Coppa Italia. On Wednesday night he came on in the 72nd minute but was quick-witted enough to spot an opening as Andrea Pirlo protested over encroachment by the wall ahead of a Juventus free-kick – Del Piero seizing on the confusion to take the set piece himself, curling his effort into the far corner of Federico Marchetti's net. Inevitably, there were renewed calls for the team to extend his contract for one more year. "Am I creating problems for the president?" he mused at full-time. "I'm not interested in that."
• While everyone will naturally want to talk about Del Piero, it ought to be noted that Simone Pepe was actually the scorer of the evening's best goal at Juventus Stadium. (And also that, were it not for Del Piero's intervention, we might instead be focusing on the phenomenal performance of the Lazio keeper Marchetti).
• Doing nothing to remedy perceptions that Serie A is an old man's league – but doing plenty to further his team's hopes of a Champions League place – Francesco Totti joined Del Piero in making a decisive intervention on Wednesday, restoring Roma's lead against Udinese with less than five minutes to play (Marquinho struck in stoppage time to make it 3-1). Joining them in the old boys' love-in was Javier Zanetti, who moved level with Dino Zoff on 570 Serie A appearances. Only Paolo Maldini (647) and Gianluca Pagliuca (592) have more (Del Piero's 700 appearances include all competitions).
• Victory for Inter over Giuseppe Sannino's impressive Siena provides another damning note for Claudio Ranieri: Andrea Stramaccioni has now secured more points (seven) in his three games in charge than the Tinkerman managed in his final 10 (six).
• Not related in any way to results this week, but has there ever been a nattier piece of club-themed merchandise than these new Napoli coffins? (Thanks to top journalist Matt Barker for the heads-up).
• Cagliari travel to Bologna for their midweek fixture on Thursday night, and their fans will have to keep right on travelling if they want to see next Monday's home game against Catania after it was confirmed that the club would once again be using the Stadio Nereo Rocco in Trieste, more than 500 miles away, instead of their own Stadio Sant'Elia. Not because they have been forced to, but because their own president, Massimo Cellino, requested the move – seemingly because he is cheesed off over the lack of progress towards developing a new stadium in the city.
Results: Catania 1-2 Lecce, Chievo 0-1 Milan, Fiorentina 0-0 Palermo, Genoa 1-1 Cesena, Inter 2-1 Siena, Juventus 2-1 Lazio, Napoli 1-3, Atalanta, Parma 2-0 Novara, Roma 3-1 Udinese.