Di Natale hits brace to sink 10-man Parma
Veteran striker Antonio Di Natale scored a double in a 4-2 win for Udinese over 10-man Parma that moved the northerners up to a surprise third place in Italy`s Serie A on Monday.
Juventus and Roma, both in Champions League action against Atletico Madrid and Manchester City respectively this week, have set the early season pace going unbeaten over five games so far.
But Udinese, now under the guidance of former Inter Milan coach Andrea Stramaccioni, are only three points behind in third place after a fourth win which came largely thanks to 36-year-old Di Natale`s third and fourth goals of the campaign.
Di Natale, capped 42 times from 2002 to 2012 when he retired from international football following the defeat in the Euro final to Spain, is now tied at the top of the league scoring charts with Pablo Osvaldo (Inter), Carlos Tevez (Juventus) and Parma striker Antonio Cassano.
Parma dropped one place to second from bottom, although it all started positively for Roberto Donadoni`s visitors.
Parma got off the mark after 22 minutes when 18-year-old Jose Mauri, making only his second start, latched on to Cassano`s through ball to beat Orestis Karnezis in the bottom left corner.
But Di Natale, who came a hair`s breadth to retiring from football at the end of last season, levelled minutes later and fully dismissed recent fitness concerns when he gave the hosts the lead on the stroke of half time.
Cassano had missed several chances prior to the break but the former Italy striker made amends with a cheeky `Panenka` which beat Karnezis from the penalty spot in first-half injury time after Silvan Widmer had fouled Mauri.
The game finally turned in Udinese`s favour when French defender Thomas Heurtaux, with his back to goal in a crowded area, met a cross from the right with a spectacular scissor-kick which left Antonio Mirante rooted to the spot.
Parma suffered another blow on 76 minutes when Afriyie Acquah saw red for a late challenge on Luis Muriel, the Ghanaian`s second bookable offence.
Udinese made the man advantage count in the closing minutes as French striker Cyril Thereau cut inside from the left flank to beat Mirante with a low curling shot.