Second-half blitz boosts Catania hopes
Catania boosted their Serie A survival hopes by producing a blistering second-half display to thrash eighth-placed Palermo 4-0 at the Stadio Angelo Massimino.
Federico Balzaretti's own goal three minutes after the restart proved the catalyst for the Sicilians, with further goals from Gonzalo Bergessio and substitutes Pablo Ledesma and Simone Pesce sealing the rout.
The comprehensive victory moved Diego Simeone's side up a place to 14th in the standings and gave them a five-point cushion over the dropzone. It could all have been different for the visitors had they converted one of their early chances.
Antonio Nocerino teed up Abel Hernandez following a swift counter attack in the fifth minute but he fired high and wide from 15 yards. Then Armin Bacimovic produced a couple of long-range efforts - the first too high to worry Mariano Andujar and the second not powerful enough to test the Catania goalkeeper.
Catania almost went ahead six minutes before half-time, though, Maxi Lopez just unable to connect with Pablo Alvarez's cross before Palermo goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu cleared the danger.
Palermo again pushed forward before the break and would have gone a goal up through Cesare Bovo's cross-shot, but Andujar tipped over the bar. The deadlock was broken in unfortunate fashion in the opening stages of the second period, Balzaretti diverting a Lopez cross into his own net.
Catania sought to press home their advantage by adding a quick second, but Bergessio lashed over when Ezequiel Schelotto's cross found him unmarked. I Rosanero, needing the points to boost their bid for a UEFA Europa League berth, looked to get back on level terms but were out of luck.
Mauricio Pinilla unleashed a fierce attempt which Andujar deflected over the bar and then Hernandez fired over after a neat one-two with Pinilla. Bergessio soon showed the Palermo forwards how it should be done at the other end, making it 2-0 with a fine curling shot after a wonderful long pass from Francesco Lodi.
Ledesma - moments after coming on for Bergessio - piled on the misery with a third goal in the 67th minute, slotting home from close range after Schelotto won a tackle inside the visitors' area.
Pesce was introduced in place of Lodi in the 71st minute and, like Ledesma, did not take long to make his mark. He put the icing on the cake in the 77th minute by latching onto Lopez's pass and producing a brilliant lob over Sirigu.