Talismanic captain underlines his worth again to the Bianconeri as he returned after missing the midweek defeat in Naples to inspire his side to a morale-boosting win.Udinese bounced back from its first defeat of the season in midweek to record a 1-0 victory over Palermo at the Stadio Friuli on Sunday afternoon.
Francesco Guidolin’s men showed no ill affects from their loss at Napoli and were good value for a triumph which came courtesy of a first-half strike from their fit-again captain, Antonio Di Natale.
Both sides played their part in a lively opening to the game but Udinese gradually took control, enjoying a great deal of success with attacks down the right side.
Mauricio Isla took the wrong option when he was played in by Mehdi Benatia, the Chilean wing back unsuccessfully attempting to pull the ball back for the supporting Di Natale when he really should have gone for goal himself.
Unperturbed, Isla kept advancing down the right flank and, moments later, the reported Inter target picked out Pablo Armero with a low cross which the Colombian really should have converted. However, Armero’s tame effort was easily saved by Alexandros Tzorvas in the Palermo goal.
Fabrizio Miccoli and Eran Zahavi then drew solid saves from Samir Handanovic at the other end but Udinese still possessed the greater attacking threat and Basta sliced horribly wide as he attempted to lift the ball over the advancing Tzorvas after being put through by Isla’s measured pass.
Basta, though, atoned for his poor finish on 38 minutes, the Serbian picking out Di Natale, whose first-time volley beat Tzorvas. The Greek keeper had gotten a hand to the Italy striker's shot but just couldn't keep it out.
An unmarked Miccoli squandered a golden opportunity to post an immediate reply for Palermo when he failed to control a wonderfully disguised pass from Armin Bacinovic but, in truth, the visiting side was lucky not to go in two down at the break. Armero pounced on some loose play from Mauro Cetto before presenting Di Natale with a guilt-edged opportunity to score, only for the skipper to scoop the ball wide.
Udinese continued to dominate after the interval and Palermo boss Devis Mangia sent on Josip Ilicic in an attempt to turn the game around. A slaloming run from the Slovenian created an opening for Zahavi, but the Israeli’s shot was easily dealt with by Handanovic.
As an increasingly desperate Palermo pressed, though, it left holes at the back and Armero struck the foot of the post after latching on to the most audacious flick from Di Natale before the latter's replacement, Almen Abdi, then twice finished horribly after being put clean through on goal in the dying minutes.
Udinese held out for the victory, and moves into second spot in the Serie A table, just a point behind league leader Juventus.