Visitors hit five goals in stunning first half display
Udinese took another step towards Champions League qualification as they literally dismantled fellow European hopefuls Palermo in their own backyard.
A quite stunning opening 45 minutes left Palermo shellshocked as Udinese romped to a five-goal lead. Udinese broke the deadlock in the 10th minute through the most prolific Italian in Serie A this season. A superb left-wing cross from Pablo Armero found Antonio di Natale, who got in front of his marker and glanced his near-post header beyond Salvatore Sirigu.
The lead was extended when Alexis Sanchez poked the ball home from close range after Palermo failed to clear their lines from a corner. The Chilean attacker then ripped the home defence apart with his lightning speed as he raced in on goal before rounding Sirigu and slotting home into the empty net.
Palermo did not help their cause - they lost Armin Bacinovic five minutes before the break after he picked up a second yellow. Udinese's response was ruthless as a moment later they netted a fourth. Sirigu hopelessly fumbled a shot from distance into the path of Sanchez, who set up Di Natale for the tap in.
The jet-heeled Sanchez added a fifth before the break when he raced into the box, having cut in from the left-hand side before finding the bottom corner at the near post. Not finished there, the Inter target scored his fourth a mere three minutes into the second-half. Despite the presence of three Palermo defenders around him, he was able to follow up his own rebound and slide the ball past Sirigu into the net. Sanchez's departure after 52 minutes did not herald an end to the action however.
The hosts continued to contribute to their own downfall with more ill-discipline. Matteo Darmian became the second Palermo man to be sent off - this time it was for a professional foul as he pulled down Armero inside the penalty box. Di Natale sent Sirigu the wrong way and completed his hat-trick on the hour mark.
The emphatic victory left Udinese just one point off fourth following Lazio's defeat away to Cagliari. Whilst bringing down a direct rival in the race for Europe, the Zebrette's display was yet another display of intent to push all the way for a place in the Champions League.
Palermo were left humbled and remain eight points adrift of fourth with 11 rounds left to play. It remains to be seen whether the embarrassing display at home may also put the future of coach Delio Rossi into question, as the Rosanero tactician continues to experience a tricky relationship with patron Maurizio Zamparini.