Just over two years ago, Napoli came to the Stade Renato Dell’Ara and thumped Bologna to the tune of 7-1. The number 7 was significant again yesterday with Napoli in opposition, as the Rossoblu recorded their seventh straight win at home (3-2).
Safety already assured, this lifted Joey Saputo’s team to their highest league position of the season, 10th (although they could drop a place or two with the final round of games to be completed later today).
It’s been a terrific turnaround for a club that looked to be going nowhere fast, except Serie B, under previous boss Pippi Inzaghi. In came Sinisa Mihajlovic, and the rest is history, the Serb winning 30 points from 17 games, against the 14 points in 21 of his predecessor.
Yesterday they needed a late winner from Federico Santander, who had also scored in the first-half. Either side of the Paraguayan’s double, former Impact midfielder Blerim Dzemaili planted a trademark strike from 22 yards into the bottom corner after a surging run.
Mihajlovic meets today with President Joey Saputo to discuss what happens next.
Explaining how he turned Bologna’s season around, Mihajlovic simply said, “I just tried to pass on my mentality.”
“If safety was half a miracle, then what we’ve done now is a masterpiece. The players deserve all the credit. They were fortunate to get some early results in my tenure that boosted their self-confidence and we kept growing from there.”
“I just told them my mentality which was to go out to win, not to avoid defeat. Always attack, show courage and keep your heads up.”
“The fitness levels were not the issue, so much as the lack of intensity, at least for the way I see football. We stepped up the training regime and that caused a few injuries in the first few weeks, but after it was no confidence that we scored so many second-half goals, as we just kept going.”
“Pippo had trained them well, I just stepped up the intensity.”
Mihajlovic also spoke of the warm welcome he received coming back to Bologna, and how he felt he’d now repaid a debt from his previous spell, ten years previously. So will he stay on?
“I’ll sit down with the club and discuss various things. It won’t be sorted out in one day. I didn’t want to talk about it before the season had come to a close, because I wanted everyone focused on these games. Now we can talk with clear heads and look back at everything calmly.”
Bologna have shown Top 6 form since early March, winning 8, drawing 2 and losing only twice, at Atalanta and AC Milan, two sides chasing Champions League spots.
They are playing fast, free-flowing football backing up their coach’s words, and scoring plenty of goals. In those seven successive home wins, the Rossoblu scored at least twice in each game.
If the standing ovation which accompanied Mihajlovic’s appearance at the start of yesterday’s game is a benchmark, Mr Saputo had better do all in his power to keep him at the helm. The Serb is certainly holding all the good cards at the moment.