Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa’s place as Salernitana’s first-choice goalkeeper was put into question on Sunday, as new coach Filippo Inzaghi opted to start Frenchman Benoît Costil over the Mexican veteran for his managerial debut against Cagliari.
The decision came from Ochoa’s shaky form over the past month, during which he conceded 12 goals in 3 straight losses for the league’s leakiest defense.
While Inzaghi cited Ochoa’s recent international duty as the reason for his exclusion, it marks the latest setback for the 37-year-old in his thus far disappointing Serie A campaign. Memo Ochoa will face pressure to impress Inzaghi and reclaim his spot before the relegation battlers’ daunting trip to Genoa next weekend.
Ochoa Benched as Inzaghi Rings Changes
On Sunday, Ochoa was left on the sidelines at the Stadio Arechi as Inzaghi made wholesale changes in his first match since replacing Paulo Sousa earlier this month. The former Italy striker opted for Costil in goal, while center-backs Matteo Lovato and Lorenzo Pirola made way amid a formation change.
Inzaghi suggested Ochoa was being rested, saying, “I’ll see how he is. He’s the only one who has made a very long journey.”
But it marked the first time Ochoa failed to start a league game when fit this season after cementing his status as Salernitana’s first-choice keeper following his arrival from Club América last December.
The veteran Mexico international had played every minute of Salernitana’s previous eight games despite shipping 17 goals – the most in Serie A. While Ochoa could hardly be blamed for many of those concessions, his removal hints at lingering doubts over his ability to shore up the division’s leakiest defense.
Scrutiny Intensifies After String of Heavy Defeats
Ochoa’s grip on the number one jersey was under intense scrutiny during Salernitana’s wretched run of three successive defeats.
The nadir came in a 4-0 thrashing by Inter Milan on October 2, during which Ochoa was left helpless against the Nerazzurri’s ruthless counter-attacking. That followed a 3-0 loss away to Monza after Salernitana collapsed following Tiémoué Bakayoko’s red card.
But their 1-0 home defeat by Empoli on September 27 was arguably the most alarming, with Ochoa beaten by Liam Henderson’s tame effort. The veteran was visibly distraught after failing to keep out a routine shot in what seemed crucial in growing concerns over his form.
With just four points from nine games, Salernitana sits one place above rock-bottom Cagliari in the relegation zone. Their porous defense – breached 19 times already – remains the team’s most urgent issue if they are to avoid an immediate return to Serie B.
Pressure on Ochoa to Impress Inzaghi Ahead of Genoa Clash
While Ochoa could take heart from a solid display by replacement Costil, who kept Cagliari at bay until a frantic finale, his demotion undoubtedly represents a blow.
It places pressure on the Mexico legend to make an impression on Inzaghi in training ahead of next Sunday’s daunting trip to Genoa. Salernitana’s new coach will likely rotate his squad again for that fixture, which kicks off a demanding run of games.
Ochoa will hope to benefit from fixture congestion and the need to manage Costil’s minutes, given the 36-year-old’s injury history. But he must first convince Inzaghi he remains the best option between the sticks – a task now made all the more difficult.
Failure to reclaim his starting spot would raise serious questions over Ochoa’s Salernitana future. It would also significantly blow his hopes of arriving in Qatar this November in strong form and focused solely on World Cup matters with El Tri.
Derby Ends All Square After Eight-Goal Thriller
Inzaghi was ultimately indebted to Boulaye Dia’s 95th-minute penalty for salvaging a 2-2 draw against Cagliari in his first game at the Salernitana helm.
The dramatic late equalizer capped a thrilling end-to-end contest between the league’s bottom two clubs. It left both still searching for their first wins of the new Serie A season after nine matches.
The game burst into life in the final 11 minutes after 80 minutes of stalemate. Angolan forward Zito Luvumbo netted from close range to seemingly give Cagliari victory with ten minutes left.
But Dia, who joined Salernitana from Villarreal in August, leveled six minutes later with a superb curling finish. The contest then swung back Cagliari’s way in the 89th minute when Nicola Viola headed them back in front unmarked at the back post.
Remarkably, the drama did not end there. After a VAR review, Viola was penalized for handball inside the box in the fifth minute of added time. Dia stepped up to smash home the resulting spot-kick and earn Inzaghi a share of the spoils in an enthralling debut.
The draw leaves both clubs searching for their first successes under new coaches. Salernitana sits 19th on four points, while Cagliari props up the table on three points after Claudio Ranieri failed to spark an immediate revival.
Conclusion: Pressure on Ochoa After Inzaghi’s Bold Call
Ochoa’s shock exclusion by Inzaghi stole the headlines from an entertaining draw between the early Serie A strugglers. It highlighted the 37-year-old’s uncertain status as he seeks to convince his third coach in less than a year that he should remain Salernitana’s number one.
Having initially cemented himself as the first choice upon arriving in December 2021, Ochoa must now prove himself again to Inzaghi. Failure to do so could place his Serie A future in jeopardy after less than a year while also denting his World Cup hopes.
Inzaghi’s bold call to drop Ochoa laid bare the scrutiny surrounding the veteran after a difficult start to life in Italy’s top flight. It presents arguably his biggest test yet as he aims to repay the faith Salernitana showed by handing him this unexpected chance so late in his career.