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Thursday, April 5, 2007

An Eventful Night in Rome!

Its European Champions League football week again and it's the time for another highly anticipated quarter finals matches. Among the elites still in this year's competition are three English powerhouses of Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, German's Bayern Munich, AC Milan and AS Roma from Italy, Spaniards outfit Valencia and Dutch PSV Eindhoven. Watch two of the four matches live on TV and another two on extended highlight. Two that were played on Tuesday were dull and boring but the other two on Wednesday seems to be more exciting.

AS Roma 2 Man Utd 1
Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy
4th April 2007

Man Utd traveled to Rome, the capital city which dubbed the 'Eternal City' without some of their key players this season most notably the likes of Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic, Ji Sung Park and Patrice Evra.

The match kicked off with United seem just could not transform their impressive domestic form into Europe. The tight became more difficult for the visitor when Paul Scholes was sent off in the 33th minute for his second bookable offence when he tipped Roma captain Francesco Totti on one of Roma’s quick counter attack. The referee made no mistake this time again after booking the midfielder early on for a pointless two footed lunged from behind on Roma Christian Wilhelmsson.

In the 44th minute, Roma scored a goal which they highly deserved. A short corner, then a perfect low cross from Alessandro Mancini from the left into the penalty box just for Rodrigo Taddei to slot in which deflected off Wes Brown and then Gabriel Heinze before it went into the back of the net. United keeper Edwin van der Sar was left diving into the wrong direction. Half time approached and United players left the field with frustrations and the fear of conceding more goals in the second half!

Second half resumed and Roma seem to slow down the pace of the game. It proved to be a mistake as United had the time to reshape the team with 10 men and adapt to the game. Roma looked more likely to score their second but Simone Perrotta’s, Totti’s and Mancini’s efforts mostly from outside the penalty box were either denied by van der Sar, blocked by defenders or went wide.

Then it came a moment of brilliance from in-form Cristiano Ronaldo in the 60th minute. After a long throw from van der Sar, Ronaldo ran from the half way line towards the goal passed by three Roma players before unleashing a superb through pass to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the outside of the penalty box on the right before the striker’s inch perfect cross into the box to Wayne Rooney. The England international chested the ball down and calmly slotted the ball home in front of Roma defender Christian Panucci and keeper Alexander Doni. It was a huge boost to United players and the fans as they had been outplayed for most of the time. More importantly it’s Rooney’s first European goal since his debut hat-trick against Fenerbahce in September 2004.

Roma regained the lead after 6 minutes with another quick attack. Mancini’s long shot from about 25 yards again found van der Sar by surprise and he could only parried the ball out which fell rightly to Mirko Vucinic just for the player who came on 4 minutes ago to slotted the ball into the back of the net. Again, the Roma players celebrated the goal in style.

Roma trying to press forward in search for their third and decisive goal but it just never came. They dominated the later part of this game but they seem to be quite unlucky and lack abit of finishing touch in front of the goal.

This game was marred by the violent conduct between both set of supporters before, and during the game. Television footage showed part of United section was evacuated by the Italian riot police and some fans can been seen to be beaten continuously by the police with the batons. It was a very disturbing scenario and most British fans claimed that the Italian police had been exaggerated and too aggressive in handling the problem.

Post Match Response

Sir Alex Ferguson said that United have a ‘fantastic’ chance of beating Roma in the second leg at Old Trafford and delighted with the away goal that he was desperately looking for before the game. He was clearly unhappy with the German referee Herbert Fandel as he claimed his team was playing 10 against 12 men for most of the time and Fandel should have be stricter to those who provoked Scholes’ sent off most notably Cristian Chivu. But he said they still have plenty of options for the return leg at Old Trafford even though with Scholes unavailable and few injured key players. Sir Alex had no immediate comment on the brawl though.

United winger Ryan Giggs said there’s still something to fight for as the away goal proved to be vital if his team wants to go through.

Meanwhile, Roma boss Luciano Spalletti said the lady luck was not on his side tonight. He thought that his team should have won more than a goal in this tie and Roma was clearly a better team of the night.

Roma defender Panucci seem to eat his words when he sent his praises to Ronaldo after making remarks branded the winger a cheat and over-abuse his dribbling skills, before the game. He said Ronaldo’s pace is unbelievable and he is like Italian Motor Grand Prix champions Valentino Rossi. Panucci said he wish he has the same engine as Ronaldo so he can catch up with him.


United’s defence seem to be abit shaky at the back tonight without Vidic. His deputy Wes Brown looked nervous and uncomfortable for the first period of the game. Otherwise he did a good job in stopping Roma’s constant bombardment from outside the penalty box. Heinze’s liking to go up front left a big gap on the left back when Roma trying to put few crosses from the left throughout the later part of the game which should be avoided. Van der Sar and Ronaldo were the two best players tonight for United and it will be more interesting to see what kind of line-up that Sir Alex is going to use in the return leg. Nevertheless, as a Man Utd’s fan, losing 1-2 is not too bad as we got a crucial away goal on hand. It was United’s resillence, patience and calmness that won them credits tonight although playing 2/3 of the game with 10 men.

Roma seem to leave behind their inconsistency in domestic football and played one of their best football tonight. They highly deserved the win and the whole team played really well. They are more organised and lethal up front than United. Totti, Mancini, Perrotta and Tadei all looked to have good goal scoring potential up front. Their ‘long shots strategy from outside the box’ seems to be effective. The first goal was scored from a corner after Tadei’s long shot was parried away by van der Sar and the second was slid in by Vucinic after yet another long shot was saved by the Dutch keeper. Mancini and Tadei had been impressive throughtout the match. It is abit unlucky for them not to win this game for more than a goal.

Chelsea 1 Valencia 1
Stamford Bridge, London, England, UK
4th April 2007

Chelsea multi-millions dollars squad went behind with a fantastic strike from Valencia David Silva. Silva silent the home crowd with a thunderous left foot shot from 30 yards from the left of the pitch into the the top left corner of keeper Petr Cech’s outstretched hand in the 30th minute. Chelsea responded well with Didier Drogba’s brilliant header in early second half to level the score and there are much more to play for in the second leg in Mestalla, Spain next Tuesday.

PSV Eindhoven 0 Liverpool 3
Philips Stadion, Netherlands
3th April 2007

2005 champions Liverpool made a huge step forward with a convincing 3-0 victory over the home team. PSV clearly missed their injured players like key defender Alex, out with a hamstring injury, and striker Arouna Kone with a groin problem. Jamie Carragher could have put the visitor ahead but his header from a Steven Gerrard’s corner was brilliantly saved by PSV goalkeeper Gomes. Gerrard then made no mistake for the first goal via a header. Risse scored a stunning second goal for the visitor in the second half after picking up the ball from a poor clearance by a PSV defender. The player who has been claimed bankrupt by the Norwegian authorities recently proved again that he is one of best left footed player in the world with this thunderous strike. Peter Crouch, who scored a perfect hat-trick against Arsenal the other day, outjumped PSV defenders to score the third for Liverpool and put his team one foot into the last four of the competition. Liverpool clearly deserved the win as they’re much more superior to their counterpart for most of the time and PSV seem to carry their 1-5 loss to Ajax performance last weekend to this match.

AC Milan 2 Bayern Munich 2
Stadio San Siro, Milan, Italy
3th April 2007

Back to Italy, Bayern came back from two goals down to score two vital away goals through Belgium internationl defender Daniel van Buyten and put them on the better postion for the last four before next week’s tie in Germany. AC Milan impressive display in the first half earned them a goal 5 minutes before half time through Andre Pirlo. van Buyten then equalised from closed range in the 78th minute. Kaka put Milan ahead again in the 84th minute from the penalty spot before van Buyten scored his second and Bayern's second on the night with literally the last kick of the night. Last but not least, Bayern deputy goalkeeper 22-years old Michael Rensing had been impressive and made a few excellent saves to deny AC Milan.

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