Archive for September, 2008

AS Roma 1-2 CFR Cluj: Stadio Olimpico Stunned in Giallorossi UCL Debut (UEFA Champions League 2008-09)

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

There’s an old 1962 movie with Charlton Heston (don’t ask me how I know that) that has a very appropriate title for this match: “The Pigeon That Took Rome“. CFR Cluj being the pigeon, a.k.a the David that no one knew but who at his first UCL appearance defeated the big Roma Goliath. Italian manager Maurizio Trombetta must be happier than a coondog on a bare leg (sorry, I watched Blue Collar TV last night).

Tonight, the Giallorossi were very from being that Goliath. Decimated by injuries in defense (above all: Philippe Mexes), Luciano Spalletti’s men were unrecognizable and simply put, appalling. To add insult to injury, the Giallorossi can’t even use the “we were unlucky” excuse tonight. CFR Cluj (by now most of you are wondering who the hell these guys are… they’re the Romanian first league champions, so there) fully deserved their win, especially in the second half when they had chance after chance to increase their lead.

As for Roma, defensive problems aside (counting the two from tonight, Spalletti’s men have conceded a total of 8 goals in their last 4 matches) the Giallorossi’s current fitness condition is somewhat alarming. And their new acquisitions aren’t playing up to par either: Riise was substituted, Baptista was a ship lost at sea, Loria was jittery, while Ménez was benched and even preferred to Montella as a substitute. One can only hope that by the time of their next match (October 1 against Bordeaux in France) these problems will have been sorted out. Because after that it’s Chelsea, and they aren’t ones to joke with either.

(From Gazzetta): In the first half, Roma started okay but ended poorly. Christian Panucci‘s header (his home special) gave Roma the lead in the 17th minute after a couple of chances to score by Vucinic, one of which bounced off the post. But back to Panucci: when the Roma center-back finished off De Rossi’s right-wing cross, it seemed as if Roma could finally chalk up their first victory of the season (after losing to Inter in the Supercoppa and ending up with only one point in the first two rounds of Serie A). 1-0 Roma.

Instead, Roma seemed distracted… and alarmingly “stretched out” on the field. The defensive line (without injured starters Mexès and Juan) was very far -perhaps too far- from the other lines: in part because they didn’t step up enough, and also because they were left isolated by the midfielders. Cluj on the other hand, who had nothing to lose, started to test the waters. Beginning to take long-distance shots (and showing discrete skills at it: Dubarbier’s left-footed howitzer was punched over the crossbar by Doni), the Romanian team eventually grabbed the equalizer in minute 27. It was a goal by argentine striker Emmanuel Culio, after a good central run finalized by a diagonal left-footer from outside the box. 1-1

The equalizer gave Romanians wings, and Roma started to suffer. Too much. The half-time couldn’t come at a better time, as the Giallorossi needed to clear their heads. But not before Cluj had one more scoring chance (a good shot by Dani deflected wide by Doni) and Spalletti added his nth player to the hospital ward (Panucci having to sub off for a back injury). Uncool… Even more uncool (“uncooler”?) was the 49th minute double by Emmanuel Culio, after a missed Cassetti attempt to head the ball away. It was a nice goal in all honesty (a great on-the run powerful volley), but one that hit Roma hard and with their pants down. 2-1 Cluj.

With his back to the wall, Spalletti couldn’t wait any longer and played the Francesco Totti card (still very far from top form). Riise made way for the Roma captain (who moved to the central forward position), Tonetto backtracked to left-back, and Vucinic reverted to the left wing. However, the Romanians weren’t done yet. Unable to believe their eyes at how much space they had on the field, Cluj came close to scoring some more: a free-kick from Gabriel Mureşan barely missed the net, while ex-Inter player Sixto Peralta sent a header crashing onto the crossbar.

Roma tried to end the game with dignity. De Rossi and Vucinic (the best ones from Roma today) tried to put up a fight, but the chances to score were few and far between. The Azzurri midfielder grazed the post from outside the area, but it was an isolated chance. Roma gave it one last try during the 4 minutes of stoppage time, to no avail. Truly a bad evening in Rome…

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A.S. Roma
ROMA-CLUJ
1-2
[Match Highlights]
CFR Cluj
GOALSCORERS: 17’ Panucci (R), 27’, 49’ Culio (C).
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni – Cicinho, Cassetti, Panucci (47’ Loria), Riise (52’ Totti) – De Rossi, Aquilani – Taddei (77’ Montella), J.Baptista, Tonetto – Vucinic. (bench: Artur, Mar.Brighi, Ménez, Okaka). Coach: Spalletti.
CLUJ (4-2-3-1): Stancioiu – Tony, Cadù, Viera, Pereira – Dani, Muresan – Dubarbier (88’ Panin), Trica (67’ Peralta), Culio – E.Koné. (bench: Nuno Claro, Alcantara, Deac, Didi, Diego Ruiz). Coach: Trombetta.

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Italian Players Around the World (15/09)

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

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Our weekly Italian Players Around the World segment is back!! (with a brand new logo… d’you like it? :) )

Inspired by Gazzetta dello Sport, here are the performances of all Italian soccer players operating in foreign European leagues (top divisions only). There are currently 32 Italians (yup, number’s gone up with Bellinzona’s promotion in the Swiss league) playing in first divisions abroad, and 12 of them stepped on the field this week-end.

The table below includes the team of the player, their opponents for this week, the time in minutes they played, their match contribution in goal(s) or assist(s), and the final score of the game.

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ENGLAND
Player Team Opp.
Time
Contrib.
Score
Carlo Cudicini Chelsea @Man City
(bench)
/
3-1
David Di Michele West Ham @West Brom
71
/
2-3
Andrea Dossena Liverpool Man Utd
(bench)
/
2-1
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SCOTLAND
Massimo Donati Celtic @Motherwell
(bench)
/
4-2
Manuel Pascali Kilmarnock @Rangers
89
/
1-2
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GERMANY
Andrea Barzagli Wolfsburg @Hertha
90
/
2-2
Cristian Zaccardo Wolfsburg @Hertha
(injd.)
/
2-2
Massimo Oddo Bayern M. @Köln
23
/
3-0
Luca Toni Bayern M. @Köln
90
2 GL, 1 AST
3-0
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SPAIN
Fabio Cannavaro Real Madrid Numancia
(injd.)
/
4-3
Enzo Maresca Sevilla Sp. Gijon
90
1 GL, 1 AST
4-3
Emiliano Moretti Valencia @Almeria
90
/
2-2
Giuseppe Rossi Villareal Deportivo
(injd.)
/
1-0
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FRANCE
Fabio Grosso Lyon Nice
(injd.)
/
3-2
Elia Legati Monaco Lorient
/
/
2-0
Flavio Roma Monaco Lorient
(bench)
/
2-0
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HOLLAND
Graziano Pellè AZ Alkmaar @ADO
/
/
0-3
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BELGIUM
Francesco Migliore Mons Anderlecht
(bench)
/
1-2
Roberto Mirri Mons Anderlecht
90
/
1-2
Alessandro Pistone Mons Anderlecht
/
/
1-2
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SWITZERLAND
Andrea Guatelli FC Zürich @Valduz
(bench)
/
7-1
Davide Belotti Bellinzona Young Boys
(bench)
/
1-2
Lorenzo Bucchi Bellinzona Young Boys
(bench)
/
1-2
Paolo Carbone Bellinzona Young Boys
/
/
1-2
Andrea Conti Bellinzona Young Boys
45
/
1-2
Alessio Ferrazza Bellinzona Young Boys
/
/
1-2
Matteo Gritti Bellinzona Young Boys
90
/
1-2
Iacopo La Rocca Bellinzona Young Boys
/
/
1-2
Giuseppe Miccolis Bellinzona Young Boys
/
/
1-2
Angelo Raso Bellinzona Young Boys
90
/
1-2
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TURKEY
Morgan De Sanctis Galatasaray Antalyaspor
90
/
1-1
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RUSSIA
Ivan Pelizzoli Lok. Moscow @S.Nalchik
(bench)
/
1-0

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Heroes of the week

As customary the “Heroes of the Week” section is where we celebrate those who, be it thanks to goals, assists, or amazing saves, have stood out among Italian ex-pats over the week-end. And would you believe it? This week the award takes us to Germany and Spain, one of our most common destination the previous year.

Luca Toni, age 30Luca Toni is back ladies & gentlemen. His scoring form with the Azzurri has been very disappointing lately (to say the least), but the man can still put in the back of the net in the Bundesliga. Bayern were away to Köln on Saturday, but the unfriendly crowd support certainly did not stop Klismann’s men from shining. Absolute protagonist of the night: the man with the “crazy-hand” celebration. 2 goals (a header, a left-footed finish) and 1 assist for Podolski. What more could Jürgen ask for?

Enzo Maresca, age 28Over to Spain, it still isn’t sure (to me at least) whether Enzo Maresca will be a starter for Sevilla this year, or simply part of the squad rotation. Sunday’s performance vs. Sporting Gijón should help the manager decide: 1 goal, 1 assist for Kanouté, and an otherwise very solid performance in midfield. As a Juve fan myself, I’m a bit nostalgic of Maresca…

In other news, David Di Michele made his season debut with new club West Ham (now under the guidance of Gianfranco Zola), as did Massimo Oddo with Bayern Munich.

Also, it’s interesting to note that Swiss club Bellinzona (just promoted to the Swiss top division, the Axpo Super League) contains a boatload of Italian ex-pats. In particular, a certain Andrea Conti who, you’ve guessed it, is one of the sons of Roma legend Bruno Conti (and whose brother Daniele Conti plays for Cagliari). On a sidenote, Bellinzona also own the contract of defender Andrea Russotto (playing on loan at Napoli this season).

Serie A Matchday 2 – Week-end Review + GOALS of the Week (2008-09)

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Week-End Reviews

After the Summer wait, Serie A continues. :) Here are the results and summaries for matchday 2. Full Video Highlights here.
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Italy.TheOffside.com week 2 review

Italy.TheOffside.com

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Italian Calcio Blog week 2 review

Italian Calcio Blog 2008-09

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Gazzetta in English week 2 review

Gazzetta dello Sport

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AC Milan‘s poor early-season form continued on Sunnday when they lost 2-0 at Genoa for their second consecutive defeat. Giuseppe Sculli struck in the first half and Diego Milito converted a stoppage-time penalty to leave Milan with no points in Serie A after they lost their opener 2-1 to promoted Bologna. The result increases the pressure on coach Carlo Ancelotti following Milan’s disappointing 5th-place finish last season and an embarrassing 2-0 defeat at second-division Swiss side Lugano in a friendly on Wednesday.

Genoa 2-0 Milan Match Report (mCalcio)

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Champions Inter Milan beat Catania 2-1 at home (thanks to two Sicilian own goals), while last year’s runners-up AS Roma lost 3-1 at Palermo on Saturday, despite taking the early lead.

Inter 2-1 Catania Match Report (mCalcio)

Palermo 3-1 Roma Match Report (mCalcio)

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In the evening fixture later on Sunday, Juventus beat Udinese at home thanks to a goal by ex-Palermo striker Amauri.

Juventus 1-0 Udinese Match Report (mCalcio)

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In other matches, Napoli came from behind to beat Fiorentina 2-1 thanks to second-half goals by Marek Hamsik and Christian Maggio after Adrian Mutu had put the visitors ahead four minutes before the break. The end stands of Napoli’s San Paolo stadium were closed and will remain shut for the next two home games as a penalty after violence marred their opening-day visit to Roma. The game was also one of three games considered high risk which away fans were banned from, along with Genoa-Milan and Saturday’s match between Inter and Catania at the San Siro.

Lazio are the early pacemakers in Serie A this year, courtesy of a 2-0 home win over Sampdoria secured with goals by Mauro Zarate and Goran Pandev. Atalanta also have a 100% win record from two games after Tiberio Guarente gave them a 1-0 victory at Bologna.

Finally, Lecce overcame Chievo at home thanks to goals by Caserta and Castillo, Reggina vs. Torino ended in a 1-1 draw (goals by Amoruso and a Di Loreto o.g.), while Siena went on to defeat Cagliari at home through Calaió and Ghezzal.

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GOALS of the WEEKGOALS of the WEEK

Keeping true to our “more quality, less quantity” tradition (I change it when it suits me), here’s the candidates for goal of the week…
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And the winner is… Giuseppe Sculli. Not so much because of the individual finish (a banal diagonal effort) but rather due to the orchestrated teamplay and action as a whole, in particular the gorgeous Milito chest-pass. Maldini and Favalli don’t know what hit them…


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Results Summary

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Serie A 2008-09
Matchday 2

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US Città di Palermo
Palermo
3-1
Roma
AS Roma
FC Internazionale Milano
Inter
2-1
Catania
Calcio Catania
SS Lazio Roma
Lazio
2-0
Sampdoria
UC Sampdoria
Genoa CFC
Genoa
2-0
Milan
AC Milan
AC Siena
Siena
2-0
Cagliari
Cagliari Calcio
SSC Napoli
Napoli
2-1
Fiorentina
ACF Fiorentina
Bologna FC 1909
Bologna
0-1
Atalanta
Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio
Reggina Calcio
Reggina
1-1
Torino
Torino FC
US Lecce
Lecce
2-0
Chievo
AC Chievo Verona
Juventus FC
Juventus
1-0
Udinese
Udinese Calcio


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Juventus 1-0 Udinese: Amauri Leading the Way for the Bianconeri… (Serie A Matchday 2)

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Ladies & gentlemen, Juventus is IN. As in saying “the Doctor is IN”, only in a football team context. Just a few days before their important reconciliation with Champions League (FC Zenit is waiting), the Bianconeri gave a convincing display against Udinese on Sunday. Kinda like a way of saying: “Bring it on Europe, we’re ready!”.

Now, the victory may have been achieved only by the narrowest of margins, but the manner in which it was achieved will go some way in reassuring Claudio Ranieri and Juventus fans. The three points, courtesy of Amauri (scoring his first Serie A goal with his new club), allow the team to stay on level points with Inter, behind the early surprise leaders Atalanta and Lazio.

(From Gazzetta dello Sport): Three points, as we were saying, made all the more impressive by the absence of Trezeguet and Del Piero, left on the bench until the last 5 minutes of play in light of Juve’s mid-week European action. A starting line up that also welcomed back Giorgio Chiellini, out of action since his mid-August knee injury in the Trofeo Berlusconi.

Juve however did not make it easy for themselves, contriving to miss a flurry of chances throughout the game (thanks, or rather “because of” Samir Handanovic, giving out an impressive display in the Udinese goal). For their part, the visitors were unable to produce a repeat of last year’s performance (in which they beat Juventus away from home), the team struggling to put together any sort of real scoring chance, and failing to “honour” the Azzurri’s mid-week outing (which took place in Stadio Barbera) with an adequate display. Indeed the team’s all-attacking brand of football, an intrinsic characteristic of Pasquale Marino’s teams, was nowhere to be seen.

Beginning the game in an aggressive fashion and fully focused on their opponents (despite their mid-week CL encounter threatening to draw away their attentions), Juventus dominated the first half. Mauro Camoranesi was in inspired form on the right wing, Paolo De Ceglie a little dynamo on the opposite flank, all the while Vincenzo Iaquinta and Amauri provided a constant danger upfront. Somewhat wasteful with their opportunities though. Juventus created chance after chance but it all seemed in vain, especially when Iaquinta scored from Nedved’s assist only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.

There was no breakthrough either when Iaquinta again latched onto an Amauri cross and hit a first-time shot at Handanovic, the goalkeeper deflecting the ball out for a corner. Later still, it was the woodwork that came to Udinese’s rescue, Amauri’s header from a Camoranesi cross coming back out off the post. Iaquinta went in for chance nº3 and 4(perhaps particularly looking to impress his former club), but both his header and strike still failed to hit the back of the net.

On the other end, Udinese were unrecognisable from their usual self (even though that had more to do with their opponents’ merits than their own shortcomings): there was no sign of their usually free-flowing brand of football or of their well-worked counterattacks, replaced instead by long balls pumped forward to Antonio Di Natale, who was unable to unleash his skills. The first half thus finished goalless, Juve having failed to take what would have been a deserved lead.

The second half began in much the same manner as the first, with Juventus continuing to push forward as Udinese defended deep into their own half. In an attempt to change the tide of the game, Marino decided to bring off Di Natale (evidently tired from his exertions with the national side,) in place of Alexis Sanchez. The Bianconeri then almost found a breakthrough via an unexpected source, as Christian Poulsen hit the bar with a powerful shot from outside the area, Juventus once again thwarted by the woodwork as Amauri was in the first half.

Then with 67 minutes on the clock, the former Palermo forward finally broke the deadlock with a precise right-footed effort following Sissoko’s incursion from the middle. It was Amauri’s first goal of the season, the player just recently speaking to Sky Sports of his willingness to don Italy’s national jersey should he be called up by Lippi and upon receipt of his pending Italian passport. 1-0 Juventus

Towards the end of the game, Udinese finally rediscovered a modicum of pride and managed to create a chance for substitute Antonio Floro Flores: through on goal after a hazardous back-pass, the Udinese striker was floored in Juve’s penalty box by Chiellini. Replays showed it was merely a brush, no penalty. However by then Juve were on the back foot, and the threat of conceding a late goal (like they did in Florence) was no doubt playing on the players’ minds. But they held on to win a contest that they largely dominated. Consider that a warning, FC Zenit…

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Juventus F.C.
JUVENTUS- UDINESE
1-0
[Match Highlights]
 Udinese Calcio
GOALSCORERS: 67’ Amauri (J).
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera, Mellberg, Chiellini, De Ceglie – Camoranesi (87’ Del Piero), Sissoko, Poulsen, Nedved – Amauri (87’ Trezeguet), Iaquinta (80’ Marchionni). (bench: Manninger, Knezevic, Salihamidzic, Marchisio). Coach: Ranieri.
UDINESE (3-4-3): Handanovic – Ferronetti, Coda, Lukovic – Motta (71’ Isla), D’Agostino, Inler, G.Pasquale – Pepe (75’ Floro Flores), Quagliarella, Di Natale (58’ A.Sanchez). (bench: Belardi, Sala, Domizzi, Tissone). Coach: Marino.

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Genoa 2-0 Milan: When It Rains, It Pours for Ancelotti (Serie A Matchday 2)

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Three Golden Balls on the field: Kaká, Ronaldinho, Shevchenko. Was it enough for AC Milan to turn their catastrophic pre-season and Serie A debut around?

Alas, all Rossoneri supporters already know the answer to that question. Once again, Ancelotti’s team blanked out against “moderate” (on paper) opposition, and notice I say “on paper” because on the field Genoa was anything but. Lead by the technical brilliance of prodigal son Diego Milito, Il Grifone sank the Rossoneri with two goals conceding none, and put a serious question mark (despite what Galliani might say) on Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure at the club. 0 points after two matchdays, and team that isn’t working: some heads gotta fall at Milanello soon…

(From Gazzetta dello Sport): So, according to Galliani no Sword of Damocles is currently hanging over Carlo Ancelotti. Over that one at least, the Milan manager should not be losing any sleep (mmhh… cough). But who could blame the coach, when even seasoned veterans like Maldini and Zambrotta (not to mention the Golden Ball trio up front) starting making elementary mistakes, stuff you would normally only see in Primavera matches. Therein lies the problem perhaps: the “seasoned” part. There’s a point when the distinction between “experience” and “over-ripeness” gets kinda blurry, and for some AC Milan players that point has arrived…

Such a shame too, because the Rossoneri had started the match fairly well. Ronaldinho may still be struggling to find perfect form, but it’s still someone named “Ronaldinho”, the kind of guy whose one-touch pass or shot can transform a game. A message the Genoa defenders got very early on, constantly doubling man-marking on him and his two striking partners (Kaká and Shevchenko). Thus after a timid start, the home team shifted into second gear and started getting close to Abbiati’s goal, thanks in part to the blatant lack of defensive efforts in Milan’s midfield (Flamini was playing? Was he really?). In minute 30, the first goal of the game was a mix of precision (Gasbarroni’s aerial through ball), technique (Milito’s lovely chest-pass) and finishing (Sculli‘s daisy-cutter from 10 yards out). A well-deserved goal for Gasperini’s team, and yet another alarming wake-up call for Milan. 1-0 Genoa.

At this point, Ancelotti decided to push his men forward: Gianluca Zambrotta was given “license to kill move forward”, thereby reducing the Milan backline to three men. (Maldini, Bonera, Favalli). Then, he continued his line-up revolution by getting rid of Sheva and Ronnie at half-time, inserting Clarence Seedorf and Marco Borriello: radical changes designed to effect radical results. Alas with little success: Matteo Ferrari (you know, the guy deemed surplus by Roma) was following Borriello around like a shadow, and Kaká’s best efforts (even from long-range) were being far too predictable.

On the other end, Andrea Gasbarroni was acting as perfect playmaking & assist-man: the ex-Parma midfielder was litterally on fire, serving up a perfect ball for Giuseppe Sculli (saved by Abbiati) and then almost getting a goal of his own with a chipped shot saved by Zambrotta on the line. Ancelotti made his last change with Alexandre Pato (on for Flamini), trying also to boost his aerial attacks: the “Duck” got his noggin to a few crosses (shortly imitated by Ambrosini), coming close to the equalizer. This was however Genoa’s day: in stoppage time, Diego Milito turned with the ball and made a fool out of Maldini, forcing the Rossoneri captain to an uncharacteristic yet significant trip inside the box. The ex-Zaragoza striker did the penalty kick honors himself, giving his team a historical 92nd-minute “icing on the cake” victory. 2-0 Genoa and game over.

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 Genoa C.F.C.
GENOA-MILAN
2-0
[Match Highlights]
 AC Milan
GOALSCORERS: 30’ Sculli (G), 91’ pen. Milito (G).
GENOA (3-4-3): Rubinho – Biava, Ferrari, Criscito – Mesto (M.Rossi), Milanetto, Juric (66’ Vanden Borre), Modesto – Sculli, G.Milito, Gasbarroni (85’ Palladino). (bench: Scarpi, Sokratis, Bocchetti, Olivera). Coach: Gasperini.
MILAN (4-3-2-1): Abbiati – Zambrotta, Bonera, Maldini, Favalli – Flamini (69’ Pato), Pirlo, Ambrosini – Kaká, Ronaldinho (46’ Seedorf) – Shevchenko (46’ Borriello). (bench: Dida, Kaladze, Jankulovski, Emerson). Coach: Ancelotti.

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