Pardon me for the Neanderthal-type title, but it couldn’t be more appropriate. On Wednesday for the 2nd day of matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League, while Roma were cruising at the Stadio Olimpico against a Dynamo Kiev side that did what they could to contain the Giallorossi fury, a bleak Internazionale traveled to the home ground of Turkish club Fenerbahce. With many important defensive pieces missing, Roberto Mancini‘s team was completely overrun by the Sarı Kanaryalar (Yellow Canaries), and if the Nerazzurri walked away with only 1 conceded goal they owe it all to their keeper Julio Cesar, protagonist of some fantastic saves tonight.
The streets around the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium of Istanbul were completely filled with flags, banners, and jerseys with the Fenerbahce colors today. The atmosphere was undoubtedly very jovial, and the music you could hear from the stadium speakers was nothing but an energetic Samba beat, no coincidence given the high Brazilian contingent present in the Turkish club (manager Zico, midfielder Alex, and recently signed wing-back Roberto Carlos above all).
It would be precisely the constant runs and accelerations of the Brazilian playmaker that would worry Mancini and his men the most during tonight’s game: Alex was absolutely riveting in dictating the pace of the game, and setting up his teammates with fast and precise assists. Inter manager Mancini’s choice to start Santiago Solari instead of Figo (to contain Roberto Carlos’s runs down Inter’s right wing) did little to solve the problem, and the fact that his main defensive players (Córdoba, Materazzi, Chivu, and Burdisso) were all out due to injury or suspension made matters even worse. Although to be honest, the insert of Nelson Rivas proved to be a good move, because the Colombian center-back did quite well for his first European outing.
The first shivers for Julio Cesar came in the 20th minute, when Mateja Kezman tumbled to the ground after a challenge of Walter Samuel, but the Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo waved play on. Ensued a veritable assault on the Inter net, which the Nerazzurri defense did their best to contain. In the 43′ minute mark, it was one too many however. With Fenerbahce in possession, Alex obtained the ball on the edge of the box, and challenged his direct marker with a few dummies. Then suddenly, the Brazilian playmaker accelerated to the end line, leaving the Inter defender standing, and delivered a perfect cross to the opposite end for striker Deivid ‘Hulk’ de Souza. The nickname may suggest a bulky Koller-type of player, but after you see his goal you will get a different picture: waiting for the ball to drop, the Brazilian striker threw himself in a rotating volley that blasted the ball below the bar!! Even Julio Cesar (in one of his finest forms tonight) couldn’t have prevented that from entering the net. 1-0 Fenerbahce.
The 2nd half was nothing more than the repetition of the asphyxiating Fenerbahce dominance seen in the 1st period. Ex-Inter player Roberto Carlos hit the post early in the half, and it was only the beginning. In the 65th Alex would scratching his head for a long time wondering “how but how did Julio Cesar save that point-blank header from 4 yds I just did!?”… An absolutely monstruous save by the Brazilian keeper, which sort of kept Inter in the game. If they had obtained any scoring chance, that is: Jimenez (on for Suazo), Crespo and Ibrahimovic were nowhere to be seen, and at the end of the day Fenerbahce keeper Volkan Demirel could call this a very quiet night indeed.
|GOALSCORERS: 43’ Deivid (F)|
|FENERBAHCE (4-1-4-1): D.Volkan – Onder, Lugano, Edu, Roberto Carlos – Deniz – Aurelio, Alex, Deivid, Vederson – Kezman (68’ Semih). (bench: B.Volkan, Yasin, Gokhan, Selcuk, Ugur, Kazim). Coach: Zico|
|INTER (4-4-2): Julio Cesar – J.Zanetti, Rivas, Samuel, Maxwell – Stankovic, Dacourt (70’ Jimenez), Cambiasso, Solari (58’ Figo) – Suazo (72’ Crespo), Ibrahimovic. (bench: Toldo, Esposito, Bolzoni, Federici). Coach: Mancini.|
In the other match of the day, an “Imperial” Roma (and I’m not talking about ancient history, but present-day soccer) would walk onto the Stadio Olimpico grass today and begin their European adventure with a bang! Much like AC Milan on Tuesday, the Giallorossi’s performance tonight would be superlative.
The match hadn’t even started for 8 minutes that Roma were already up by one: penetrating run down the left wing by Max Tonetto, perfect cross for the upcoming Simone Perrotta, and precise header to the 1st post. The accurate finish of the Roma midfielder was the finalization of a beautifully orchestrated Giallorossi move, in which the various Mançini, Totti and Aquilani stars all touched the ball at least once. 1-0 Roma.
Following the goal, the Giallorossi kept up their frenetic rhythm, approaching the Kiev goal from all possible angles. Perrotta was absolutely everywhere, Taddei and Mançini were overlapping to perfection with Tonetto and Cassetti, causing all sorts of problems to the sluggish Ukrainian defense. Roma almost made it 2-0 when Juan hit the post from close-range, following a great delivery by Taddei from the right wing, flicked on by Perrotta. The half-time score therefore remained 1-0 for the Giallorossi, who had dropped a little in pace at the end of the first half.
At the restart, the Dynamo players tried to push forward a bit more in order to create some danger of their own, but the Roma defense (led by another top-notch performance of week-end hero Juan) was very attentive in breaking down any attack and immediately setting off the counter. Mançini missed the goal by a hair as his shot from the right was parried away by Shovkovskiy, then Dynamo almost had to concede an own goal when Taras Mikhalik deflected wide a cross destined to Daniele De Rossi. The Kiev coach Anatoliy Demyanenko tried every possible tool at his disposal to overturn the situation (Diogo Rincón on for injured Ismaël Bangoura and Serhiy Rebrov for Michael) but it did little to contain Roma’s fury.
In the 25th, just after Ludovic Giuly (on for Mançini) completely blew the chance to double Roma’s lead, the Giallorossi put the victory on ice: exploiting a perfect through pass of Perrotta, Capitan Totti was clear on goal and easily deposited the ball into the sack from 15 yds. 2-0 Roma.
The match had two final highlights for the Stadio Olimpico fans: first they finally saw a little bit of Dynamo when an absolute howitzer of Rebrov was brilliantly saved by Roma keeper Doni. Then, Marco Cassetti exploited a great David Pizarro spot pass (who had just dribbled 3 defenders) and blasted a powerful shot straight onto the post!
At the end of the day this would be victory nº100 for Roma in Europe, and the 5th success of the Giallorossi in 2007-08. Luciano Spalletti‘s men have yet to lose since the season started in September.
|GOALSCORERS: 9’ Perrotta (R), 70’ Totti (R)|
|ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni – Cassetti, Mexès, Juan (82’ Ferrari), Tonetto – De Rossi, Aquilani (82’ D.Pizarro) – Taddei, Perrotta, Mancini (61’ Giuly) – Totti. (bench: Curci, Cicinho, Brighi, Vucinic). Coach: Spalletti.|
|DINAMO KIEV (4-4-1-1): Shovkovskiy – Markovic, Fedorov, Gravrancic, El Kaddouri – Gusev (71’ Correa), Mikhalik, Yussuf, Michael (57’ Rebrov) – Shatskikh – Bangoura (46’ Diogo Rincon). (bench: Rybka, Ghioane, Rotan, Kleber). Coach: Demyanenko.|