The Roma supporters will have to wait just a bit longer to see their team avenge the nightmarish 1-7 loss of April 10. Once again, the team of Sir Alex Ferguson overcame that of Luciano Spalletti thanks to a Wayne Rooney goal in the 2nd period, although this time the Giallorossi can consider themselves somewhat unlucky for all the chances they missed during the match.
Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic just can’t stop scoring for Inter. While that sentence would have raised some eyebrows these past years (given the Swede’s lack of delivery in the goalscoring department, despite his immense talent), this season has been marked by an absolute explosion of Zlatan in the scoring charts. This is especially good news for Inter in Europe, because Roberto Mancini‘s side just grabbed their first 3 points tonight in their home match against PSV Eindhoven, courtesy of 2 goals by the magnificent Swede. Ibra-cadabra!
Despite the great expectation and the enormous media coverage of this match, the 1st half of the Roma game had little in store in terms of excitement: the only notable chance for either team was a volleyed shot by Wayne Rooney over the bar, from a good Nani delivery from the left. The lack of scoring chances for Red Devils was in large part due to the good defensive work of the Roma players, who had learnt a great deal from their Old Trafford debacle from 7 months ago: Simone Perrotta limited his offensive runs, and Daniele De Rossi and Alberto Aquilani kept a close check on the Manchester players in midfield.
Roma’s offensive tactic in this scheme was to utilize the fast changes of pace of their wingers Mançini and Ludovic Giuly, in order to feed the ball to lone striker Francesco Totti (who had instructions to shoot on sight, as soon as he caught if only a glimpse of space). The Mancunians on the other hand, relied on the great agility and technique of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, and the finishing power of Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha (starting instead of Carlos Tévez). Despite the best intentions from both teams however, some great defensive work kept the scoreline to 0-0, thanks also to the good contribution of substitute goalkeepers Tomasz Kuszczak (on for injured Edwin van der Sar) and Gianluca Curci (on for feverish Doni).
In the 2nd half, Roma immediately obtained a very good chance to open the score: a shot by Aquilani was deflected wide and ended up to Ludovic Giuly, who then tried to set up Totti inside the box. The Roma captain attempted a difficult shot from short range (which sort of ended up looking like a chip, but not really) but his effort was over the bar! Some reassuring news for Roma though, in a match which had been quite shy in scoring opportunities thus far. However, the good news were followed by bad ones only a few minutes later, as Aquilani (one of the best of the Giallorossi up to that point) sustained a muscle pull injury and had to leave the field to David Pizarro.
Onto the other end: as if revitalized by the escaped danger of conceding a goal, the offensive verve of the Red Devil players kept increasing. First a good Rooney shot was saved by Curci, then Cristiano Ronaldo produced a delightful backheel shot to put the ball in the net, but the goal was called off for offside. Scoring was in the air though at Old Trafford, and it would only be a question of time before United went on the board. At the 70′ minute mark, from a good build-up stemming from a Michael Carrick pass and a Nani instantaneous flick, Wayne Rooney made a run towards the right part of the box, and armed a diagonal shot which finished its course on the inside of the post. 1-0 Man Utd.
The Roma reaction did not take too long to arrive, but unfortunately for the Giallorossi their lack of accuracy in the finishing department tonight (and/or bad luck) kept the ball out of the Manchester net. First, Simone Perrotta blew away an almost open-net chance from a Daniele De Rossi left-wing cross (even though his acrobatic attempt was quite difficult). The ball ended to Giuly in the center, who couldn’t adjust his shot. Then in the 87th, came the biggest chance to tie the game for Spalletti’s men: a filtering ball from the left wing was missed by Giuly in the center but ended up to substitute Mauro Esposito on the right, in perfect position for the finish! The shot by the ex-Cagliari player however missed the target by only a few inches! So unlucky!
The game thus ended on a 1-0 scoreline for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team, but the Roma players could exit the Old Trafford stadium with their heads up high, because they had done everything in the power to obtain the tie tonight. Everything, except better accuracy; it’ll be another story at the Stadio Olimpico.
|GOALSCORERS: 70’ Rooney (M)|
|MANCHESTER UTD (4-4-2): Kuszczak – O’Shea, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra – C.Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Nani (79’ Giggs), Rooney (82’ Anderson), Saha (66’ Tevez). (bench: Heaton, Piqué, Simpson, Eagles). Coach: Ferguson.|
|ROMA (4-2-3-1): Curci – Cicinho, Mexès, Juan, Tonetto – De Rossi, Aquilani (61’ D.Pizarro) – Giuly (79’ M.Esposito), Perrotta, Mancini (73’ Vucinic), Totti. (bench: Julio Sergio, Barusso, Antunes, Brighi). Coach: Spalletti.|
For Inter, Europe has so far been synonymous with “emergency situation”. Indeed, the list of injured and suspended players seems almost in ‘enduring renewal’ mode for coach Roberto Mancini, who very slowly is getting his chessboard pieces back one by one. However, tonight was no exception in the crisis department because Olivier Dacourt got injured during the pre-game warm up session, and Christian Chivu and David Suazo got sent off during the match (meaning they will have to skip Inter’s next game or two… it’s a curse!). Fortunately for Mancio, Mr. Zlatan is lending a hand to put the balls in the net.
The tactical line-up for Inter had to be revolutionized following Dacourt’s injury, and Mancini was forced to put Santiago Solari in, revert Dejan Stankovic to a center mid role, and propose Luis Figo in a more advanced offensive role. Esteban Cambiasso would be filling in his usual role of defensive playmaker, but it turned out that in the end he’d leave most of the playmaking to Ibrahimovic, who only took 14 minutes to score his first European goal for the Nerazzurri. Obtaining a penalty for a shirt tug inside the box, the Swede transformed the spot shot himself and put Inter in the lead. 1-0.
17 minutes later, the Zlatan-magic lit up once again: on a long cross from right wing by Figo, Ibrahimovic went for the looping header almost 1 meter away from the goal line, which believe it or not ended its way over the PSV keeper and into goal on the opposite side. Pure genius or sheer luck? You decide, but in the end all that matters are numbers and the Sweden international is building up quite a total with the ‘Black & Blue’ shirt: 3rd double of the season, and 7th goal in 9 days (i.e. in 4 games)… outstanding stuff.
However, since Inter still remains Inter just a tiny bit (I’m referring to the typical “play-really-well-for-60-minutes-then-suddenly-start-fu**ing-up” kind of Inter of the pre-Scudetto era) they could only make things more complicated for themselves by losing another player, namely Christian Chivu to a 2nd yellow card. Thankfully for the Inter supporters, Mancini knew what he was doing (tonight at least) and substituted Solari for the more defensive Francesco Bolzoni while putting Cambiasso in central defense. The move had its desired effect because Inter keeper Julio Cesar had very little to worry about tonight, as the PSV strikers kept a very low profile in front of the Inter box.
To cap off the match, Honduran striker David Suazo even had the opportunity to make it 3-0 for Inter on a few close-range chances, but blew his good contribution of the night by getting sent off get this, after the final whistle, for a scuffle with PSV player Carlos Salcido. A real shame, because the Nerazzurri almost had the perfect game tonight. That is, their big big talented striker from Sweden had the perfect game. Once again.
|GOALSCORERS: pen. 14’, 31’ Ibrahimovic (I)|
|INTER (4-4-2): Julio Cesar – J.Zanetti, Samuel, Chivu, Maxwell – Figo, Stankovic, Cambiasso, Solari (59’ Bolzoni) – Crespo (61’ Suazo), Ibrahimovic. (bench: Toldo, Jiménez, D.Esposito, Puccio). Coach: Mancini.|
|PSV EINDHOVEN (4-2-3-1): Gomes – Kromkamp (58’ Bakkal), Addo, Simons, Alcides – Culina, Salcido – Mendez (56’ Koevermans), Perez, Farfan (75’ Aissati) – Lazovic. (bench: Roorda, Jonathan, Fagner, Van der Leegte). Coach: R.Koeman.|