Champions League day 5 – Inter & Roma Earn the 3 points for an Early Playoff Ticket

UEFA Champions League logoWith Matchday 5 of UEFA’s top European competition and all 4 Italian teams on the verge of earning their ticket to the next round, Inter and Roma have started the party early on Tuesday: the 3-0 and 4-1 victories against respectively Fenerbahce and Dynamo Kiev are sending the Italian clubs through to the Last 16. For Inter, you can call that a group birthday present to manager Roberto Mancini (born on November 27), and for Roma, the proof that even without the likes of Totti, Mexès, Aquilani and Perrotta (out injured), they still remain a competitive bunch.

Champions League day 5 - Inter 3-0 Fenerbahce, Dynamo Kiev 1-4 Roma

After the K.O. in Istanbul earlier this season (1-0 by goal of Deivid, the only defeat suffered by Inter this season along with the SuperCoppa loss to AS Roma), in what the Nerazzurri almost made seem like a “do-or-die” match, Inter had many objectives today and succedeed in all of them: get rid of their strongest opponents in the group, avenge their 1-0 defeat of matchday 1, and qualify for the next round of the competition. Talk about killing many birds with one stone…

Roberto Mancini started his team with a 4-4-2 diamond formation. Having to deal with the absence of Olivier Dacourt, the Inter coach opted for a Cristian Chivu-led defensive midfield and Dejan Stankovic (finally back from injury) operating as playmaker behind Zlatan and Cruz. However all the match needed were the first few minutes, to make everyone understand that on the other end, Zico’s Fenerbahce was a team which could potentially go well beyond the Round of 16: placed very close together on the field, with Aurelio and Sahin (chosen over Stephan Appiah) on task to disrup Inter’s game, and ready to create dangerous situations with Semih Senturk or Roberto Carlos on the wings. A dangerous opponent therefore, which coincidentally had already beaten the Nerazzurri on matchday 1.

After 20 minutes, to contain Fenerbahce’s offensive verve on the wings Mancini chose to reposition Stankovic on the left, switching to a classic 4-4-2 line-up with Chivu and Cambiasso in the center. This had the direct effect of stabilizing Inter’s possession, and allowed them to keep control of the game’s pace. The best chances in the first half all came from the Nerazzurri, despite none of them gave Fenerbahce’s keeper too many worries: first Stankovic (wide), then Cruz (also wide)… what about Zlatan? He was trying his best to find space away from the opponents’ box, since the last 18 yards were being kept under a tight lock. Result of the first half? 0-0 with 0 shots on goal.

In the 2nd half, Inter went ahead almost by accident, shortly after they almost conceded one through Alex (shot from the edge of the box inches wide): Maxwell got through on the left wing and sent in a low cross towards the center, Edu tried to a last-ditch attempt to clear it, instead it finished on Julio Cruz‘s chest and Inter had the first goal of the match. 1-0.

10 minutes later, cue goal nº2 for the Nerazzurri, with some delightful technical play: low cross by Chivu, dummy by Cruz, controlled touch by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and ensuing land-air missile towards the top corner. 2-0 Inter, and Zlatan’s 5th goal in Europe this season.

That was decidedly the morale-sinker for the Turks, who let go of their disciplined defense moments later. After risking another goal through counter-attacks of Cruz, Suazo, and a Zlatan free-kick, the Fenerbahce defense eventually gave up in the final minute: Cambiasso stole the ball 30m out, exchanged passes with Cruz and then gave the ball back to his Argentine teammate. Cruz was then able to send Luis Jimenez through on the left,  who had little trouble beating Volcan on the first post. 3-0 Inter, game over. For Roberto Mancini, 43 years and counting, a top-rank party is in order (1st in Serie A, 1st in Europe). Huzzah!

In the end, the key statistic of Inter’s past performances this week: Atalanta, goals by Suazo and Cruz, Fenerbahce, goals by Ibra and Cruz. The Inter attack is definitely working at full capacity…


F.C. Internazionale Milano
[Match Highlights]
Fenerbahçe S.K.
GOALSCORERS: 55’ Cruz (I), 66’ Ibrahimovic (I), 90’ Jimenez (I)
INTER (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Cordoba, Samuel, Maxwell (72’ Jimenez) – J.Zanetti, Chivu, Cambiasso – Stankovic (88’ Materazzi) – Ibrahimovic (78’ Suazo), Cruz. (bench: Orlandoni, Solari, Dacourt, Crespo). Coach: Mancini.
FENERBAHCE (4-2-3-1): D.Volkan – Gokhan, Lugano, Edu, Roberto Carlos – Sahin, Aurelio (62’ Appiah) – Deivid (82’ Tumer), Alex, Vederson – Semih (66’ Kazim). (bench: B.Volkan, Cakmak, Onder, Bilgin). Coach: Zico


Roma’s performance today can be defined by two words: domination and qualification. The Giallorossi stepped onto the field in Kiev with the right mentality, using a mix of beautiful plays and cynicism (uncommon to the Giallorossi this season) to archive this match within the first 45 minutes. Max Tonetto was like a train on his left wing, and Mirko Vucinic is rapidly growing from his vice-Totti role to an irreplaceable piece of the Roma arsenal.

For the first half, it was a superhero tale for the Giallorossi: Super-Roma, and in particular Super-Panucci. The aging right-back is having quite the magical moment in his career: he scored the vital qualification goal vs. Scotland with the Azzurri (in the 90th), scored the winning Roma goal vs. Genoa this week-end (also in the 90th), and scored against Dynamo Kiev today… in the 4th? Huh? Going against the run of play here Panucci… No matter though because this goal, at the cost of not being vital, was equally beautiful and spearheaded the way to the Giallorossi victory today: on the right wing, a first cross by Christian Panucci was deflected by Goran Gavrancic, and gave the right-back another stab at it. His left-footed cross towards the far post actually turned into a direct shot in goal, with Vucinic fooling the keeper with what seemed to be a slight touch (replays showed no one actually hit the ball). 1-0 Roma.

Minutes later, it could have been a double for Roma (and Panucci himself!), had the hero right-back not narrowly missed a left-wing cross by Tonetto. Speaking of Tonetto, the man was virtually unstoppable on his left wing, running up and down the line and capable of sending in accurate crosses for whoever his intended recipient was. Giuly almost turned into the beneficiary of one of those crosses, but his header from 10 yards was narrowly wide of the mark. 10 minutes later though, the French winger struck gold: receiving a defence-splitting pass from Cassetti (with entire Kiev backline pushing forward), Ludovic Giuly was sent all alone in front of the Kiev keeper, dribbled him, and deposited into the empty net. 2-0 Roma.

6 minutes later and shortly before the break it was 3-0 for Roma, exploiting yet another lethal counter: through in the center, this time Giuly was the provider, executing a perfect pass for Mirko Vucinic. Through on goal, the Montenegrin striker found the twine from 13m, eluding the rush from young keeper Dybka (replacing injured Shovkovskiy). At this point, Roma had the match locked and had thrown away the key.

The 2nd half was a boring but necessary chore for the Giallorossi, who at this point thought the match had already said all it had to say. Not so. 60 minutes into the game, Daniele De Rossi was forced off the field with a knock (colliding with his own teammate David Pizarro), earning Ahmed Barusso his first Champions League apperance. Also, Dynamo Kiev found a way back into the game (or at least, a goal): the entrance of Maksim Shatskikh revitalized the Ukrainians, and in minute 64 it was 3-1: through on the left wing, the forward found the foot of Ismaël Bangoura (helped, it must be said, by a terrible clearance of Juan) who slammed into Doni’s net.

The last word however today was for the Giallorossi. A one-two between Vucinic and Tonetto on the edge of the box opened acres of space for the former: 20 yards out and instep finish by Mirko Vucinic. 4-1 Roma, just too much for the Ukrainians tonight.

At the end of the day, all bets are off in Group F: Man Utd has mathematically clinched 1st-spot (regardless of what happens at the Stadio Olimpico next matchday), Roma is going through as 2nd-ranked. Sporting Lisbon will go to the UEFA Cup.


FC Dynamo Kyiv
[Match Highlights]
A.S. Roma
GOALSCORERS: 4’ Panucci (R), 32’ Giuly (R), 36’, 78’ Vucinic (R), 63’ Bangoura (D)
DYNAMO KIEV (4-1-4-1): Rybka – Dopilka, Gavrancic, Vashchuk, Nesmachniy; Ghioane – Gusev, Ninkovic (55’ Shatskikh), Rincon (69’ Milevskyy), Rotan (46’ Belkevich) – Bangoura. (bench: Lutsenko, Markovic, Fedorov, Correa). Coach: Demanienko.
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni – Panucci, Ferrari, Juan, Cassetti – Pizarro, De Rossi (60’ Barusso) – Taddei (46’ Esposito), Giuly, Tonetto – Vucinic (84’ Cicinho). (bench: Curci, Antunes, Pit, Mançini). Coach: Spalletti.


Posted in Inter, Roma, UEFA Champions League |

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  • 3 Responses to “Champions League day 5 – Inter & Roma Earn the 3 points for an Early Playoff Ticket”

    1. Martha says:

      Mancio was full of praise for Jimenez after the match. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll ever play him again …

      And Chivu in the midfield was outrageous, I can’t believe Mancini’s trying to make it sound logical. The man is out of his damn mind.

    2. Ditto on Jimenez. It’s Inter, what do you expect… there are “stars” bound to be benched.

      As for Chivu… well it worked, didn’t it? :razz:

    3. Martha says:

      It worked in spite of him, I think, not because. There’s no way it’d have been worse with Stankovic and either Jimenez or Solari, instead of Chivu. And yes, I know Solari’s been awful — still, there’s no way it’d have been worse.