Udinese 2-1 Lech Poznań: Bianconeri Hanging Tight, Keep Italy’s Presence Alive (UEFA Cup Round of 32, 2nd Leg)

Udinese's Simone Pepe, right, celebrates with his teammates Gokhan Inler of Switzerland, during the UEFA Cup, Round of 32, second-leg soccer match between Udinese and Lech Poznan, at the Friuli Stadium in Udine , Italy, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009.  (AP Photo)

After their nasty performance in Turin and receiving the heavy criticisms of big boss Giampaolo Pozzo, Udinese can breathe some fresh air again. European air. For not only did they turn a 1-0 half-time deficit over Lech Poznań into a 2-1 victory (and subsequent qualification to the UEFA Cup’s round of 16), they are also the only Italian team to have won in Europe this week. Who would have thought?

It was a tale of two halves, in which the Bianconeri struggled considerably after conceding Rengifo’s goal and which almost mimicked the final 10 minutes of the first leg. However, Marino’s team then picked up it with verve & rage in the second 45 minutes, grabbing goals through Pepe and Di Natale. Udinese will now face the current champions, Zenit St. Petersburg, in the next round, and given the things (as many good as bad ones) this team is capable of, we can only hope their European adventure will not end there.

UEFA Cup 2008-09 - Udinese vs. Lech Poznań

UEFA Cup 2008-09 - Round of 32, Second Leg - Udinese 2-1 Lech Poznań

To say the visitors had a great start to the match would be putting things lightly. Lech started proceedings with fast-pace plays which took Udinese by surprise and created considerable trouble for their defence: just two minutes into the game Stilic’s left-footed howitzer into the net seemed like a done deal, had it not been by a deflection by Pasquale right on the goal-line. Just 10 minutes later however, Lech finally capitalized on a goal which had been in the air for quite some time, even though the facility with which Hernán Rengifo was allowed to control and finish close to the net raised many eyebrows on Marino’s bench. 1-0 Lech.

20 minutes in, Udinese finally got their head out of their shells even though they certainly didn’t seem to be particularly inspired tonight: Pepe was having trouble concentrating, Quagliarella was slow, and Di Natale highlighted by ups & downs. The Lech keeper was having a relatively calm night and the 0-1 half-time score was a fair reflection of the first 45 minutes of play.

Udinese's Simone Pepe celebrates after scoring against Lech Poznan during their UEFA Cup soccer match at the Friuli stadium in Udine February 26, 2009. (REUTERS)

The beginning of the second half was way better for the Friulians, with Lech starting to show signs of tiredness (the Polish league still hasn’t resumed after the long Winter break). The equaliser arrived more casually than intentionally (great play by Pasquale on the left, ball pinballing from Floro Flores to Simone Pepe on the far post for the easy finish), but it was a capital one because at this point of the night the Bianconeri had earned back their qualification. 1-1.

Lech wanted to react, but the execution wasn’t at par with their will. Marino wisely switched to a 4-4-2 formation (replacing Pepe with Isla) and signalled his troops to retreat in order to not give any space to their opponents. Belardi had one big scare when a Stilic free-kick almost connected with Arbeloda/Rengifo, but otherwise didn’t need to make any great saves.

The final minutes were all Udinese, with Gyan Asamoah dictating law in midfield: after putting one of his shots onto the crossbar, the Ghanaian striker set up an unmissable chance for Antonio Di Natale in stoppage time, able at not wasting his one-on-one with Turina. 2-1 Udinese. In sum a well deserved win for Marino’s boys, who despite being eons away from their Fall form showed signs of a newly found fighting spirit. Something which their fans noticed as well: after booing them at the half-time, the Bianconeri supporters joined in their squad’s celebrations at the end of the match.

Udinese's Antonio Di Natale, left, celebrates after scoring as Lech Poznan's Marcin Kikut reacts during their UEFA Cup, Round of 32, second-leg soccer match between Udinese and Lech Poznan, at the Friuli Stadium in Udine , Italy, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009.  (AP Photo)


 Udinese Calcio
2-1 (4-3 agg.)
[Match Highlights]
Lech Poznań
GOALSCORERS: 12′ Rengifo (L), 57′ Pepe (U), 91’ Di Natale (U).
UDINESE (4-3-3): Belardi – Zapata, Coda, Domizzi, Pasquale (77’ Lukovic) – Inler, D’Agostino, Asamoah – Pepe (63’ Isla), Quagliarella (46’ Floro Flores), Di Natale. (bench: Koprivec, Felipe, Obodo, Zimling). Coach: Marino.
LECH POZNAN (4-3-2-1): Turina – Wojtkowiak (83 Kikut), Bosacki, Arboleda, Djurdjevic – Bandrowski, Murawski, Injac (71’ Wilk) – Lewandowski, Stilic – Rengifo. (bench: Kotorowski, Kucharski, Tanevski, Peszko, Cueto). All. Smuda.


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