Manchester United 1-0 Roma: Sad Exit for the Giallorossi, Goalless Roma Leaves Europe (Champions League Quarter-Finals, Leg 2)

Daniele De Rossi sends his penalty kick strike over the bar (Manchester United vs. Roma, UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals)

Arrivederci Europe. For Roma, elimination from the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Manchester United feels a little bit like Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold: everyone knew it was going to happen, the only question was how.

In the end, one could say Roma left the competition with their heads up high: for much of the first half, the Giallorossi genuinely created chances and came quite close to opening the score on several occasions, refusing to be pushed over by their Premier League opponents who, much to the surprise of everyone, had chosen to play without their stars Rooney and Ronaldo.

At the end of the night though, the Giallorossi’s biggest regret will undoubtedly be the Daniele De Rossi missed penalty shot, which in minute 30 with the score still tied 0-0, could have re-opened the game. For Luciano Spalletti, the torture of the eternal “what if” question must have been particularly hard to bear…

Manchester United vs. AS Roma (UEFA Champions League)

Champions League Quarter-Finals - Leg 2 - Manchester Utd 1-0 Roma

Tactically, the big surprise of the night came from the Man Utd starting line-ups: Sir Alex Ferguson‘s choice to leave wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench certainly raised a few eyebrows, even with the upcoming big-match against Arsenal next week-end and quality replacements such as Carlos Tévez and Owen Hargreaves. With Nemanja Vidic out of action however, the Scottish manager made it capital to recuperate Rio Ferdinand at all costs, so the latest Capello-appointed England captain was regularly feature in the Red Devils’ backline. On the other side, no change of plans for Luciano Spalletti: Amantino Mancini was present, Juan back from injury reporting for duty in central defense, and Christian Panucci preferred over Cicinho (probably for the few extra pounds of muscle).

Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney get a turn of ‘rest’ vs. Roma (Manchester United vs. Roma, UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals)The initial minutes of the first half were fully colored in bright red. The Manchester United jersey colour genuinely gave the inspiration that at times, its players were turning into full-blown high-octane sportscars: fast, agile, and with mad acceleration features. The biggest “Ferrari-impersonators” in this portion of the match were Ryan Giggs, Owen Hargreaves, and Jin Sun Park, absolutely devastating with their passing combination and runs forward, ready to inspire an even more ebullient Carlos Tévez. Roma’s keeper Doni had a lot of work to do in the first fraction, avoiding danger on Hargreaves and Giggs, and parrying strikes by Park and Anderson.

It almost seemed for a moment, as if the match was turning into the 7-1 debacle of last year… for Roma this was unacceptable. Around the 20-25 minute mark, the Giallorossi armed the offensive and began to stick their heads out the hole. Mirko Vucinic really started to embody his ‘vice-Totti’ role, continuously provoking the United backline with his dribbles, and eventually his work started opening up space for Roma. Enough space in minute 29, for Mancini to get by on the left wing and be upended by Wes Brown inside the United box. Ferguson complained [after the match] this was no foul, but in all honesty Brown touched the foot of his opponent at the same time as the ball: a penalty every day of the week.

De Rossi can’t believe it… (Manchester United vs. Roma, UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals)For Roma this was the opportunity to really push United to the ropes, as a 2-1 aggregate score would have forced Ferguson to take this match seriously, and bring out his star players. Alas for the Giallorossi (and fortunately for the Red Devils), fate had other plans. Daniele De Rossi stepped up to take the spot-shot, and it immediately became obvious that nervousness was dominating the Azzurri midfielder: with over 60,000 spectactors booing, I defy anyone to stay calm under the circumstances. Now, De Rossi is usually someone with a very specific penalty-taking technique: top corner, no questions asked. In this case however, nerves cracked and De Rossi’s kick was miles over the bar.Baggio circa 1994” to quote our friend RomaChris

The half thus ended 0-0, with Roma (and De Rossi in particular) fighting on every ball, enraged with the bad luck of their missed P.K. chance. The match had officially “woken up”, not only Roma but also Manchester United, who openly accepted their opponents’ challenge of ‘let’s play this out’. In the second half things continued unchanged, but with Roma really pushing forward, trying, believing. Vucinic armed his shot from the distance, Van der Sar showed why his long-range shot-stopping skills aren’t the best, Juan and Taddei tried their luck with some headers, wide.

Carlos Tevez’s diving header puts United in the lead and 3-0 on aggregate (Manchester United vs. Roma, UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals)In minute 68, Spalletti decided to trade Pizarro for the speed of Ludovic Giuly, or in other words: time to throw everything out in the mix. Unfortunately 2 minutes later, Manchester United put the final nail in the Roma coffin: Hargreaves crossed the ball from the right, finding Carlos Tévez in front of goal, and the Argentine striker executed a spectacular short-range diving header that left Doni no chance. 1-0 Man Utd, 3-0 on aggregate, game over.

The remaining minutes were pure administration for Manchester, and worth mentioning only for the return appearance of their captain Gary Neville, back to full fitness after a long injury spell. The score however, did not change, and the match came to a close to bring Man Utd into the Semi-Finals; they will be facing Barcelona, victors 1-0 (2-0 aggregate) over Schalke 04. For Roma all that remains is the Scudetto race, another contest for which a ‘come-from-behind’ tale will be necessary.

Daniele De Rossi (left) is consoled by Philippe Mexès (Manchester United vs. Roma, UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals)


Manchester United F.C.
[Match Highlights]
A.S. Roma
GOALSCORERS: 70’ Tevez (M).
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): Van der Sar – Brown, Piqué, R.Ferdinand, Silvestre – Carrick (73’ O’Shea), Hargreaves – J.S.Park, Anderson (81’ G.Neville), Giggs (73’.Rooney) – Tevez. (bench: Kuszczak, Welbeck, Scholes, C.Ronaldo). Coach: Ferguson.
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni – Panucci, Mexès, Juan, Cassetti (56’ Tonetto) – De Rossi, D.Pizarro (68’ Giuly) – Taddei (81’ F.Esposito), Perrotta, Mancini – Vucinic. (bench: Curci, Cicinho, Brighi, Aquilani). Coach: Spalletti.


Posted in English Premiership, Roma, UEFA Champions League |

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