The most exciting part of the UEFA Champions League is underway, The Knockout Stages. We’re getting closer to crowning a European champion and if Italian teams continue to play the way they did on Tuesday in the 1st leg of the Round of 16 then the UEFA Champions League trophy will not settle in Lo Stivale.
The Italian champions vs. The English champions, Mourinho vs. Fergie, it was the most talked about of all the Round of 16 matchups and the match was a disappointing 0-0 draw. The Red Devils were hurting defensively as they were missing Wes Brown, Rafael, Gary Neville, and Nemanja Vidic. Yet, their organization in the back was solid with John O’Shea & Jonny Evans filling in nicely at the San Siro to shutout Inter.
Inter’s strike duo of Zlatan Ibrahimovic & Adriano could only muster 4 shots, neither of them troubling Edwin Van Der Sar. With Man U not fielding its top defenders, Inter failed to consistently pressure the Red Devils defense and blew an excellent opportunity at home to put the defending champions in a hole. The Nerazzurri‘s savior was Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar.
The Inter netminder was undoubtedly the Man Of The Match for the Italian champs and his performance preserved their hopes of advancing. Julio Cesar made big saves on Ryan Giggs & Cristiano Ronaldo that could have put Inter 2 road goals down. Manchester United controlled the match and Inter Milan should be embarrassed not to have gotten a goal or even seriously threatened Van Der Sar. Lucky for them, there is Julio Cesar and an away goals rule.
This matchup featured two teams fighting for a place in next year’s Champions League in their respective leagues. Roma did not enter this match in a goal scoring funk like Arsenal. If Il Giallorossi had finished better they could have a solid 2 or 3 road goal advantage heading to the 2nd leg in Rome.
The entire match was marred by poor finishing with both sides missing opportunities to take command and put themselves in the best position to advance to the next round. It took a 37th minute penalty from Robin Van Persie to end Arsenal’s scoring drought and magnify Roma’s finishing woes.
Another Brazilian keeper kept the Italians alive, this time it was Doni. His save against Alou Diaby in the 66th minute preserved hope for the Romans. Although it was poor finishing from Arsenal that could be Roma’s saving grace.
Overall, Italian sides did not produce the finishing and attacking that they are capable of. Both matches saw clean sheets against Inter & Roma, two squads able to score mulitple goals on anyone. It was a disappointing display of skill for Inter & Roma and both of them will have to be spectacular in order to advance. Serie A fans have to hope now that Juventus can light it up for Italy.