Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC) witnessed another defence today as champions Fulham took on Italian side Roma at the Stadio Olympico.
Roma came into this match in indifferent form, having recorded just one win in their last five games, but the home advantage provided by the cauldron that is the Stadio Olympico once again made Roma the firm favourites, just as they had been two weeks previously in the return fixture.
Fulham surprised most by dominating large parts of that match, but a late goal for Roma gave the Italian side a draw.
Their performance in that match, and the subsequent draw against Manchester City and win against Liverpool, however, had shown fans and pundits alike that Fulham were not a team to just make up the numbers.
They showed this again tonight but, despite a spirited effort, the West London side were unable to avoid defeat, having two players sent off on their way to a 2-1 loss.
It started so well for them. They were the brightest team in the early exchanges, much to the chagrin of the home supporters.
Their play seemed to take Roma by surprise and, after just 20 minutes, Fulham took an unexpected but deserved lead.
Zoltan Gera's pass found Clint Dempsey who, in turn, cut the ball back to Diomancy Kamara. The Senegalese striker was then tripped by Roma's goal hero of the reverse fixture, Marco Andreolli, and the referee pointed to the spot.
Kamara picked himself up, dusted himself off, and coolly slid the ball past Doni to give the visitors the lead.
The goal seemed to spark the Italians into action and Phillipe Mexes should have given his team the perfect reply soon after.
Mexes met a dangerous cross from Cicinho, but the Frenchman headed just wide.
Mexes was involved again a few moments later after his effort was blocked by John Pantsil. The players and home support screamed for a penalty to be given because of the suspected handball, but this time the ref refused the claims.
Both teams looked dangerous at times, but it was Fulham who were looking the more comfortable.
And they should have perhaps been twice as comfortable as the first half wound down.
Kamara missed a golden chance to double his tally when his header from Paul Konchesky's cross went the wrong side of the far post as far as he was concerned.
There was still time for yet another Fulham chance before the half was through, though. This time, it was Clint Dempsey who found himself in space, but his shot ended up going wide.
The second half began with a game-changing moment. Just three minutes in, Erik Nevland tackled Daniele De Rossi from behind, and his foul was deemed bad enough by the official to warrant a red card.
Replays suggested the dismissal was harsh, but the Norweigan striker had no option but to leave the pitch.
Fulham, who had been on top with 11 men on the field, suddenly found themselves under a lot more pressure, and there is no doubt that Nevland's red card drastically changed the course of the match.
Almost immediately after the incident, Roma's Rodrigo Taddei worried Mark Schwarzer with a long range effort.
Taddei then turned provider for Stefano Guberti, whose close-range header was directed wide.
As Roma continued to press for the equaliser, Fulham refused to give way. However, time was becoming their enemy, and it seemed like a matter of when Roma would get the goal, rather than if they would.
And many inside the ground thought they had the much sought after equaliser on the hour mark when Guperti's strike was met by a fine save from Schwarzer.
The home crowd wouldn't have to wait too much longer for a goal, however, as after 68 minutes, former Liverpool player John Arne Riise's strike from the edge of the box deflected off two players, including his younger brother Bjorn Helge, wrong-footing Schwarzer.
The Australian shot-stopper was picking the ball out of the back of his net once more less than ten minutes later as Roma took the lead for the first time.
Taddei's cross was met with a close-range header from Stefano Okaka-Chuka which beat Schwarzer, despite the Fulham keeper managing to get a hand on it.
Even when Fulham threw everything at Roma late on, it was the home side who looked more like scoring.
Schwarzer was called into action once again when Okaka-Chuka forced a save after an acrobatic effort.
Fulham had one last chance to level the scores, but Chris Baird's goal-bound effort was cleared by Mexes.
The evening went from bad to worse for the Cottagers with just seconds remaining, however, as Paul Konchesky fouled Taddei to receive his marching orders.
The win means that Roma become the first non-English team to hold the title of unofficially being the best club in the world.
Fulham's four-game run as champions brings their all-time title defences tally up to 13, second in the rankings behind Chelsea's 29.
The two red cards mean that Fulham are the most ill-disciplined team in UWCC history, having had three players receive their marching orders, the other being Stephen Kelly.
Just 37.5 percent of the voters in the previous poll correctly predicted that Roma would claim the UWCC title from Fulham, so well done to the minority once again!
Roma 2-1 Fulham (Roma become new champions)
(Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Congratulations to the new champions!
Roma's first title defence comes on Sunday and is a tough away tie against Jose Mourinho's league leaders—Inter Milan. Can Inter become the best team in the world?!
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