Captain Francesco Totti Returns To Ensure Roma Remains Best in the World

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Captain Francesco Totti Returns To Ensure Roma Remains Best in the World
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC ) witnessed another defence yesterday as champions Roma took on Bari at the Stadio Olimpico.

Both teams would have been eager to hit the ground running after the international break and, although Roma were coming into this match on the back of an impressive draw with league leaders Inter Milan, they were by no means clear favourites.

Bari started the match three points better off than their opponents and, despite playing at a ground in which they had never won, manager Giampiero Ventura would have been hopeful of grabbing something from the game.

He didn't count on the returning Francesco Totti immediately hitting his best form, however, as the captain helped Roma cruise to a 3-1 win.

Totti had been missing for a number of weeks due to injury, and all eyes were on him to see whether he could jump straight back into the type of form that has made him a hero at the club.

He didn't disappoint.

But Mirko Vucinic almost stole the spotlight within the first two minutes. As Roma made their attacking intent clear from the first whistle, Vucinic took the ball past two defenders before curling a delicate shot towards the bottom right corner from the edge of the box, only to see it bounce back off the foot of the post.

Bari had a fantastic chance of their own a little over a minute later in a frantic opening to the match.

A lovely through ball found Barreto's run but the Brazilian striker shot straight at Julio Sergio.

Roma took full advantage of this let-off just minutes later after a mistake by Andrea Ranocchia.

The Bari defender was caught in possession by the ever-alert Vucinic who continued to burst into the box, only to be brought down by goalkeeper Jean-Francois Gillet, although replays suggested very little contact.

The stage was set for the returning hero to step up and, sure enough, Totti converted the spot-kick with typical aplomb after just six minutes.

Less than ten minutes later, Totti showed his quality once more from another set-piece. This time it was a free-kick just outside the box, which was laid off to him before the talismanic skipper hammered it past Gillet.

Despite Totti and Roma looking in ominous form, Bari weren't ready to throw the towel in just yet and, but for a magnificent piece of goalkeeping from Sergio, they would have been right back in it.

Antonio Langella got on the end of a cross at the back post, connecting perfectly with a volley only to see Sergio demonstrate unbelievable reflexes to claw the ball out from underneath the crossbar.

Sergio's opposite number was soon in action again, this time courtesy of Jeremy Menez's low strike, which Gillet turned round the post.

But no matter how many cameos either 'keeper, or indeed any other player, made, it was always going to be the Totti show, and Il Capitano capped the perfect return with another stunning goal before halftime.

After a moment of pinball inside the Bari penalty area, the ball fell to Totti who, from a tight angle, fired it home with deadly accuracy and power to complete a stunning hat-trick.

While the match had gone better than he could have dreamed of, he could, and perhaps should, have extended his tally.

After finding space on the right hand side, he shot powerfully, but this time Gillet was equal to it, beating the ball away.

Bari had a chance to salvage a glimmer of hope before halftime when Barreto brilliantly slipped in again, but, as with his earlier chance, he shot straight at Sergio.

With such an action-packed first half, it was a wonder the players had anything left for the second, but they did and it was Bari who came out fighting.

Vladimir Koman threatened on occasion, working Sergio, before the Roma 'keeper was well and truly beaten by Sergio Almiron. Fortunately for the home side, Almiron's thunderous effort from long range cannoned back off the crossbar and Roma escaped with their three-goal lead intact.

And they looked content to sit back and defend that lead, which inevitably handed the attacking initiative over to Bari.

Koman had another good chance after a momentary lack of concentration in the Roma defence as they all left a wayward back-pass from Nicholas Burdisso for each other, allowing the Hungarian Koman to steal in. Once again, however, Sergio was equal to the task.

Bari finally got the deserved breakthrough on the 75 minute mark when Roma's Marco Andreolli inadvertently headed in from a corner for an own goal.

Totti's brilliant hat-trick was only the third in UWCC history, following in the footsteps of Darren Bent and Steven Gerrard, and the first of this season, while the same applies for Marco Andreolli's own goal, with only Jamie Carragher and Kolo Toure having netted at the wrong end in a UWCC title match before.

Totti's penalty was also the 16th penalty in UWCC history, becoming the eighth different player to score from the spot.

For once, the majority of voters in the poll correctly predicted that Bari wouldn't be able to take the title off Roma, so well done to the 77.8 percent of you who got the right answer!

 

Roma's run

Roma 2-1 Fulham (Roma become new champions)

Inter Milan 1-1 Roma

Roma 3-1 Bari

 

( Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)

 

Roma's next title defence comes next Sunday as they travel to face Atalanta. Can Atalanta become the best team in the world?!

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