Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC) witnessed another defence today as champions Roma travelled to Genoa to take on mid-table Sampdoria.
The home side were looking to become the first team to prize the UWCC title away from Roma, but to do that they had to overturn their recent form in the league.
After three losses in a row in all competitions, including two 3-0 defeats in Serie A, Luigi Del Neri's men were desperate to stop the rot and begin to march up the league table, much like Roma had done in recent weeks.
When they won the UWCC title off Fulham at the start of November, Roma were way down in 14th place. However, after an impressive seven match unbeaten run, capturing 19 points from a possible 21 (the only dropped points came away to league leaders Inter Milan) the Giallorossi had become a force to be reckoned with.
And, although they couldn't grab all three points in today's game, they extended their unbeaten run to eight by holding Sampdoria to a 0-0 draw.
Despite the contrasting form books, however, both teams entered the match level on points, and the draw ensured they joined a group of six teams stuck on 24 points.
On a bitterly cold night in Italy both sides looked to make a strong, fast start to the match, if only to warm themselves up!
Sampdoria's Antonio Cassano, playing against his old club, threatened early on when his chipped cross caused confusion, or perhaps a lack of communication, between Julio Sergio and Nicolas Burdisso.
The opening exchanges then became a volleying contest as both teams came close with efforts of their own.
First, Mirko Vucinic whipped in a dangerous ball to Francesco Totti who demonstrated his magnificent awareness with a clever dummy, allowing the ball to travel unimpeded to Rodrigo Taddei at the back post.
After the Roma man had taken time to steady himself, he unleashed a powerful strike from a tight angle which stung the palms of Sampdoria goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi.
From the resulting corner, John Arne Riise came close with a volley of his own. This time it was a move straight off the training ground as the deep cross found Riise storming in and, although he didn't connect quite as well as he'd have liked to, the ball bobbled perilously close to the Sampdoria goal.
But anything Roma can do, Sampdoria can do too, and it wasn't long before they came even closer with yet another volley.
Cassano was again the man doing the damage. This time his cross was met by Daniele Mannini who connected perfectly with a thunderous strike, only to see it flash past the post.
A recurring theme of the match seemed to be the danger of Cassano out wide, as the ex-Roma man consistently supplied chances for his teammates. Julio Sergio had to be alert, and brave, to deny Giampaolo Pazzini a certain goal from another low Cassano cross.
But the end-to-end spectacle continued as neither team managed to gain control of the match. Matteo Brighi's pass found Simone Perrotta for Roma, but his shot was blocked by the face of Gastaldello.
Fast-forward to the other end, and Sampdoria were gifted the best chance of the match.
Angelo Palumbo brought the ball down about 30 yards from the Roma goal before curling a fantastic low effort towards the bottom corner, only to be denied by a sprawling Julio Sergio.
The resulting corner provided the chance the home side had been waiting for as Marius Stankevicius connected with a brilliant header, only to be denied by the far post with Julio Sergio beaten.
With the Roma 'keeper down and an open goal gaping, the ball fell to Pazzini, but the Sampdoria man was off-balance and couldn't convert the header.
Finally, the breakneck speed at which the match had been played began to slow, and it was Roma who found the element of control both sides had been searching for.
Despite this however, they couldn't create the sort of chances that were available when the game had been more open.
Roma players and fans will tell you they should have had a penalty in the 41st minute when Brighi was brought down, but there seemed no doubt in the referee's mind that it was not a foul.
The second half began as the first ended: with Roma looking the more controlling of the two sides. This time, however, they did manage to conjure up a good chance but, in their eagerness to convert it, Perrotta and Burdisso got in each others' way.
Taddei's cross was hung up to the far post, but both Roma men went for the same ball, squandering a very good opportunity to get the opener.
Another Roma chance was not far behind, and again it fell to Perrotta. Some smart work on the left win from Vucinic, coupled with some beautiful link-up play involving Totti, led to Perrotta being through on goal.
The pressure applied from the back-tracking defender, as well as the on-rushing goalkeeper, seemed to get to him, though, as he panicked and toe-poked the ball wide.
As Roma pushed harder for the winner, it started to seem more like a matter of when, and not if, they would take the lead. But time was fast becoming their enemy.
They did come extremely close once more, and, but for a magnificent save by Castellazzi, they may well have been celebrating a victory tonight.
Mirko Vucinic was found by a Totti corner, and his fine header almost looped over the Sampdoria 'keeper, but he somehow managed to dive back and claw it over the crossbar.
One final chance for the away side came courtesy of Vucinic this time, as the skillful midfielder stood-up a cross to Perrotta; but his header was well blocked before it had a chance to trouble Castellazzi.
The result was the 11th 0-0 draw in UWCC history, and the first for 27 matches, since Chelsea and Barcelona drew in the Champions League semi-final first-leg.
75 percent of people who voted in the poll correctly predicted that Roma would defend their UWCC crown, so well done to the majority!
Roma 2-1 Fulham (Roma become new champions)
Sampdoria 0-0 Roma
(Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Roma's next defence comes on Wednesday as they face a tricky away fixture against CSKA Sofia in the Europa League. Could CSKA Sofia become the best club side in the world?!
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