World Football: AS Roma Remains Best Team in World After Thrashing CSKA Sofia
Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC ) witnessed another defence yesterday as champions Roma took on CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria.
The match was simply a formality at this point, with both teams' fates in the Europa League having been decided already.
With their win against Basel two weeks ago, Roma had ensured a place in the knock-out stages, while CSKA Sofia's failure to win a single match so far meant they had to settle for finishing bottom of the group.
And that winless streak continued last night as Roma comfortably dispatched their opponents 3-0 in what was a tricky away tie.
With progress already secured, Claudio Ranieri lived up to his old nickname of "the Tinkerer" by making a host of changes.
With such a weakened Roma side, coupled with their home advantage, Sofia must have thought a first win, or at least a second point, was very much a possibility.
This attitude was reflected in the opening stages of the match as they made the stronger start and, as such, were rewarded with the first half-chance.
A through ball by Svetoslav Petrov found Michel, and his cross ended up troubling stand-in Roma 'keeper Bogdan Lobont before eventually going wide.
Roma seemed happy to settle for a draw, despite the match still being in the first-half, and it was Sofia who were the only team who really looked like scoring.
A long-range effort by Jordan Minez was well saved by Lobont, and the follow up from Spas Delev was fired well over the crossbar, a waste of a good chance.
They didn't have to wait too long for another chance, however, and this time they really should have taken the lead with it.
Kostadin Stoyanov, ever the aerial threat, got on the end of Delev's cross, but his powerful header just missed the target.
This near-miss seemed to spark Roma into life. After all, a win would ensure that they were seeded for the next round of the competition.
Almost immediately, they responded. A cross from David Pizarro fell to Simone Perrotta, and his volley found its way past goalkeeper Zdravko Chavdarov. Unfortunately for the away side, however, it cannoned back off the upright.
For the rest of the half, Roma exerted their superior quality over their opponents with a series of chances.
Stefano Okaka Chuka showed some good footwork by dancing his way into the box, but he couldn't beat Chavdarov to give his side the lead.
That lead did come just before the half-time interval, however. De Rossi's long ball forward was excellently controlled by Alessio Cerci, before the Italian cut inside, beating two men with a good dummy, and hammered the ball past Chavdarov.
It was a great goal, and exactly what Sofia didn't need going into the half-time break. Had they got to half-time level, I'm sure they would have taken heart from that and had a real go at the game.
As it was, though, Roma picked up where they left off as the second half got underway.
Okaka and John Arne Riise combined with only a good interception by Apostol Popov denying Okaka a great chance before Roma's lead was doubled.
On the 53-minute mark, one long ball forward beat the entire Sofia defence, allowing Cerci to run through and finish well by sliding it under the keeper.
With victory seemingly all but secured, Roma took their foot off the pedal, which could have proved to be a mistake had the home side been more clinical in front of goal.
Iordan Miniev's effort from the edge of the box only narrowly cleared Lobont's crossbar, and that seemed to give Sofia the impetus to push for a goal that would get them back in the game.
The goal wasn't forthcoming, and the closest they got to it was through a long range free-kick from Petrov. Only a fine save by Lobont denied the Bulgarian.
Roma also had chances as they looked to expose their opponents on the counter attack. De Rossi once again found Cerci, who was completely unmarked.
His inexperience shone through, however, as he opted to go for his hat-trick rather than squaring the ball to Okaka, who would have had a simple tap-in. In the end, Cerci's strike was straight at Chavdarov.
The third goal came late on as Perrotta and sub Filippo Scardina hounded a Sofia defender, causing him to make a mistake and lose the ball.
Perrotta advanced into the box before doing what Cerci hadn't done earlier, and squaring the ball to Scardina who rolled it into the empty net.
The win means that Roma top Group E, progressing to the next round alongside second place Fulham.
The result also means that Roma have now successfully defended the UWCC title seven times in one reign, which puts them third on the all-time list behind Fulham, Manchester United (both nine), and Chelsea (22).
There were 88.9 percent of the people who voted in the poll that correctly predicted that CSKA Sofia wouldn't take Roma's UWCC crown, so well done to the majority again!
Roma 2-1 Fulham (Roma become new champions)
CSKA Sofia 0-3 Roma
( Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Roma's next title defence comes on Sunday as they host fourth-place Parma in an intriguing match-up. Could Parma become the best club side in the world?!
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