Serie A: 10-Man Roma Battle Their Way to UWCC Victory Against Chievo
It seems that drama has become the permanent shadow of Claudio Ranieri's Roma side in recent games.
Wednesday's draw with Cagliari featured two late goals, while today's tie against Chievo, Roma's 10th defence of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC ), provided the opposite: a goal almost straight from kick-off and a red card not long after.
Roma's dropped points in midweek caused them to fall behind Napoli into fifth place, but Ranieri's men were still firm favourites for today's match as they looked to leave that freak result behind them and get on with a successful 2010.
Having gone 11 matches unbeaten, spirits were high at the Stadio Olimpico, and the prospect of Champions League football next season was getting ever more appetizing as the unbeaten streak continued.
Chievo came into this match on the back of a narrow 1-0 loss to league leaders Inter Milan, making it two losses in a row to end a run of four wins on the trot.
That statistic of two losses was increased to three by Roma today, but it was by no means an easy fixture for the home side.
You would, however, have been forgiven for thinking it would have been after the first minute.
Luca Toni, making his first start for Roma since his loan move from Bayern Munich, was set through on goal by Roger Taddei after just 20 seconds.
His shot was well saved by Stefano Sorrentino, but from the resulting corner Daniele De Rossi got ahead of his man before glancing a perfect header into the bottom corner.
In fact, if you had stayed for another five minutes, you may have been asking yourself how many goals Roma were going to score, not if they were going to win.
Their early dominance, contrary to recent fixtures in which they have been slow to start, should have led to a two-goal lead inside 10 minutes, but Toni squandered another golden opportunity.
A cross, once again supplied by Taddei, found the Italian international unmarked, but his header failed to even test the 'keeper.
And while Chievo's 'keeper wasn't being troubled, the same could not be said for Roma's. A defence splitting pass from Luca Rignoni found Elvis Abbruscato who looked to poke it past the onrushing Doni, playing instead of Julio Sergio for today's match.
Unfortunately for the home side, the ball struck Doni's hand on the way past while he was outside his area, and after just over 10 minutes he was shown a red card, reducing Roma to 10 men.
Midfield maestro Mirko Vucinic was the unlucky man sacrificed, leaving Roma without arguably their two most creative players as Francesco Totti was also unavailable.
Despite this, Chievo never seemed ready to take advantage, and it was still the home side creating all of the openings.
De Rossi came close again, this time via a free-kick, and John Arne Riise latched onto a David Pizarro cross at the back post. His cross-cum-shot was just too powerful for Toni to get on the end of, though.
Taddei was the next to spurn a great chance for Roma as Riise's cross found him at the far post. The winger didn't seem able to sort his feet out in time, however, and ended up bundling the ball well off target.
The few times Chievo did threaten, they only made half-chances for themselves, not really alarming the Roma defence, allowing Juan and Nicholas Burdisso to set up a counter-attack time and time again.
Abbruscato was one bright spark for the away side, however, and his wicked shot just before half-time flew narrowly over, a rare highlight of the half for Chievo.
The second half began in a much better way for them, though, as they looked revitalised and actually started to craft goal-scoring opportunities, albeit with a little help from Roma's sub 'keeper Bogdan Lobont.
The Romanian international's poor punch gifted a chance to Luca Ariatti, but the Chievo defender fluffed his volley wide.
This didn't deter them, however, and they were threatening Roma's goal again soon after. This time it was Mario Yepes who had the chance to level the sides, but his header drifted wide.
Then, just as Chievo were getting into their stride after another decent effort, this one courtesy of Bentivoglio, they suffered new setback.
A strong run by Toni into the box caused all sorts of problems, and the big Italian appeared to have been tugged down by Davide Mandelli.
Replays showed that Roma's newest acquisition had gone down perhaps too theatrically, but the referee pointed to the spot nonetheless.
The players wanted a second yellow shown to Mandelli, but the ref was having none of it, and they suffered further disappointment seconds later as Pizarro, who had scored a penalty in the midweek tie against Cagliari, saw his spot-kick brilliantly saved by Sorrentino.
This should have inspired Chievo to kick on and really press for an equaliser, but they seemed incapable of fashioning a gilt-edge chance and worrying the Roma back-line.
In fact, it was 10-man Roma who came closest to scoring again.
Another dangerous cross from Roger Taddei found Marco Cassetti, but the full-back got himself all muddled up and bundled the ball wide from close range.
The only effort of note provided in the rest of the half from Chievo came courtesy of Bentivoglio, but his free-kick resulting in an easy save for Lobont.
There was to be no repeat of Cagliari's late drama as Roma held out for the four minutes of stoppage time to pick up a hard fought and important win which, for now at least, ensures a return to the Champions League spots for the Giallorossi.
This UWCC title defence was Roma's 10th, moving them ahead of Fulham and Manchester United as the second-longest reigning champions in the competition's history, behind Chelsea's 22.
Doni is the 16th player to be sent off in a UWCC title match, and the second from Roma following David Pizarro's red in an earlier fixture.
On the subject of Pizarro, his missed penalty was the fourth in UWCC history and, coupled with Jeremy Menez's miss, it makes Roma the only side to have had two players miss spot-kicks in different UWCC title matches.
90.9 per cent of the 22 people who voted in the poll correctly predicted that Chievo wouldn't be able to beat Roma and claim the UWCC title, so well done to the vast majority!
Barney's Prediction: Roma win (3-1) Actual Result: Roma win (1-0)
Roma 2-1 Fulham (Roma become new champions)
Roma 1-0 Chievo
( Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Roma's next title defence comes on Tuesday as they face Serie B side Triestina in the Coppa Italia.
Form book (last five matches): Roma - DWWDW; Triestina - WDLLL
Barney's prediction: Roma 5-0 Triestina
What are your predictions for this upcoming fixture? Will Triestina be able to pull off a massive upset against an inevitably weakened Roma side to become the best team in the world?!
Video highlights of Roma 1-0 Chievo can be seen here .
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