Seeing Red: Two Sent Off for Catania As Roma Progress To Italian Cup Semifinals
It seems that Roma manager Claudio Ranieri can do no wrong at the moment.
While his opposite number on Saturday, Ciro Ferrara, is under huge pressure with Juventus—a positive result against Inter Milan on Thursday could be the only thing to save his job—the "Tinkerman" just can't stop winning.
His latest conquest came in an incident-packed match against Catania, the latest defence of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC ).
Both sides were competing for a place in the semifinals of the Coppa Italia, but the similarities stopped there.
Roma's unbeaten run heading into this match stretched back to Oct. 28, a streak of 15 matches which had catapulted them up to third in the league table.
Catania weren't in bad form either, unbeaten in three with just one loss in their last six games, but their league position (18th) betrayed the fact that they haven't been in such good shape all season.
They would have taken hope from Roma's injury list, however, which included key players such as Luca Toni, Mirko Vucinic, and Francesco Totti to name just three.
This didn't stop the home side making the better start, though, and it was soon evident that, even with their injury problems, Roma were a class above their opponents.
Half-chances fell to Marco Motta and Stefano Okaka, both heavily linked with moves to the Premier League, early on and only desperate, last-ditch defending, coupled with some less than stellar finishing, prevented the home side from taking the lead.
Catania were rarely given chances to threaten Doni's goal, and when those opportunities did arrive, no one was able to make the most of them.
Giavinto Plasmati had perhaps the best chance as far as Catania were concerned, but his lack of urgency ensured Doni wasn't tested. A long through ball put the Italian striker in space, but he was crowded out and eventually had his shot blocked.
It was a rare foray into Roma's box for Catania, as the Giallorossi controlled the play. Despite their obvious superiority, however, they weren't able to create many clear-cut chances.
John Arne Riise, who gave Roma all three points in dramatic style against Juventus at the weekend, saw a trademark strike tipped over, and from the following corner Phillipe Mexes squandered a good chance from close range.
Okaka then had two opportunities to finally give Roma a deserved lead, but once again the Catania goal survived.
Much of this survival was down to their goalkeeper Andrea Campagnolo, who was coping well with the task of playing behind an outclassed defence.
Yet he could be very thankful for some poor finishing, and no doubt after the match breathed a huge sigh of relief that the prolific Luca Toni wasn't playing.
Both these factors combined to ensure Roma let another potential goal pass them by as Campagnolo parried a Riise effort to Okaka, but the Roma striker took too long and Christian Terlizzi dealt with the danger.
While Okaka was guilty of missing the most chances, it was De Rossi who missed the best on the stroke of half-time.
After some neat footwork to create space, his shot beat Campagnolo but skimmed the post, leaving the home fans wondering whether they'd ever get the breakthrough.
These musings would have been accentuated when substitute Jeremy Menez had his shot parried into the path of Okaka who again blew a golden opportunity when he placed his follow-up effort wide.
However, the air of inevitability about Roma's impending goal increased considerably in the space of 15 minutes as Catania had two players sent off.
The first came just before the hour mark as Giuseppe Bellusci pulled down Roger Taddei to receive his second yellow card.
It was a big blow for Catania, who would have begun dreaming about holding Roma out for the remaining half an hour.
Then, in the 72nd minute, Blazej Augustyn also received his marching orders courtesy of a second yellow when he dragged Okaka down as the Roma striker was through on goal.
Just two minutes later, Roma took full advantage of their extra men. A low ball into the box was well controlled by Okaka, who turned and laid it off to De Rossi, steaming in on the edge of the box.
The stand-in skipper for the Giallorossi fired a low, powerful strike first time into the bottom corner to finally break the deadlock.
It was a lead Roma held without trouble until the final whistle and, in truth, Catania could be forgiven for being relieved it wasn't considerably more.
The result puts Roma into the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia where they will face the winners of today's match between AC Milan and Udinese.
The match was Roma's 14th defence of the UWCC crown, a total which establishes them as the second most successful champions in UWCC history, overtaking Fulham's 13 defences over two reigns.
The win also puts them on to 27 points won at home in UWCC title matches, which is more than any other team has managed in one spell.
Of the 20 voters in the poll, 85 percent correctly predicted that Roma would avoid defeat against Catania, so once again well done to the majority!
Barney's prediction: Roma win (2-0) Actual Result: Roma win (1-0)
Correct prediction streak: One match in a row!
Roma 2-1 Fulham (Roma become new champions)
Roma 1-0 Catania
( 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 face bottom of the table Siena in Serie A at the Stadio Olimpico.
Form Book (last five matches): Roma - WWWWW; Siena - LLLLD
Barney's prediction: Roma 4-1 Siena
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What are your predictions for this upcoming fixture? Could Siena, who have conceded 14 goals in their last four matches, pull of one of the shocks of the season and become the best team in the world?!
Where would it be now?
Introducing a new feature to the UWCC articles!
"Where would it be now?" looks at where the UWCC title would be had results in specific matches been different, starting with the match Roma won the title in.
So, where would it be if Fulham had beaten Roma on Nov. 5, 2009?
Fulham would have lost the title to Birmingham on Nov. 21, 2009.
Birmingham would still have the title!
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