Roma With One Foot in Coppa Italia Final After 2-0 Win Over Udinese
Confidence plays an important part in football, and Claudio Ranieri's Roma side must have it in abundance at the moment.
In their most recent defence of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC ), they ensured that their recent progression wasn't limited to Serie A as they put one foot in the Coppa Italia final.
Such a result in the semi-final first leg will heighten expectation in Rome even further, as they continue their unlikely quest for a league and cup double.
Udinese were the latest team to fall foul of Ranieri's winning machine. Unlike others, however, they will get a chance to redeem themselves in the not-too-distant future as the two sides clash in the second leg.
Often in the latter stages of cup competitions, the "cup football feeling" is missing, as both sides cautiously feel each other out. In the opening exchanges of this match, however, both sides threw caution to the wind.
This, inevitably, resulted in half-chances for both sides. Alexis Sanchez and Kwadwo Asamoah both threatened for Udinese, only to be thwarted by Doni and miss from close range respectively.
Roma had chances of their own early on, with Totti having a shot blocked and Simone Perrotta heading a John Arne Riise cross narrowly over the bar.
While both sides had a similar amount of chances, it was Roma who looked more dangerous.
This was confirmed after just 12 minutes when they took an important early lead through Mirko Vucinic.
One long ball exposed some wayward defending on the part of Udinese to send the Montenegrin striker through on goal.
With so much time to compose himself and pick his spot, it was inevitable he would fire past the stranded Samir Handanovic to give Roma a 1-0 lead.
He could well have doubled that minutes later, too. A Francesco Totti cross found Vucinic, but this time he got his angles wrong and headed the ball wide.
As the match wore on, Udinese found it harder to break the Roma defence down, with the attack looking like it lacked the quality to create something special.
Every now and again they would get a half chance, but Doni's goal was rarely under serious threat.
Gaetano D'Agostino probably had their best chance of the first half when he capitalised on a deflection only to see his curling effort saved by Doni.
Roma seemed happy to let Udinese have the ball in and around the half-way line as they sat back and ensured no gaps would appear, and so no chances were gifted to the away side.
And when Roma did obtain the ball, they used it well.
A trademark Riise effort forced a save from Handanovic, while Roger Taddei should have at least done the same when Totti created a chance for him.
With such a toothless attacking display from Udinese, many Roma fans could have been forgiven for celebrating an early victory five minutes from the end of the first half as Phillipe Mexes doubled the Giallorossi's advantage.
A David Pizarro free-kick was perfectly delivered into the danger area, and Mexes rose above his marker to head past the helpless Udinese keeper.
The away side kept plugging away, though, and didn't seem ready to give up on the tie just yet.
Antonio Floro Flores and Sanchez both went close before the referee signalled the end of the half, which may have given some degree of hope to the travelling fans.
Roma, understandably, seemed even more content to sit back and soak up the pressure in the second half, but they should have extended their lead even further just after the interval.
Daniele De Rossi's pass was well controlled by Vucinic, but the Roma striker fired wide, much to the dismay of the home crowd.
Udinese were keen to take advantage of Vucinic's missed opportunity, and came very close to doing so on a number of occasions throughout the second half.
Nicolas Burdisso didn't put enough on a back-pass, allowing Sanchez through, but the Udinese man was denied by the alert Doni.
The same two players were involved soon after, as Sanchez was gifted a magnificent chance to get his side back into the game following Di Natale's through ball, but once again Doni came out on top in fine fashion.
Udinese's day was summed up when Floro Flores was flagged for offside when clear through on goal, although replays showed he was comfortably onside.
Not for the first time in the match, Udinese had been denied a route back into the game by the narrowest of margins.
Vucinic's goal was his fifth in UWCC title matches, becoming only the 11th player ever to reach that milestone, and the second from Roma.
Of the 26 voters in the poll, an overwhelming 96.2 percent correctly predicted that Roma would avoid defeat to Udinese, so well done to the vast majority!
Barney's prediction: Roma win (2-1) Actual result: Roma win (2-0)
Correct prediction streak: Three matches in a row!
Roma 2-1 Fulham (Roma become new champions)
Roma 2-0 Udinese
( 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 travel to fellow Coppa Italia semi-finalists Fiorentina in Serie A.
Form Book (last five matches): Fiorentina - LWLDL; Roma - WWWWW
Barney's prediction: Fiorentina 0-1 Roma
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What are your predictions for this upcoming fixture? Will Fiorentina be the first team to beat Roma this decade, winning the UWCC title in the process?
Voice your opinions in the comments section!
Video highlights for Roma 2-0 Udinese can be seen here .
Where would it be now?
This week, "Where would it be now?" continues to track the alternative route of the UWCC title through the season.
Last time we saw that Manchester United beating Chelsea in the Community Shield would have made little difference at all, but where would it be if Hull had beaten Chelsea on the opening day of the Premier League season?
Hull would have lost the title to Tottenham on Aug. 22, 2009.
T ottenham would have lost the title to Manchester United on Sept. 12, 2009.
Manchester United would have lost the title to Liverpool on Oct. 25, 2009.
Liverpool would have lost the title to Arsenal on Oct. 28, 2009.
Arsenal would have lost the title to Sunderland on Nov. 21, 2009.
Sunderland would have lost the title to Wigan on Nov. 28, 2009.
Wigan would have lost the title to Birmingham on Dec. 5, 2009.
Birmingham would have lost the title to Chelsea on Jan. 27, 2010.
Chelsea would still have the title!
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