Roma Conquered as Panathinaikos Become the New Best Side in the World
Claudio Ranieri's Roman empire has finally been defeated.
After a magnificent run of 20 games unbeaten, the Giallorossi finally came unstuck last night in a 3-2 loss to Panathinaikos in the Europa League.
In doing so, they not only lost that magnificent run, but they also surrendered Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC) to the Greek side after a thrilling finish.
Having fought off the likes of Inter Milan and Juventus since winning the title, a tough away tie in front of a hostile Panathinaikos crowd proved to be a step too far for Roma.
The home side, spurred on by the vociferous support, made the better start to the match and managed to carve out a great chance to take an early lead through former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse.
Sotiris Ninis won the ball and charged forward with real purpose before brilliantly finding Cisse. The Frenchman proceeded to drill the ball toward the bottom corner, but Julio Sergio got down well to make the save.
It was another former Liverpool man that threatened next, this time for Roma. John Arne Riise did well to control a long cross before sending a trademark thunderbolt against the Panathinaikos crossbar.
Ninis was the next to try his luck from distance, testing Sergio with a rasping effort.
The home side continually pressed forward, but no clear cut chances presented themselves. Instead, it was Roma who carved out opportunities against a shaky back line.
It was from one such chance that the game saw its first goal.
Julio Baptista gave the ball to Vucinic on the edge of the box who, after taking one touch to control it, curled a magnificent shot into the top corner.
Panathinaikos keeper Alexandros Tzorvas didn't stand a chance as Vucinic's brilliance gave Roma the lead.
Roma knew the value of the away goal and immediately set about defending it with vigour.
Neither side could really gain control of the tie as the first half began to wind down, but it was the home side who were pushing the issue the most.
Georgios Karagounis saw a half-chance denied before Cisse headed wide from close range, both trying in vain to level the sides before the halftime interval.
Roma's defensive tactics were less prevalent in the second half as they went in search a killer second goal, and on a number of occasions they looked like getting it.
Marco Motta's powerful effort was denied by Tzorvas, and Vucinic almost doubled his tally for the night when he did well to find space and unleash a shot, only for it to be blocked by a last-gasp lunge.
The away side were punished for not taking their chances just after the hour mark, however, as Panathinaikos equalised.
A corner was headed into the danger area by Cisse, allowing an unmarked Dimitris Salpigidis to scuff home from inside the six yard box with his first touch after coming on as a substitute just minutes earlier.
With a 1-1 scoreline not catastrophic for either side, both were wary of throwing too much forward in the fear of being caught out.
The chances for the next 20 minutes or so, then, were few and far between.
Jeremy Menez was the only player to really threaten during this time, dribbling down the wing before cutting inside, only for Tzorvas to get to the Roma winger before he could pull the trigger.
It was the final 10 minutes in which the game sprung to life with an amazing flurry of goals.
The first came in the 81st minute, when Alessandro Cerci ran straight at the Panathinaikos back line. As he entered the box, he was tripped by a stray leg as he collided with two Panathinaikos defenders, leaving the referee no option but to point to the spot.
Up stepped David Pizarro and, under immense pressure from the Partizan crowd, the Roma striker slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
With two away goals to their name, Roma must have been delighted, but this joy was to turn into despair in a matter of minutes.
First, their inability to clear a Panathinaikos corner led to a goal-mouth scramble which eventually resulted in an acrobatic finish from an acute angle by substitute Lazaros Christodoulopoulos.
Once again, Roma had been undone by a sub's first touch.
Then, as the game entered is final minute, a wicked cross in from the right found Cisse who flicked the ball past sub keeper Doni to send the home crowd into raptures.
It was a dramatic end to a thrilling match as Panathinaikos completed a superb comeback.
The result brings to an end a wonderful UWCC title reign from Roma, in which they defended it 19 times, just three short of Chelsea's 22-match record.
In that time, they amassed 51 points, a tally five short of Chelsea's record, but, at an average of 2.55 points per game, they are the most successful UWCC champions in history.
Their 39 goals represent the second highest amount in a single reign, again falling short of Chelsea's tally (49).
In winning the title, Panathinaikos have become the sixth team to top their league table and be the UWCC champions at the same time, following in the footsteps of Chelsea (twice), Liverpool (twice), and Manchester United.
They also become only the second team not to have lost a UWCC title match as challengers, joining Wigan in that regard.
Of the 30 voters in the poll, just 10 percent correctly predicted that Panathinaikos would be able to stop Roma's run, so well done to the minority on this occasion!
Barney's prediction: Draw (1-1) Actual Result: Panathinaikos win (3-2)
Correct prediction streak: Zero matches in a row!
Panathinaikos 3-2 Roma (Panathinaikos become new champions)
(Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Congratulations must go to Panathinaikos for toppling Roma, and their first title defence comes away to third place PAOK on Sunday in the Greek Super League.
Form Book (last five matches): PAOK - WWLDW; Panathinaikos - DWWLW
Barney's prediction: PAOK 1-1 Panathinaikos
What are your predictions for this upcoming fixture? Can newly-crowned champions Panathinaikos safely negotiate the tricky start to their reign, or will PAOK move closer to the top of the Super League?
Voice your opinions in the comments section!
All the goals from Panathinaikos 3-2 Roma 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 from the start of the season!
Last time we saw that Fulham beating Chelsea would have led to the title bouncing around the Russian league before finally finding it's way to Inter Milan.
This week, we'll look at where the title would be if Burnley had beaten Chelsea on Aug. 29, 2009.
Burnley would have lost the title to Liverpool on Sept. 12, 2009.
Liverpool would have lost the title to Fiorentina on Sept. 29, 2009.
Fiorentina would have lost the title to Napoli on Oct. 25, 2009.
Napoli would have lost the title to Juventus on Jan. 13, 2010.
Juventus would have lost the title to Chievo on Jan. 17, 2010.
Chievo would have lost the title to Genoa on Feb. 7, 2010.
Genoa would have lost the title to Juventus on Feb. 14, 2010.
Juventus would still have the title!
On this day...
On this day (Feb. 18) in 2008, Manchester United beat Fulham 3-0 courtesy of a Mark Schwarzer own goal, as well as goals from Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney.
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