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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

AS Roma Defeats Manchester United For The First Time

AS Roma and Manchester United, two storied European franchises, had never met before in a competitive game. Tonight, in a quarterfinal first leg at the Stadio Olimpico, the Romans prevailed, 2 to 1, led by their inspirational captain, Francesco Totti. They attacked from the start in their flowing yet intricate patterns. Overall, they outshot the English, 26 to 9. Manchester United seemed a bit confused initially at the sheer pace of the attacks. Unfortunately, Paul Scholes picked up two yellow cards in the first half, and for the rest of the match, the Red Devils played with 10 men.

Roma scored a few minutes after Scholes' dismissal. A cross by Mancini found Rodrigo Taddei at the top of the box. He slammed a hard shot that appeared to deflect off of the Manchester United defender, Gabriel Heinze, and caught keeper Edwin Van der Sar, flat footed. But instead of increasing the pressure and pace, the Romans seemed to slow down a bit. Even if they maintained possessional superiority over the English.

In the second half, Man U played with more purpose, and with an excellent counter-attack, equalized on a clinical finish by Wayne Rooney. This was his first goal in the Champions League since 2004. Throughout the game, Roma's defense, with the exception of keeping Cristiano Ronaldo out of danger, looked suspect. Especially at the back. Rooney almost took the ball away from their keeper, Doni, and another time from Philippe Mexes, on plays very close to the goal. But AS Roma didn't melt away, and soon after, substitute Mirko Vucinic, scored on a rocket from a rebound that was parried directly into his path by Van der Sar.

The return leg will be held next Tuesday night at Old Trafford, and the away goal may be the deciding factor. Let us not forget that AS Roma went to Lyon a few weeks ago, and came home 0 x 2 victors. This was Roma's first appearance in the quarterfinals in the Champions League. In 1984, they made it all the way to the final of the European Cup, but lost to Liverpool, at the Stadio Olimpico.

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