Champions League: Too Much for Italian Clubs

What’s left for Italian clubs of this Champions League quarter-finals first leg, is that even the slightest inattention against top teams is paid at heavy cost.

The two days of Uefa Champions League quarter-finals hand over a bitter truth for Italian football: the gap with the Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona is still wide. Nevertheless, during their two matches, FC Juventus and AS Roma showed two differents souls and approaches.

Juventus – Real Madrid 0-3

The rematch of the last edition’s final seemed to be balanced on the eve but, after only three minutes of play, the ‘Ballon d’Or’ Cristiano Ronaldo broke the odds by scoring an unexpected 0-1 for Real Madrid. The team trained by Massimiliano Allegri was in a state of shock and was not be able to go back in the game before an opportunity missed by Gonzalo Higuain and a free kick took by Paulo Dybala (who was later showed a red card for double yellow) just next to the post.

During the second half, when the second goal of the Spainards was in the air, Cristiano Ronaldo delighted the supporters in Turin with a legendary bicycle kick goal, hitting the ball more than two meters above the pitch. The Allianz Stadium applauded and the now resigned Juventus players conceded the third goal finalized by Marcelo. The return match, scheduled for next Wednesday, March 11 in Madrid, is going to be a mere formality for the reigning champions led by Zinedine Zidane, waiting to know their rivals in the semi-finals.

Gianluigi Buffon, legendary and award-winning Juventus and Italy national team goalkeeper, at the end of the match recognized the superiority of the opponents: ‘We are sorry, but Real Madrid are simply stronger than us. Cristiano Ronaldo is an unbelievable player, a fantastic champion at the level of Pelè, Maradona and Messi, players that by themselves determine the victories of their teams.’

Barcelona – Roma 4-1

Turin cries, but Rome can’t laugh. However, what happened at the Camp Nou was completely different from the football lesson described above. Roma played a vigorous (gajardo, in Roman dialect) match against the masters of the Spanish league, who are also the favorites for the final victory in this Champions League. At the beginning of the game, a foul on Edin Dzeko into Barcelona’s box could be worth a penalty kick, but the referee did not see it. The first goal for Barcelona arrived at the minute 38, when the Roman captain Daniele De Rossi scored an own goal. Before the end of the first half, another questionable foul on the homegrown midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini was committed just few millimetres on the edge of the penalty area, but was considered outside by the referee, who assigned only a free kick to Roma.

In the second half, Barcelona accelerated the pace, causing havoc on Roma players and Kostas Manolas scored another own goal. The third goal for Barça arrived immediately after from the Catalan legendary centerback Gerard Piqué. However, just when the game seemed to be over, Roma’s Bosnian striker Dzeko scored the 3-1. Few minutes later, a fatal distraction by the Italian defence caused Barcelona’s fourth goal by Luis Suarez. A goal that probably compells Roma to leave in Spain their hopes to turn the result around in the second leg, scheduled for next Tuesday, March 10 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Eusebio Di Francesco, Roma coach, looked disappointed at the end of the match: ‘Barcelona are already very strong, they don’t need helps from the referee. We played a great match and we could score more than one goal.’

A gap that can be reduced

Anyway, it should be remembered that it is not the first controversy involving Barcelona in the last years. In the last edition’s round of 16 between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, the referee was decisive in the last-minute 6-1 victory of the Spanish team. The same destiny that was in store at the Camp Nou for AC Milan when, in the 2005-2006 semi-finals, Andriy Shevchenko’s goal was incomprehensibly disallowed. Eventually, Barcelona reached the final in Paris and won the cup against Arsenal.

What’s left for Italian clubs of this first leg, is that even the slightest inattention against top teams is paid at heavy cost. Only by playing a perfect and intense game, what both Juventus and Roma could not do, the economical and technical gap between Spanish and Italian football clubs can be reduced. Therefore, see you next week for the second leg, hoping for a different Champions League night!