8 teams, 1 cup. 4 English, 1 Spanish, 1 German, 1 Italian, 1 Turkish, and by the end of May the question of European superiority will be settled again for another year. Having reached the quarter-finals, all teams still involved will certainly fancy their chances of winning it, and this is definitely the round to start sending a message to your competition.
And Manchester United did exactly that, romping away 2 – 0 winners away at in-form Roma, who for all their possession, really failed to trouble Edwin van der Sar between the United posts much during the 90 minutes. The Italians started brightly, as you’d expect from a side buoyed by an ongoing rivalry with the Premier League leaders over the last couple of years, but without the talismanic Totti, they seemed to lack that extra bit of invention in the final third necessary to crack United’s miserly defence. Similarly the trio of Mancini, Vucinic and Aquilani, all so impressive in the previous round against Real Madrid, never really got going despite seeing plenty of the ball early on. Ronaldo and Rooney were kept quiet by the Roma defence however, and until Ronaldo broke the deadlock with a towering header shortly before half-time, they didn’t particularly threaten much either.
The second-half however was a classy display by the whole team, with Ferdinand at the back excellent all night, and the midfield bolstered by Hargreaves’ introduction no end. The ball started to stick for United and as they started to control much of the play, it was only Roma keeper Doni who was keeping them in the tie; a sharp save down low to his right from a Ronaldo drive is particularly worthy of mention. Rooney added a somewhat scrappy second after the hour-mark, latching onto a superb header from Park Ji-Sung back into the danger area, but even the Italians cannot argue that it hadn’t been coming. Bagging his 36th goal in all competitions, it’s hard to deny many people’s claims that Ronaldo is the best player in the world at the moment, with this performance silencing any criticism (from myself included) that he maybe doesn’t always do it in the big European games. Roma are fuming over his perceived disrespect and show-boating, but the reality is that on the night they simply couldn’t compete with his strength and pace. Surely the semi-final place is now booked, with Roma needing a heroic three goals at Old Trafford next week to win out-right, a feat that no team has achieved since a Big Ronaldo-inspired Real Madrid in 2003.
Should they finish the job, United will face the winners of Schalke and
We head first to Turkey then for Wednesday’s games and what many people are describing as an upset with Chelsea going down 2 – 1 away at Fenerbahce thanks to a late wonder-goal from STT favourite Deivid de Souza. Sure Cheslea are still expected to win this tie, but Fenerbahce can actually play so it certainly won’t be as easy as many are making out. With former Brazilian star Zico at the helm they also have the tactical nouse often thought to be lacking at
And finally to the Emirates then, and the first in a week-long trilogy of games between old rivals Arsenal and
The two major talking points came in quick succession around the hour-mark, with Hleb first being hauled down in the penalty area by Kuyt, in front of the referee, but only a corner was awarded. The Arsenal man perhaps went to ground a touch easily, however Arsene Wenger is rightly fuming that a spot-kick wasn’t awarded. His frustration multiplied several minutes later though when inexplicably a scrambled Fabregas shot was actually blocked on the line by Bendtner, who tried to jump out of the way but got his legs tangled up somehow and ended up diverting the ball wide. On reflection, 1 – 1 was ultimately a fair result, because as hard as Asrsenal pushed forward,