Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Latest Football News and Opinions From 90 Minutes Online

Benito Mourinho

In the biggest Anglo-Italian tet-a-tet since North Africa in 1940, three sets of English and Italian sides are set to clash in the second round of the Champions League over the next two days. Given the weekend’s Serie A action, how can ‘Our Boys’ expect to fare against their Mediterranean brethren? 

 

Bologna 1-2 Inter 

 

A ‘typically Mourinho’ performance from what is now a ‘typically Mourinho’ side. Although the Portuguese coach has adopted a more attacking ethos to counter Italy’s defensively adept opponents, Sunday’s match saw a fairly average performance yield three points.  

 

 

Inter didn’t rest any players ahead of their tie with Manchester United, and the side still had to work hard for the victory. With Sinisa Mihajlovic - Roberto Mancini’s assistant at Inter last year - in charge of Bologna, his team’s tactics were spot on as they cut off the supply to Adriano and Ibrahimovic by denying Inter any space in midfield.  

 

After a goal apiece from corners, Inter stole all three points in the 82nd minute thanks to Mario Balotelli. On the pitch for just two minutes, the stroppy Italian whipped in a free kick that managed to allude everyone except the far post, off which it ricocheted into the net.  

 

All in all not a particularly foreboding performance for Alex Ferguson to mull over, as Inter struggled to put paid to a Bologna side whose quality pales in comparison to Manchester United. However, they won. And that’s what Jose Mourinho’s sides do: they tend to win. 

 

Palermo 0-2 Juventus 

Claudio Ranieri obviously had one eye on Tuesday night’s fixture as he chose to rest several key players for a tricky tie away at Palermo. Del Piero, Amauri and Cristiano Zanetti were all on the bench, their creaking joints being nursed for the Chelsea.  

 

Despite a flying start by the Sicilian side – Gianluigi Buffon being largely to thank for it staying 0-0 - Juventus who took the lead with Momo Sissoko rifling his shot into the roof of the net after a free-flowing counter attack on the half-hour.  

 

The Bianconeri sealed it in the 79th with David Trezeguet making it 2-0. Amauri, on as a substitute, broke down to the bye-line and delivered a low cross for the unmarked Frenchman to slot home – his first goal since returning from a 5-month knee injury. 

 

Credit to Clauido Ranieri for achieving what he has with Juve, but although Arsenal are widely seen to have got the easiest of the Italian trio, perhaps Chelsea have cause to be most pleased. 

 

The Bianconeri are still in the process of rebuilding following their demotion to Serie B, and although they earned home and away victories against Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage, and they currently sit 2nd in Serie A, these statistics flatter to deceive. 

 

With the new lease of life Guus Hiddink is likely to bring to Chelsea, if their players play to anywhere near their potential Juventus’s ageing, patchwork squad may well get found. 

 

Roma 1-0 Siena  

 

If only Roma’s season started in November they’d be challenging Inter for top spot. Unfortunately it didn’t and they aren’t, and the fact that they lost six of their opening nine Serie A fixtures means they’re well out of it.  

 

In spite of such a dire start, the Giallorossi stuck with manager Luciano Spaletti, and their form has turned around drastically. Following their victory on Saturday they rose, albeit temporarily, into fourth spot for the first time this season.  

 

Seeing as their title challenge is long gone, Roma weren’t shy of resting players ahead of their tie against Arsenal. ‘Injuries’ and suspensions meant first-teamers Daniele De Rossi, Simone Perrotta, Mirko Vucinic, Marco Cassetti, Jeremy Menez, Alberto Aquilani and Max Tonetto all missed the match. However, Francesco Totti started as he strives towards match fitness.  

 

The match itself was somewhat of a damp squib. Siena were well organized, and Roma, without the majority of their first team, struggled to break them down. Their only goal came courtesy of former Siena hero , Massimo Taddei, whose fantastic curling effort providing a flicker glimpse of excitement just after the hour. 

 

Of course, there is little Arsene Wenger will be able to garner from this game, but he is sure to be wary of a side that possesses the quality of Totti, Mirko Vucinic, Alberto Aquilani, Daniele De Rossi and the resurgent former Gunners’ charge, Julio Baptista.  

 

Arsenal and Roma both occupy fourth spot in their respective leagues, but the respective trajectories of the sides doesn’t bode well for the North London outfit. 

 

Meanwhile... 

 

A fine strike by Clarence Seedorf was enough to give Milan a 1-0 victory over Cagliari in a tricky home tie. David Beckham continued to woo his potential long term paymasters with a succession of pinpoint crosses that earned him rapturous applause from the crowd.  

 

Lazio shook off their funk but weren’t entirely convincing in a 2-0 win at Lecce. Pasquale Foggia and Serbian left-back, Aleksandar Koralov, got the goals; but Lecce were unlucky, thrice hitting the woodwork.  

 

Fiorentina staged another comeback. Having pulled level after being 3-0 down to Genoa last week, this time the came from only one behind to beat bottom-feeders, Chievo. Two goals in the last 15 minutes from Alberto Gilardino and Adrian Mutu lifted them back up to 4th.        

 

 

Results: Roma 1-0 Siena, Palermo 0-2 Juventus, Bologna 1-2 Inter Milan, Torino 1-0 Udinese, Sampdoria 1-0 Atalanta, Napoli 0-1 Genoa, Lecce 0-2 Lazio, Fiorentina 2-1 Chievo, Catania 2-0 Reggina, AC Milan 1-0 Cagliari

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