It’s always been a trait of football’s top teams to rescue games with late goals, and thanks to Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder’s late efforts in Kiev on Wednesday night, Inter’s European dream is still alive.
With four minutes left to play at the Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium, the Nerazzurri were bottom of Champions League Group F, with a daunting trip to the Camp Nou still to come. The prospect of failing to progress to the knock-out stages of the competition was all too real, and such a failure would have raised serious doubts as to Jose Mourinho’s stewardship of the club. As it was, the late rally saw Inter climb to the top of the table, with Barcelona in third. There is no love lost between the Special One and the Catalan giants, and the clash between the pair in Spain on November 24 could be one of the games of the season. A defeat for either side could put the chance of a place in the last 16 in serious jeopardy. Bonfire night may have just passed, but expect more fireworks when the pair collide.
The victory over Dynamo Kiev was il Biscione’s first in eight attempts in the Champions League, and credit to Mourinho, his decision to bring on Mario Balotelli and Thiago Motta when trailing at half-time firmly swung the tie in Inter’s favour. Three consecutive draws in the group, including an insipid stalemate at Rubin Kazan had led to questions being asked over Mourinho’s tactics and ability to deliver the illustrious trophy he was brought in to provide. Qualification is far from certain, but the picture is looking far healthier than it was with five minutes to play in Ukraine.
Mourinho will be up against a familiar face on Sunday, another ex-Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri when he brings his Roma side to the Giuseppe Meazza. There is plenty of scope for verbal jousting given the Portuguese tactician’s relative success over Ranieri in west London and during Ranieri’s stint at Juventus, but so far this week, relations have proved amicable: “I respect Ranieri. It’s true we have had a few run-ins and who knows there could be more in future, but I respect him as a person and as a Coach.” Ranieri returned the pleasantries by declaring: “I am neither friend nor foe to Mourinho, though clearly he is a capable Coach who is doing well in Italy.”
The Giallorossi’s shocking start to the season needs to end sometime soon, and although a trip to the home of the champions would not come that high on a list of preferred destinations, Ranieri insists i Lupi can get a result with a ‘perfect performance’. So far, Roma’s form has been anything but perfect, and with the league’s top scorers facing the side with the second worst defence, the men from the Eternal City will be seeking divine intervention.
If you thought that the murky past of Calciopoli had been laid to rest, think again. In a trial in Naples, The former secretary of the National Refereeing Commission, Manfredi Martino, has claimed that the random process of allocating referee’s to matches was prone to being rigged. Martino has alleged that former referee designators Paolo Bergamo and Pierluigi Pairetto asked him to put the names of certain officials into specific balls. “On two occasions Bergamo and Pairetto told me explicitly to put the names of certain games and the names of certain referees into the balls that were easily recognisable,” Martino told the court. He has also suggested the process was used during a potential Scudetto deciding match between Milan and Juventus. Further revelations could come out as the case continues.
In possibly the most laughable career plan you’ll hear for a while, Ronaldinho has claimed he would like to finish his career in Milan…and play until he’s 40. Reports had surfaced in the Spanish Media that Dinho was planning to retire from playing football aged just 29, but the Brazilian ace has scotched those rumours and insists he aims to immitate a Rossoneri legend: “I am enjoying myself. I like this Milan. I want to be like Maldini and play until I am 40 and even older.” If his aims are to become reality, the Samba star could do with taking a few notes on Maldini’s lifestyle, which didn’t include drinking and dancing in the city’s nightclubs until all hours and neglecting training. He may also need to find himself being coached by some very, very tolerant Coaches.
News from the Peninsula
Week 6-7 –
Milanese managerial mess – September 27 – October 3
Week 7-International week (Rep. of Ireland vs. Italy, Italy vs. Cyprus) –
Cannavaro stung by doping claims – October 4 – October 10
International week (Rep. of Ireland vs. Italy, Italy vs. Cyprus)-Week 8 –
Lippy Marcello blasts the tifosi – October 11 – October 17
Inter-spective look at Mourinho’s European Nerazzurri – October 18 – October 24
Life begins at the quarter – October 25 – October 31
Inter late show keeps the Euro fire burning – November 1 – November 7