UEFA Cup 2008/09 season round-up – The Italian sides’ story

With the UEFA Cup final due to be contested this year between Shakhtar Donetsk and Werder Bremen in Istanbul on Wednesday May 20, Football Italiano reflects on the Italian contribution to the competition.

This season’s UEFA Cup had Italy’s names all over it. With Udinese, Napoli, Sampdoria and most notably Milan involved, the line-up looked good enough that all the sides had a strong chance of bringing back the trophy.

Second Qualifying Round

Milan started as the outright favourites for the tournament, however it was Napoli who were the first involved in the competition. They crushed Albanian side Vllaznia Shkoder 8-0 in the second qualifying round to book their place in the tournament proper. It was just part of a strong start to the season by a side riding on the goals of Ezequiel Lavezzi and German Denis.

First leg

Vllaznia Shkoder 0-3 Napoli – Inacio Pia 28, 46, Denis 75

August 28, 2008

Second leg

Napoli 5-0 Vllaznia Shkoder (8-0 on aggregate) – Rinaudo 42, 55, Inacio Pia 53, Lavezzi 80, Hamsik 87

Round One

The favourites, Milan would start off at home to FC Zurich, and would take a 3-1 lead to Switzerland courtesy of goals from Alexandre Pato and Marco Borriello along with an own goal. Samp battered Lithuanian runners up FBK Kaunas by five goals to set themselves up for the second leg, with a brace a piece for Antonio Cassano and Emiliano Bonazzoli. Meanwhile, in Germany, Udinese grabbed an important 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund with strikes from Antonio Floro Flores and Gokhan Inler, giving them a foot in the next round. Napoli, however, managed to just edge out Benfica 3-2 at the San Paolo thanks to a Christian Maggio winner, leaving them with a tough task ahead of the second leg. This would prove to be the case as Jose Reyes and Nuno Gomes got the goals to dump them out of the competition. There was no doubt that the Napoli side was good enough to make an impact on the competition, however, being drawn against a side of Champions League quality clearly proved too much for them. A sole Andriy Shevchenko goal saw the Rossoneri take the second leg comfortably and advance, as did Samp with a 2-1 win in Lithuania. However, in Udine, the home side made it as difficult as possible for themselves, surrendering their two goal advantage to Borussia Dortmund, before eventually narrowly sneaking through following a penalty shootout.

September 18, 2008

First leg

Milan 3-1 FC Zurich – Jankulovski 45, Pato 56, Borriello 73; Djuric 78

Sampdoria 5-0 FBK Kaunas – Bonazzoli 14, 21, Cassano 35, 57, Fornaroli 90

Napoli 3-2 Benfica – Vitale 18, Denis 20, Maggio 55; Suazo 16, Luisao 59

Borussia Dortmund 0-2 Udinese – Floro Flores 8, Inler 34

October 2, 2008

Second leg

FC Zurich 0-1 Milan (1-4 on aggregate) – Shevchenko 70

FBK Kaunas 1-2 Sampdoria (1-7 on aggregate) – Zelmikas 17; Fornaroli 51,Bonazzoli 58

Benfica 2-0 Napoli (4-3 on aggregate) – Reyes 57, Nuno Gomes 83

Udinese 0-2 Borussia Dortmund (2-2 on aggregate, Udinese win 4-3 on penalties) – Hajnal 45, 90

Group Stage

All three of the Italian sides were in action in the first round of the group stage, with wins all round. A Daniele Dessena winner saw Sampdoria edge past Partizan Belgrade in a difficult trip abroad, whilst Milan beat Heerenveen 3-1 in Holland. Udinese meanwhile beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0, and could have been by more but for some good saves from Heurelho Gomes. The next round of games saw Samp taking their game off, whilst the Rossoneri laboured to a one goal win over Sporting Braga, with only a last minute Ronaldinho free kick saving their blushes. Udinese took an important three points away to Spartak Moscow thanks to a Fabio Quagliarella brace, giving them wins over the two most apparent threats to their continued participation in the tournament. The following round of games saw Sampdoria struggling to a 1-1 draw at home to VFB Stuttgart, whilst Udinese took advantage of their chance for a rest.


Meanwhile, on the English south coast, Milan scored two excellent goals in the last eight minutes to grab a point at Portsmouth in one of the games of the competition. Despite having the better chances early in the game, the Serie A giants fell behind to headers from Younes Kaboul & Nwankwo Kanu, and it took a great 30-yard free-kick from Ronaldinho, and a craftily taken chance by Pippo Inzaghi at the death to help them come away with something, securing their place in the knockout rounds in the process. The Rossoneri would have their game off in the following round, and Samp must have been wishing that they had too, as they found themselves bulldozed by Standard Liege. The Belgian side beat the Blucerchiati by three goals with no reply, and it left the Walter Mazzarri’s men with a difficult task ahead of their final match with Sevilla. Udinese secured their place in the knockouts with a 2-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb meaning that they would go through top and could rest players for their final game, which they duly did although it would mean losing away to Dutch side NEC. In Milan, Carlo Ancelotti’s side surrendered a two goal lead and conceded a late equalizer against VFL Wolfsburg in a game which meant that it was the German side who would go through top of their group, and that the Rossoneri would have to face off against one of the eliminated Champions League sides. In Genoa, young Argentine defender, Jonathan Bottinelli got the only goal of the game to see the Italian side through, in a tight game against Sevilla.


Group C

October 23, 2008

Partizan 1-2 Sampdoria – Diarra 34; Bonazzoli 20, Dessena 55

November 27, 2008

Sampdoria 1-1 Stuttgart – Sammarco 39; Marica 8

December 3, 2008

Standard 3-0 Sampdoria – De Camargo 23, Onyewu 34, Jovanovic 42

December 18, 2008

Sampdoria 1-0 Sevilla – Bottinelli 74

Standings after four games – Standard 9, Stuttgart 7, Sampdoria 7, Sevilla 6, Partizan 0

Group D

October 23, 2008

Udinese 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur – Di Natale pen 24, Pepe 86

November 6, 2008

Spartak Moskow 1-2 Udinese – Rodriguez 17; Quagliarella 12, pen 60

December 3, 2008

Udinese 2-1 Dinamo Zagreb – Quagliarella 5, Obodo 77; Biscan 92

December 18, 2008

NEC 2-0 Udinese – John 74, Van Beukering 77

Standings after four games – Udinese 9, Tottenham 7, NEC 6, Spartak 4, Zagreb 3

Group E

October 23, 2008

Heerenveen 1-3 Milan – Pranjic pen 85; Kaka 19, Gattuso 23, Inzaghi 69

November 6, 2008

Milan 1-0 Braga – Ronaldinho 90

November 27, 2008

Portsmouth 2-2 Milan – Kaboul 62, Kanu 73; Ronaldinho 84, Inzaghi 92

December 17, 2008

Milan 2-2 Wolfsburg – Ambrosini 15, Pato 56; Zaccardo 55, Saglik 81

Standings after four games – Wolfsburg 10, Milan 8, Braga 6, Portsmouth 4, Heerenveen 0

Round Three

With all three Italian sides through, there would also be another Italian addition, as Fiorentina joined the tournament having finished third in their Champions League group. Milan looked to have the hardest task up against Werder Bremen, whilst Fiorentina went up against Dutch giants Ajax. Udinese and Sampdoria looked to have the easier tasks on paper against Lech Poznan and Metalist Kharkiv respectively. Milan began well away against Bremen, with Pippo Inzaghi putting his side ahead towards the end of the first half. However, the Germans came on strong in the last third of the match, and were rewarded when their Brazilian playmaker Diego grabbed a late equalizer. Things took an even more disappointing turn at Stadio Luigi Ferrari, as Samp went down to a single goal against Metalist. This left them with another tough task ahead of their second leg in the Ukraine. The following night saw further difficulties for the Italian sides as Fiorentina were beaten at home by a lone Ajax goal from Swedish winger Kennedy Bakircioglu, and Udinese surrendered a two-goal advantage in Poland when conceding two late equalisers. Udinese would squeak through the second leg thanks to a late Antonio Di Natale strike that saw them win 2-1, but it was by no means a convincing performance. They would be the only Italian team to make it through to the next round. Samp failed to conjure anything in Kharkiv losing the return leg 2-0. Despite their best attempt, the Genoese side always seemed to be leaving themselves too big a task, and their wild inconsistency throughout this season was most evident throughout their UEFA Cup campaign. Fiorentina managed to pull back level on aggregate against Ajax thanks to an Alberto Gilardino goal, however a late strike from Leonardo saw their European hopes end for the season. It was a tough season in Europe for la Viola, as they just didn’t seem able to compete in the Champions League against more experienced sides like Bayern Munich and Lyon. However, they were unlucky over the two legs against Ajax to come away with nothing – particularly with some contentious decisions going against them. The favourites Milan must have had déjà-vu after again blowing a two-goal lead over a German side. They clearly had not learnt from the mistakes they made against Wolfsburg in the previous round, as a brace from Peruvian Claudio Pizarro cancelled out earlier goals from Andrea Pirlo and Pato, sending the Rossoneri out on away goals. In truth it was no less than they deserved after looking sluggish and unconcerned throughout the two legs. They had a team that looked like it should be able to walk through the competition, but too often a number of players in the team did not seem willing or were unable to raise their game to the level required, and it is a shame that Paolo Maldini’s final season will not see him pick up one last piece of silverware.


February 18, 2008

First leg

Sampdoria 0-1 Metalist Kharkiv – Oliynyk 48

Werder Bremen 1-1 Milan – Diego 84; Inzaghi 36

February 19, 2008

First leg

Lech Poznan 2-2 Udinese – Rengifo 81, Arboleda 84; Quagliarella 50, Arboldea o.g 55

Fiorentina 0-1 Ajax – Bakircioglu 60

February 26, 2008

Second leg

Metalist Kharkiv 2-0 Sampdoria (3-0 on aggregate) – Valyayev 30, Jaja 41

Milan 2-2 Werder Bremen (3-3 on aggregate, Bremen win on away goals) – Pirlo pen 26, Pato 33; Pizarro 68, 79

Udinese 2-1 Lech Poznan (4-3 on aggregate) – Pepe 57, Di Natale 91; Rengifo 12

Ajax 1-1 Fiorentina (2-1 on aggregate) – Leonardo 88; Gilardino 61

Round Four

With Udinese now the only Italian side left in Europe full stop following the elimination of all the Champions League representatives, there was extra pressure on them to represent the peninsula well. However, they faced a difficult task against Zenit St Petersburg – the reigning UEFA Cup holders – and a team who had given both Juventus and Real Madrid difficult games in the Champions League. However, the loss of Andriy Arshavin to Arsenal had clearly weakened them, and Udinese took advantage in the first leg, as Zenit failed to create any clear chances before late goals from Fabio Quagliarella and Antonio Di Natale gave them a strong advantage ahead of the second leg, where despite a Anatoliy Tymoschuk goal, Udinese defended well and held on to their aggregate lead to advance to the quarter-finals where they would meet Werder Bremen, with the Germans hoping to claim another Italian scalp.


March 3, 2009

First leg

Udinese 2-0 Zenit St Petersburg – Quagliarella 85, Di Natale pen 90

March 19, 2009

Second leg

Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 Udinese (1-2 on aggregate) – Tymoshcuk 34


The first leg looked as if it could be a complete disaster for Udinese, as a double from Diego and a Hugo Almeida goal saw the Bundesliga side cruising, however another late goal from Quagliarella gave them some hope for a second leg armed with the away goal. Things began well when Inler put them ahead, before Diego replied just before the half hour. However, Udinese hit back quickly with a quick-fire double through Quagliarella, bringing the tie level on aggregate. In the end though it proved too difficult to keep Diego quiet, and he struck again on the hour, and although he missed a chance to get his hat-trick after seeing a penalty saved, he was involved as Claudio Pizarro got the goal to finally put Udinese out of their misery. It was tough on the Italians who it could be said were the only Italian team to really give the UEFA Cup their all, and they were unlucky to come up against a side who were that bit better and had the momentum with them.


April 9, 2009

First leg

Werder Bremen 3-1 Udinese – Diego 34, 67, Hugo Almeida 69; Quagliarella 88

April 16, 2009

Second leg

Udinese 3-3 Werder Bremen (4-6 on aggregate) – Inler 15, Quagliarella 30, 38; Diego 28, 59, Pizarro 73

The Final

Werder Bremen would of course progress to the final following a thrilling semi-final away goals win over their compatriots Stuttgart. They will face Shakhtar Donetsk who won through the all-Ukrainian semi-final against Dynamo Kiev. Interesting to note that this is the first final to be contested by two sides who came through the Champions League elimination route. Both sides have some good players, however, it is Werder Bremen who will come in as the favourites. Much of this is down to the effect of one man, Diego. The little Brazilian has been a thorn in the side of all the team’s opponents, and his form in the tournament has led to a string of admirers across Europe. It is more than likely that he will move on in the summer, with Juventus being considered his most likely destination, as he is seen as the perfect replacement for the retiring Pavel Nedved. Another player who has been crucial for Thomas Schaaf’s men is Claudio Pizarro. The on-loan Chelsea striker has re-found his form in Bremen, and there has been talk of a possible move to Milan or Roma at the season’s end. In addition to these two, the club is host to a number of Germany’s top internationals, such as Torsten Frings and Clemens Fritz, and the defensive pairing of Naldo and Per Mertesacker may well get broken up this summer, with interest from La Liga and the Premier League. However, the goalkeeper Tim Wiese is a definite weak spot and the Bremen fans will be hoping that he can avoid any errors on Wednesday night. Shakhtar are a team largely made up of Ukrainian homegrown players and a mass of Brazilian import. Their style is largely based through their full-backs and wingers, most notably the interchange between Darijo Srna and Ilsinho on the right. Both of these players would be targets for clubs on the periphery of the Champions League places throughout Europe, however, it is unlikely that any team could offer them financial terms equivalent to what they earn in Donetsk. The one other player who could turn the game for the Ukrainians is Fernandinho, whose pace and long distance shooting could prove difficult for the Bremen defence and Wiese to deal with. Whilst Werder Bremen remain the favourites, it is worth noting the success that sides from the former Soviet Union have had in the tournament in recent years before anyone writes Shakhtar off.


Further reading

  • Where did the UEFA Cup go wrong?
  • sports.betway.com/en/horse-racing-betting-site Welcome Bonus Offer Betway

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