It has been a sad night for Italian clubs and their fans, with three from four Serie A sides failing to progress to the next round. Milan, Fiorentina and Sampdoria had to say goodbye to the UEFA Cup, leaving Udinese as the only team to defend the honour of Italian football.
Ajax 1-1 Fiorentina (2 – 1)
La Viola will not repeat their success from last year when they reached the semi-finals. Fans who travelled from Italy, hoping that Cesare Prandelli’s team would be able to overturn the first leg deficit, would have left the Amsterdam ArenaA somewhat disappointed. Ajax players knew that Fiorentina would not be beaten easily and had to fight for the victory to the end. The tie was levelled in the 61st minute by la Viola’s star strikers. Adrian Mutu passed to Alberto Gilardino and the Italian forward finished the move. Unfortunately, Serie A’s fourth placed outfit lost a goal just two minutes before the final whistle. Brazilian substitute Leonardo, who caused problems after his introduction in the first leg last week, scored the vital goal.
Udinese 2 – 1 Lech Poznan (4– 3)
Despite proving to be the better team for the majority of the match, Udinese needed a late Antonio Di Natale winner to beat Polish side Lech Poznan in the second leg of this third round UEFA Cup tie. Lech attacked from the first whistle and scored in 12th minute. Hernan Rengifo from a Semit Stilic pass gave his side the lead. Polish fans were elated, hoping to see their side progress to the next round. Sadly for them, the second half belonged to the Zebrette. Ten minutes after the restart, a cross created havoc in Lech’s six-yard box. An unmarked Antonio Floro Flores found Simone Pepe three yards away from goal and the Italian international duly equalised. However, it was not until strike partner Di Natale scored in injury time that the tie was safe. Intrestingly, this was the third time Polish Coach Franciszek Smuda was facing Udinese in European competition, and it was his third consecutive defeat. He has lost twice before, with Widzew Lodz and Legia Warszawa.
Milan 2 – 2 Werder (3 – 3)
Italian fans were happy when Milan claimed a valuable 1-1 away draw with Werder Bremen. The Rossoneri were touted as one of the favourites to win the competition. Taking into consideration the value of players and the depth of their squad this was not a surprise, and the match at the San Siro was supposed to be just a formality. No one expected Carlo Ancelotti’s side to lose, especially after 26 minutes of the game when Andrea Pirlo scored from the penalty spot after Torsten Frings’ handball. Just six minutes later young Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato doubled their lead. With around 25 minutes left however, the nightmare began. The visitors scored two goals in 10 minutes, with Brazilian goalkeeper Dida beaten twice by Claudio Pizarro. The one remaining hope of silverware for il Diavolo was gone, as they were unable to find the back of the net for a third time, leaving the Germans to progress via away goals.
Metalist 2 – 0 Sampdoria (3 – 0)
Yet again Metalist beat the Blucerchiati, having left Marassi with a 1-0 advantage, and progressed to the last 16. Sampdoria had to stake everything on one card if they were thinking about making up the loss from the first leg. They were attacking from the beginning, but found Metalist’s goalkeeper Oleksandr Gorjainow in good form. After half an hour of play the Ukrainian’s scored. Serhij Walajew was the goalscorer after nice teamwork from the home side. Sampdoria needed two goals to qualify, but just five minutes before the break the Brazlian Jaja beat Antonio Mirante with a precise freekick. The second half was more even as both teams had their chances, but Samp could not convert those that fell their way, and became the third Italian team to bow out of the UEFA Cup.