Tag Archives: Italy

Uruguay 0-0 Italy (1-4 on penalties) (Third-Place Playoff, 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, 11 June 2017)

In their final match at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Uruguay were unable to claim third place, succumbing to defeat on penalties by an Italian side that they had beaten long ago on their opening day of the group stage. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-tracking…

uruguayitalyscore

(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results and fixtures)

Uruguay 0-0 Italy (1-4 on penalties)

2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Third-Place Playoff, 11 June 2017 (YouTube)

Italy nabbed third place from Uruguay as Fabián Coito’s men were defeated for the second consecutive game on penalties.

Giving some opportunities to at least a few other squad members, Coito nevertheless fielded a strong side. However, the first half was largely devoid of clear opportunities for either team, though Italy perhaps should have made the breakthrough in the 17th minute when a Giuseppe Panico effort from a cross was instinctively saved with the knee of Uruguay goalkeeper Santiago Mele.

Things perked up in the second half, with both sides enjoying far more attempts and, though the Italians had a goal ruled out for offside, Uruguay often seemed the likelier to score. Indeed, after an almost absent first half, Rodrigo Amaral in particular gradually made his presence known, having several attempts along the way.

Nevertheless, when the final whistle blew, there was still a stalemate and thus a shootout commenced. Italy managed to convert all four of theirs but Uruguay had the latter two of their three efforts saved and thus the bronze medals were awarded to the Europeans.

Talent Tracking

uruguayflag Uruguay

Well, though yours truly may be in a minority of appreciating – in principle, at least – third-place playoffs, given the changes in personnel as well the tedium of the majority of the first half, one will try not to give undue weight to the occurrences within this game.

Some changes were made to the Uruguay line-up, most notably Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional) being named from the start for the first time in the tournament. Remarkably he would go on to fulfil what was his first 90 minutes this year, having never once managed this feat in qualifying or at club level, where he has not played since last Septmber. Here, he started the match very lethargically, with observers around the world commenting that he could not possibly be fully fit. His two moments of note in the first half came towards the end when he aimed for goal from seemingly improbable positions – a corner as well as a free-kick near the corner flag – and saw both strikes blocked.

However, like his side, he seemed to wake up in the second half. He had his best chance of the game in the  54th minute when, from a central position just outside of the area, he played a one-two with Joaquín Ardaiz (No. 7, Danubio) before striking a left-footed effort which went just wide of the far post. Two minutes later he headed a corner not too far over the bar and then, another two minutes after this, he teed himself up from some 25 yards out, but smacked his effort well over. Generally, he looked a little more lively though certainly not at his best, yet his match was to end on a real downer when, once again, he could not convert during the penalty shootout, just as he also failed to do so against Portugal as well as two years ago in the Round of 16 match with Brazil.

Elsewhere, right-back José Luis Rodríguez (No. 4, Danubio) gave one last quality exhibition of his attacking abilities. In the 55th minute, he created one of his side’s better chances when, from his flank, he played a fine low ball which reached the sliding Ardaiz at the back post, whose connection forced the goalkeeper into a scrambling parry on the goal-line. Later in the 76th minute, a Rodríguez cross from the right was punched away – perhaps needlessly – by the Italian with the gloves. Eight minutes after this, he had the first of two chances of his own when he bypassed some opponents before cutting inside to shoot well wide from just outside the area. In stoppage-time, he fashioned a better opportunity for himself when, again cutting in from the right onto his left boot, he forced an eye-catching parry from the goalkeeper – had it gone just a few inches higher, it could well have bulged the top corner of the net.

Federico Valverde (No. 16, Real Madrid Castilla) – who was later awarded the Silver Ball award for being adjudged to be the second best player of the tournament – was involved in a few opportunities. In the first half, he only really had one shot – which went comfortably over – but, barely a minute into the second, he was set up by Mathías Olivera (No. 5, Club Atlético Atenas) from a low cross into the centre. However, despite being in a very inviting position, Valverde poorly scuffed well wide what could have been a side-footed finish. Nevertheless, some ten minutes later, it was he who swung in the corner that Amaral headed not too far over the bar. Then, in the 81st minute, Valverde had his best shot when he took the ball off a team-mate and struck first-time from some 25 or so yards out, with his effort swinging just wide of the far post.

Otherwise, there were a few other attacking moments worth mentioning. In just the third minute, Agustín Canobbio (No. 19, Fénix) was played into a slightly acute position on the right inside the area by Santiago Viera (No. 13, Liverpool, Uruguay), though his shot was poor, only troubling the side-netting. In the 40th minute, Viera himself had a chance from 25 yards out when he struck what was hitherto Uruguay’s closest opportunity; his shot had pace though was a little too near the goalkeeper, who nevertheless made a meal out of it. Later on, Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) – who was initially rested for the first time this tournament – came off the bench and was involved in a couple of attempts. The first of these came in the 77th minute when, from an inside-right position outside of the area, he took the inattentive goalkeeper by surprise by hitting an effort which went just wide of the target. Then, in the 87th minute, he did some good work, coming in central where he gave the ball to fellow substitute Juan Manuel Boselli (No. 14, Defensor Sporting) to have a shot which went high at the goalkeeper, who had no choice but to parry over.

Lastly, goalkeeper Santiago Mele (No. 1, Fénix) was tested several times in this game and was to bolster his reputation with some decent stops. He will have been frustrated not to have saved any of the penalties but perhaps the fact that he and his defence kept their fifth clean sheet in seven games will provide some solace.

Please stay tuned over the upcoming days for a summary of the performances of Uruguay’s leading talents. Otherwise, to keep up-to-date on the latest in South American football, please consider following @DarrenSpherical on Twitter.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Italy 0-1 Uruguay (Group D, 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, 21 May 2017)

Uruguay’s opening Group D game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup saw them eventually overcome Italy, courtesy of some set-piece magic. Below are video highlights, a brief summary of the match and, most importantly, @DarrenSpherical‘s armchair talent-tracking…

groupd1

(Source: Wikipedia – Check here for all other results, fixtures and standings)

 

Italy 0-1 Uruguay

2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Group D, 21 May 2017 (YouTube)

CONMEBOL champions Uruguay must have been wondering if their chance to win had slipped from their grasp but ultimately they left the stadium in Suwon happy, courtesy of a fantastic free-kick strike. Though their European opponents, who finished runners-up in qualifying, had at least one promising first-half chance – an Andrea Favilli header in a central position, which he couldn’t quite direct on target – it was the South Americans who had the better of the opening proceedings. Indeed, Fabián Coito’s men looked sharper on the ball and had at least a few good efforts, though really should have taken the lead at the end of the half. However, captain Nicolás De La Cruz failed to convert his 44th-minute spot-kick, with the impressive Italian goalkeeper Andrea Zaccagno comfortably stopping his rather poor effort.

After the break, Italy began to enjoy more possession and caused a few scares amongst the Uruguayan back-line. The La Celeste youths appeared to be less of an attacking force, playing with less fluidity and when Nicolás Schiappacasse squandered a surprise 72nd-minute opportunity, it looked like as if it may not be their day. However, four minutes later, with what must have been his first meaningful touch of the game despite having been on the pitch for 20 minutes, Rodrigo Amaral struck. From just outside of the right corner of the area, Uruguay’s top-scorer in qualifying hit an unstoppable, pinpoint belter with his left into the opposite corner. He and his team-mates subsequently regained some confidence and saw out the remainder of the encounter to record an opening-day win that confirms that they are rather serious title contenders indeed.

Talent Tracking

uruguayflag Uruguay

Possibly due to a minor knock, though perhaps more likely owing to the kind of on-going fitness concerns which led to him never once completing 90 minutes during qualifying, forward Rodrigo Amaral (No. 10, Nacional) started on the bench. Emerging onto the pitch in the 56th minute, it is difficult to recall one single touch from him in his first 20 minutes after joining the fray. However, he more than made up for this with his phenomenal 76th-minute winner, a left-footed free-kick from the right angle just outside the area, which was hit with such pinpoint accuracy into the opposite corner that goalkeeper Andrea Zaccagno didn’t even move. What a way for this prodigy to assert himself at the tournament which left him heartbroken two years ago. Subsequently, he was more involved in proceedings, yet at the final whistle appeared to be struggling with some kind of injury. No update has yet been released, but it should go without saying that his compatriots could undoubtedly do with Amaral at their disposal, even if it is to be only in cameo form.

Otherwise, though he really should have done better with his penalty, which was struck far too close to the goalkeeper, Nicolás De La Cruz (No. 11, Liverpool, Uruguay) nevertheless showed more than enough to suggest that he’s going to continue to be a crucial asset to the cause. Indeed, the attacking-midfielder, who was often out on the right, displayed a decent understanding with right-back José Luis Rodríguez (No. 4, Danubio), who himself had a good game, putting in at least a couple of notable crosses. De La Cruz largely looked a class act on the ball, seeking to make things happen as well as having a few chances of his own. Indeed, in the sixth minute, he bent a free-kick little more than a couple of yards the wrong side of the woodwork and in the 21st minute he managed to get a slight touch on a loose ball, but his close-range effort from an angle at the back post was instinctively blocked by Zaccagno. Also, five minutes after the restart, Carlos Sánchez’s younger brother drove forward with intent but his low shot from the edge of the area caused little alarm as it was misdirected wide. Here, he was seeking to make up for missing the 44th-minute penalty, something he was also guilty of in his side’s opening game at the CONMEBOL qualifiers in January. He has since spoke of the pain he felt following that misguided Panenka, yet as he showed immense character to go on to lead his country to ultimately triumph in that tournament, one wouldn’t bet against a similar outcome on this grander scale.

Earlier on in the 16th minute, De La Cruz also did well running infield from the right flank to pass to striker Nicolás Schiappacasse (No. 9, Atlético Madrid Under-19s), who hit a fine first-time strike with his right, which forced a spectacular one-handed save from Zaccagno. Much later on in the 72nd minute, Schiappacasse really should have done better when Rodríguez’s long ball from his own half was dummied by De La Cruz, falling to the Atleti youngster. However, from just inside the area, one-on-one with Zaccagno, he placed his shot just wide of the far post. Otherwise, Schiappacasse showed glimpses of what he can do, as did his initial strike-partner Joaquín Ardaiz (No. 7, Danubio). Indeed, both men were involved in this penalty decision as Rodríguez’s 41st-minute cross narrowly evaded Schiappacasse but Ardaiz, who nevertheless managed an effort on target from a golden position, was adjudged – belatedly, after the referee was aided via the new video technology – to have been held back by a defender.

Finally, the defence – centre-backs, in particular – deserve credit for limiting the clear opportunities conceded to Italy and one other man in particular who caught the eye of many was Federico Valverde (No. 16, Real Madrid Castilla). The midfielder appeared to be playing a more deep-lying role and was often seen caressing the ball, taking pressure off the back-line behind him as well as linking up well with those ahead. He also took a couple of decent set-pieces, the most notable being a 28th-minute free-kick which sneaked low past the wall before being parried wide for a corner.

Uruguay have several other players capable of key contributions, not least midfielder Facundo Waller (No. 15, Plaza Colonia) who was unfortunately taken off with an injury after less than half an hour. It’s currently up in the air as to whether he will take further part in this tournament but, either way, given the likelihood of this side progressing to the latter stages, there should be plenty of future opportunities for other individuals not mentioned here to shine.

In the other Group D game played today, South Africa were defeated 2-1 by Japan, who will be Uruguay’s next opponents on Wednesday 24 May 2017.

To keep up-to-date with the latest news on the South American nations at South Korea 2017, please follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter and check back to Hispanospherical.com for match-by-match talent-tracking articles.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

 

Venezuelans Abroad in Italy – Recap of Round 2 in Serie A

Italy

Italy

Goals certainly went in last weekend in Serie A but sadly only one of these was to be found in a game featuring a Venezuelan. Furthermore, collectively the three representatives of La Vinotinto did not see as much game-time as would normally be expected, which is largely believed to be due to them having travelled such long distances to, in and from Asia for their international matches the previous week.

Saturday 13 September 2014 

Serie A

Empoli 0-1 Roma

For Video Highlights, click here.

Match Summary

The newly promoted hosts were forced to resort to shots from distance as their opponents, with an eye on their midweek Champions League clash, were able to rest several players including Francesco Totti and Gervinho and still pick up a narrow victory courtesy of an own goal that many wiill prefer to see credited to the impressive Belgian international, Radja Nainggolan.

Not long before the goal, Nainggolan also played a driving role in sponsor-less Roma’s other most notable attack, which occurred in the 41st minute. After winning a crunching tackle in midfield, he came forward and crossed a well-weighted ball in from the right that Alessandro Florenzi headed diagonally across the goalmouth that Maicon ran onto but somehow hooked against the back post when the goal was gaping. From the rebound, the ball fell to the onrushing Miralem Pjanić who blasted a shot that was blocked by a desperate-yet-determined combination of Lorenzo Tonelli and Vincent Laurini; the Bosnian international claimed that he was fouled in the ensuing skirmish but Empoli were to remain on level terms for at least several minutes longer.

That was until first-half stoppage-time when Pjanić played a short cross-field pass to Nainggolan 25 yards out and he struck a low drive that came off the foot of the post, only to hit the back of goalkeeper Luigi Sepe’s head and rebound into the net. 1-0 to the capital’s leading club and, considered alongside his goal and assist on the opening day against Fiorentina, a great start to Nainggolan’s season following the formalisation of his summer move from Cagliari.

Empoli’s optimistic long-range efforts came mainly from Francesco Tavano in a game which Franco Signorelli observed from the bench. The Venezuelan was doubtless on a high following his recent international debut, though travel may well have taken its toll. He will be more likely to feature this coming weekend when his side will feel they have a good chance to get off the bottom of the table when they travel to fellow recent arrivals, Cesena.

Sunday 14 September 2014 

Serie A

Sampdoria 2-0 Torino

For Video Highlights, click here.

Image Source: StopAndGoal

Match Summary

Two impressive goals, one coming in each half from Italians Manolo Gabbiadini and Stefano Okaka, ensured Siniša Mihajlović’s Sampdoria got off to a winning start at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. This no doubt pleased their visionary movie producer-president Massimo Ferrero, whose deal with a film distribution company led to Sin City 3D being promoted on his team’s shirts.

Gabbiadini’s goal came on 34 minutes from a free-kick that was curled from the dee around the wall low into the bottom left-hand corner and later on in the match he was to smash the crossbar with another powerfully hit set-piece.

Though second-best, Torino were nevertheless in the game with Fabio Quagliarella and Marcelo Larrondo leading the attack, yet when they made an attacking substitution just after the hour, it was the Brazil-born recipient of a solitary Italian cap, Amauri, who was first brought on to make his debut, with Larrondo coming off. The 34 year-old former Juventus man was signed just before the transfer window closed, though given his age Josef Martínez should try not to be too concerned and instead see this as an opportunity to learn from an experienced pro in a league that not so long ago was notorious for frustrating strikers.

Martínez patiently waited his turn and was later substituted on for Quagliarella in the 77th to make his Serie A debut, yet any dreams of becoming an instant hero were soon dashed when Sampdoria scored their second two minutes later. Indeed, Okaka turned into space on the right-flank and easily took the ball past Polish defender Kamil Glik – who may well have been struggling to mentally re-adjust himself after playing in a 7-0 thrashing of Gibraltar in midweek – and then fired home from an angled position to seal the 2-0 victory. 

Sunday 14 September 2014 

Serie A

Fiorentina 0-0 Genoa

For Video Highlights, click here.

Match Summary

With 8 shots on target (from a total of 18) to their opponents’ 1 (from 5), Fiorentina had the bulk of the opportunities but were unable to make the breakthrough, as Genoa managed to hold on and get a point when defeat often seemed a formality. That it remained goalless was all the more surprising when one takes into account the 3-3 draw that occurred in this fixture last season, not to mention the 5-2 Fiorentina victory enjoyed at Genoa’s ground nearly a year ago.

Alberto Aquilani, Borja Valero, Khouma Babacar and especially Juan Cuadrado were all a frequent menace to the Genoa defensive lines, regularly running directly through the midfield with ease and creating numerous chances throughout the game. Their best of the first half came after 15 minutes when Aquilani – who, incidentally, was the only Italian in the home side’s line-up – put in a graceful cross from the right that dipped kindly six yards out for Mario Gómez. However, the injury-hit German was unable to make meaningful contact with the ball as it instead hit a combination of his chin and chest before going tamely wide.

Little was seen of Genoa as an attacking threat in the opening half as they were preoccuppied with repelling attacks. Due to being frequently overrun in midfield, manager Gian Piero Gasperini took off the yellow-carded Andre Bertolacci at half-time and replaced him with ‘Gattuso 2.0’, Tomás Rincón, who was most likely omitted from the line-up due to the travel involved with the preceding week’s international duty. However, though the visitors did get a little more into the game, the onslaught, if anything, increased with Cuadrado continuing to shine as goalkeeper Mattero Perin was required to put in a man of the match performance to thwart the Viola. Rincón, like Bertolacci, was to find himself regularly on the back foot struggling to halt Cuadrado’s trickery, unpredictable runs and movements, as he picked up a booking in the 78th minute for tripping the Colombian on the turn just outside the area. Just over five minutes prior, another South American, Rincón’s team-mate, the Argentine defender Facundo Roncaglia, also had great difficulties dealing with Cuadrado. He was penalised for holding him back near the halfway line, thus receiving his second yellow card and walking off to a smattering of applause from fans of the home team who actually hold his registration.

Despite Fiorentina’s dominance, Gasperini’s men did nearly score after 64 minutes when Edenilson robbed Cuadrado and Valero in his own half and ran down the right side, playing a one-two before crossing in for Mauricio Pinilla whose acrobatic scissor-kick bounced before going narrowly over the crossbar. The Chilean forward can be praised for this effort but was to spend the majority of this match in isolation, disappointed by the dearth of service from the flanks, which was in marked contrast to the season’s opener against Napoli.

Ultimately though, despite these frustrations, Genoa will be more than pleased with the point they earned and it was largely Perin who they have to thank for this. Indeed, his heroics were especially required in stoppage time when, in quick succession from two corners, he tipped over Gonzalo Rodriguez’s rasping shot from the edge of the area and, subsequently, gratefully clung on to a header from debutant Filippo Bernardeschi that was powerful yet lacking in direction. Thus, Genoa travel back north with a point some will feel they did not deserve and will continue their difficult start to the season with a home game this weekend against Lazio.

Venezuelans Abroad in Italy – Recap of Week 1 in Serie A

Italy

Serie A got underway last weekend and here, somewhat behind schedule, is what occurred from a Vinotinted perspective:

Sunday 31 August 2014

Serie A

Genoa 1-2 Napoli 

Running out to Gerry and the Pacemakers ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, Tomas Rincón made his league debut for Il Vecchio Balordo in a lively encounter that was not settled until the fifth minute of stoppage time. Rafael Benitez’s high-scoring Napoli started where they left off as after less than three minutes, the fruitful partnership of Gonzalo Higuaín and José Callejón again combined with the Argentine floating a ball across from the left to the Spaniard who, in acres of space inside the area, struck home a well-executed volley. However, for the rest of the first half Genoa had the majority of the chances with new Chilean signing Mauricio Pinilla the target man for crosses from the right by new Argentine acquisition Diego Perotti and Udinese-loanee Edenilson. Pinilla was very lively all game, eager to please his new fans and he gave them significant cause for optimism when, in the 39th minute, another cross was sent into the area – this time from the left – by Giovanni Marchese onto which the Chilean leapt high to nod home and put his side on equal terms at half-time.

In the early stages of the second-half, Rincón was involved in some midfield tussles, first with the young Brazilian Jorginho, from whom he received a high boot and a free-kick and then, in a rare instance of a skirmish between two number 88s, with Swiss international Gökhan Inler, who retaliated to Rincón aggressively holding him off and conceded another free-kick. Despite these minor midfield victories, Napoli certainly got back into the game in this half, with Higuain as well as French defender Kalidou Koulibaly having chances, but the most gilt-edged one fell to Lorenzo Insigne who was played clean through on goal in the 83rd minute by Belgian substitute Dries Mertens but shot straight at Mattia Perin. Despite this waste, Napoli ploughed on, giving Genoa no respite and must have been delighted to see five minutes of stoppage time go up on the electronic boards. Within the first additional minute, Mertens found some space inside the area on the left and hit a shot across the goalmouth, yet Napoli came closer three minutes later as Mertens again came forward on the left, striking a low shot that Perin got fingertips to which Higuain on the right then hooked back across goal, but no one was there to tap the ball in as it went agonisingly over to the other side. Naturally, most people inside the ground felt that the onslaught had been repelled, including most of Genoa’s back line it seems, as moments later they stood off debutant Jonathan de Guzmán as he received a cross from the left and was granted considerable time to giddily get the ball out of his feet and smash home a close-range winner at the very death. Numerous Genoa players including Rincón instinctively put their hands up for an offside call that was never going to come, but despite this cruel defeat they can certainly take heart from the performance they put in against last year’s third-placed side when they continue their tough opening to the season away to Fiorentina on 14 September. 

 

Sunday 31 August 2014

Serie A

Udinese 2-0 Empoli 

As the Stadio Fruili’s is still yet to be completed, just under 8000 fans watched Udinese defeat Empoli 2-0, thanks to two goals from Empoli youth-product and erstwhile goalscoring hero, Antonio Di Natale. Overall, the home side had the better of the chances with the skilful Colombian Luis Muriel – a man of much promise but who missed out on his nation’s impressive displays this summer – a creative catalyst and attacking threat throughout. His most notable first-half contribution occurred in the 13th minute when the Brazilian debutant Guilherme passed a short ball to him that, with a deadly instinctive dink, he rapidly chipped over the defence for Guilherme to run onto and volley low at the goalkeeper, Luigi Sepe, who stood up strong to the challenge. However, Empoli were certainly more in the game in the first half and had two close chances. The first of these came in the 37th minute and fell to Uruguayan Matías Vecino – yet another number 88 on show this weekend – who was afforded far too much space on the inside-right and shaped up for a left-footed strike that went just over, possibly grazing the bar along the way. Empoli’s second opportunity came just over five minutes later when Vecino crossed in a ball from the right that the 35 year-old Francesco Tavano will know he should have buried, but alas, his header went just wide from no more than six yards out. 

Five minutes into the second period, the evasive Muriel continued to create opportunities and played a great ball into the area from the right with the outside of his right boot that swerved towards Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, though the Ghanaian international could not quite get enough of his head onto the end of it to make it meaningful. However, in the 57th minute, the ever-reliable Di Natale – who had already had a goal ruled out for offside – gave Muriel’s work the end-product it deserved, as he received a subtle reverse-ball that nutmegged defender Lorenzo Tonelli and then steered it past Sepe. Five minutes later, no nuanced defence-splitting balls were necessary as, despite being under no pressure, French right-back Vincent Laurini played a suicidal pass back straight into the path of Di Natale on the edge of the area, who easily slotted it home for Udinese’s second. After this, the home side took their collective foot off the pedal somewhat, though their lead rarely looked to be under serious threat. Coming on for Vecino in the 70th minute, midfielder Franco Signorelli – who has recently earned his first call-up to the national side – joined the action and though he was often involved in the thick of the action on the park, this was usually while in the middle, and not the final, third. 

Sunday 31 August 2014

Serie A

Torino 0-0 Inter Milan

For match highlights, click here.

Josef Martínez did not make it off the bench in this goalless draw as Nemanja Vidić had a debut to forget for Inter Milan, first conceding a penalty and then later being red-carded, yet he was not alone in being bemused by both decisions. The penalty came after 20 minutes courtesy of what the referee Daniele Doveri must have adjudged to be a pull by the Serbian on the arm of Fabio Quagliarella – returning after nine years to the team he began his career with – though replays struggled to show any significant contact between the pair. The Argentine Marcelo Larrondo stepped up but his spot-kick was too close to the centre as Slovenian international goalkeeper Samir Handanovič lounged to an easy save to mark what was his 17th Serie A penalty save from the 56 he has faced. This spurned chance actually turned out to be the only shot on target in the first half as both teams struggled to create clear chances in a game that became increasingly ill-tempered as it wore on, with new-arrival Gary Medel responsible for a particularly bad – yet unpunished – foul from behind on Quagliarella after 39 minutes. 

There were no more than five additional shots on target in the second-half, yet neither side could make a breakthrough. Torino’s best opportunities came within five minutes of the restart as firstly Quagliarella played a fine through-ball 30 yards out to Larrondo whose attempted nudge was blocked by Handanovič and then two minutes later, Larrondo nodded down a cross from Matteo Darmian that Quagliarella hit on the turn with an instinctive snap-shot that went less than a yard wide. However, barring the penalty, Inter had the best opportunity to win the match when, after 68 minutes, the Brazilian Hernanes played through Southampton-loanee Dani Osvaldo whose close-range shot was blocked by goalkeeper Daniele Padelli yet would have rebounded to Medel had it not been for a great robust tackle from Alessandro Gazzi, who denied the Chilean a debut league goal. However, a game that only came to life in short bursts was to end without a winner, though it certainly finished with some controversy that began when, one minute into stoppage time, Vidić and Quagliarella chased a ball in the Inter half that ultimately went out for a goal-kick. As the ball crossed the line, the Italian appeared to push Vidić over but the pair soon shook hands afterwards, yet the ex-Manchester United player could then be seen sarcastically applauding the referee – most likely for not penalising the push, though it is unclear – and was duly sent off. Having not previously been yellow-carded, this was a straight red-card that was quite possibly for the perceived double-offence of both the applause and the doubtlessly critical words he shouted in the referee’s direction. Nevertheless, regardless of how the referee reached his decision, the Serbian is unsurprisingly fuming with how his debut for I Nerazzurri transpired.  

Venezuelans Abroad – 30 Aug 2014 Midweek Round-up (UEFA Europa League)

Thursday 28 August 2014

UEFA Europa League – Play-off Second Leg

Rio Ave 1-0 IF Elfsborg (2-2 on aggregate; Rio Ave through on away goals)

The early Portuguese pace-setters sensationally made it through to the group stage of the Europa League for the first ever time with one of the most Route One goals you will have seen since Luis Suarez’s second and – some might say, tragically – last goal in the World Cup against England. It had been a very frustrating match for the home side when, in the second minute of stoppage time, goalkeeper Cássio pumped a clearance upfield that a Swedish Steven Gerrard played into the box with a defence-splitting header which was then opportunistically poked into the net by Esmaël Gonçalves. Yonathan Del Valle was not available for this game due to injury but he will have an opportunity to star in the group phase as Rio Ave have been drawn in the tough Group J, alongside the perennially awkward Dynamo Kiev and two sides who fell at the final hurdle of Champions League qualification, Steaua Bucharest and Aalborg. 

Thursday 28 August 2014

UEFA Europa League – Play-off Second Leg

Torino 1-0 RNK Split (1-0 on aggregate)

Over 20,000 people saw Omar El Kaddouri score what proved to be the tie-winning goal from the penalty spot after 22 minutes as Torino held on against their Croatian opponents. El Kaddouri had a chance to double the lead just after the break following a goalkeeping fumble from Darmian’s cross that allowed the ball to fall invitingly into the Moroccan’s path but the goalkeeper Vuković recovered to block the shot. Josef Martínez, who scored in the second leg of the last round, came on as a substitute after 64 minutes for the Brazilian Bareto, who had started as Fabio Quagliarella’s strike partner. Although Martínez did not score, he will at least have further opportunities to do so in the group phase as his side have been drawn in Group B alongside Copenhagen, Club Brugge and HJK Helsinki, teams Torino may feel superior to but who possess significantly more European experience. 

Thursday 28 August 2014

UEFA Europa League – Play-off Second Leg

CD Nacional 2-3 Dinamo Minsk (2-5 on aggregate)

Hopes were high that Nacional could overturn a two-goal deficit from the first leg when Marco Matias converted a 30th-minute penalty but these were immediately dashed as Udodji headed home for the Belarusians, leaving their Portuguese opponents needing three goals to qualify. This proved to be an insurmountable task though aficionados of the headed goal will be pleased to know that there are four of these beauties to be enjoyed here, culminating in Udodji’s winner after 63 minutes. Mario Rondón was a prominent threat for the home side, particularly in the first half, when he set up some opportunities and nearly scored soon after the Minsk equaliser as he closed down the dithering goalkeeper, blocking a clearance that went agonisingly across the goalmouth. With his side out, it will be interesting to see if there are any transfer developments regarding Rondón in the upcoming days as he has spoken of wanting to move to a bigger league though claimed a month ago that he would be content to stay and show the rest of the continent what he can do in the Europa League.

Thursday 28 August 2014

UEFA Europa League – Play-off Second Leg

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 AEL Limassol (5-1 on aggregate)

Jonathan España was an unused substitute and Jaime Moreno was not in the squad as the Cypriot side were comfortably defeated by North London’s second-best team. Early on in the first half, Limassol’s Moroccan goalkeeper Karim Fegrouch rushed towards the edge of the area and brought down Kyle Naughton, causing not only a penalty and a yellow card but also a severe injury and an unavoidable substitution. However, seven minutes after the foul, his Spanish replacement, Pulpo, pulled off a good save to deny Harry Kane, though the young Englishman did redeem himself by getting his side off the mark at the end of the half. Soon after the break, Paulinho made himself some space and struck home the second and the third came from the penalty spot, though not from Kane but rather his compatriot Andros Townsend.