Football: Final act lacks goodwill

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The Independent Online
Cremonese . . . .3

Derby County. . .1

WHAT good purpose is served by the Anglo-Italian Cup competition remains well concealed. The final at Wembley yesterday ended in character: goodwill lost in the black thunder of booing and the blue bruises of a game that did nothing for relationships and little for the original exclusiveness of the old stadium itself. Better, surely, to keep such sordid affairs off the national stage.

Since it first appeared in 1969, this has been a blighted competition. From the beginning, almost inevitably, violence has threatened its existence though no more so than complete lack of interest. The idea of reviving it this season was allegedly to improve Anglo-Italian football 'understanding' but transparently it reappeared on the back of anticipated British interest in Serie A and especially the progress of Paul Gascoigne, David Platt and Des Walker.

Trying to persuade Italian audiences to turn up to see some pretty ordinary English clubs has been no less easy than attempting to sell the merits of virtually unheard of Italian sides in England. Nevertheless, Cremonese and Derby County are supposed to be among the better teams outside their national premier divisions, though proving it yesterday was more than either could achieve.

Why anyone would have the cosy idea that such a competition could encourage hopes of good diplomacy could perhaps only be answered by such an expert as Wembley's guest yesterday, Douglas Hurd. From the outset there was not a semblance of goodwill and as for the football, neither the English nor the Italian versions of the mainstream game in either country was well represented. If there was an element of entertainment it was mostly gladiatorial.

Initially, Cremonese gave the impression that in Italian style they were prepared to bide their time, but after 11 minutes they had the opportunity to do better than make tentative probes, however, and from Matjaz Florjancic's corner their captain, Corrado Verdelli, headed in.

The initiative that they had so quickly achieved was soon lost, and for no better reason than that they lazily allowed it to slip from their grasp. So, not surprisingly, in the 24th minute when Mark Patterson made a determined run, Paul Kitson's ensuing high ball into the penalty area led to Marco Gabbiadini heading in a well-organised equaliser. What irony if the son of an Italian should be the Derby hero, but it was not to be.

Indeed Derby's confidence lasted for no more than four minutes, the time it took Cremonese to win a penalty, which was not all that difficult to do in the eyes of an easily swayed referee. Marco Giandebiaggi had no difficulty in persuading him that Michael Forsyth had illegal intent when making a strident tackle, but Eligio Nicolini's penalty was hardly brimming with indignation and Martin Taylor saved.

Cremonese should have gained immediate compensation but after Andrea Tentoni had comfortably beaten Patterson and had only Taylor to pass, he lobbed the ball into the goalkeeper's hands. Even so, Tentoni was always the player likely to prove that Cremonese were the better team. He made the point in the 50th minute when, charging through Derby's half, he was only stopped when Taylor plunged at his feet.

Goalkeeper, attacker and ball were in one mighty collision but the referee insisted that Taylor was late into the crash and he offered another penalty. This time Riccardo Maspero was offered the kick and succeeded. From then on, Derby were never going to win the argument. Nicolini hit their post and finally Tentoni was rewarded for his attempt to bring some imagination to the day when he strolled on another 20-yard run and finished with a scoring shot that deserved more than to spark the upswell of booing that accompanied the final minutes of ragged, ill-tempered tackling and gesturing that should condemn this ill-conceived competition.

Cremonese: L Turci; L Gualco, A Pedroni, G Cristini, F Colonnese, C Verdelli, M Giandebiaggi, E Nicolini, A Tentoni (M Montorfano 73 mins), R Maspero, M Florjancic (G Dezotti 73 mins). Coach: L Simoni.

Derby County: M Taylor; M Patterson, M Forsyth, S Nicholson, S Coleman, M Pembridge, G Micklewhite, R Goulooze, P Kitson, M Gabbiadini, T Johnson (Simpson 82 mins). Manager: A Cox.

Referee: J U Velasquez (Spain).

Goals: Verdelli (1-0, 11 mins); Gabbiadini (1-1, 24 mins), Maspero pen(2-1, 50 mins); Tentoni (3-1, 84 mins).

(Photograph omitted)