Mancini and Totti prove the best of enemies

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Roma's 2-1 Champions League win over Real Madrid on Tuesday showed teammates do not have to be the best of friends to gel on the pitch.

Captain Francesco Totti set up Brazilian midfielder Mancini for the winner in the last-16 first-leg clash in Rome, despite the pair being involved in a long-running personal feud. "We have always clicked on the field, even if we haven't talked to each other for two years," Mancini said.

Their embrace after Mancini's coolly-taken second-half strike was even more remarkable given Totti nearly missed the game with illness.

"I sicked up everything. I felt bad. I already had a fever before the game," Totti told reporters after emerging from the post-match doping control. The striker has been troubled by a series of injury niggles this season and was far from his best against Real.

The Spanish champions fancy their chances of getting a 1-0 win in the second leg at the Bernabeu on 5 March, especially after Roma surrendered a 2-1 first-leg lead over Manchester United in last season's quarter-finals by going down 7-1 at Old Trafford.

If Totti can truly rediscover the form which made him European Golden Boot winner last season with 26 league goals, though, Luciano Spalletti's side have a definite chance.

Team bonding by fighting with each other may not be in the coaching manuals, but Roma have got it down to a fine art. Following on from Totti and Mancini, defender Christian Panucci had an altercation with midfielder Alberto Aquilani during Sunday's training session.

The pair clashed following a 1-0 league defeat at Juventus a day earlier, which left second-placed Roma 11 points adrift of leaders Inter Milan and just one point above Juve in third.

Real Madrid believe their impressive form at the Bernabeu will help them advance to the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in four years. "We'll be playing at home, we'll have the support of our home fans and with the way we play, I think we've got a great chance of getting through to the next round," Real Madrid playmaker Guti said.

"We've got to stay calm and controlled during the second leg because there are still 90 minutes to go and a 1-0 win will see us through."

The nine-times European champions took an early lead at the Olympic Stadium with skipper Raul scoring his 60th goal in the competition when he diverted a Guti shot into the net in the eighth minute.

But despite dominating for long periods, Bernd Schuster's side were undone by two sharp finishes from David Pizarro and Mancini.

"We started pretty well, but just when we had most control over the game they scored their first goal," said Guti. "The result is a little unfair, but that's the way it is with Italian football. They made the most of their strengths and got the result."

Real's Italian centre-back Fabio Cannavaro agreed with his team mate.

"It was a very strange game because we played very well and it is hard to explain why we did not get a positive result out of it," said the former Juventus defender. "It will be different in Madrid. At the Bernabeu we will need to show the same sort of enthusiasm only with greater concentration because they can score a goal at the slightest opportunity."

Real have won all 14 home games in the league and Europe this season, with their only slip-ups coming in the Spanish Super Cup and the King's Cup.

Schalke 04 see no need to alter their game plan for the second leg of their Champions League tie against Porto after a textbook display in the home leg took them close to a place in the quarter-finals.

Schalke, playing in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time, were rewarded for an aggressive start with a Kevin Kuranyi goal in the fourth minute.

They then showed real nerve to hold off a Porto fightback in the closing 20 minutes and secure a valuable 1-0 win. It was just what coach Mirko Slomka had asked of his players, with the side's usual fighting spirit matched this time by unwavering concentration.

A place in the last eight now looks a real possibility. "We just need to get another goal in the second leg," midfielder Jermaine Jones told reporters, as he looked ahead to the return leg at the Dragao stadium. "If we manage that, Porto will need to score three, and that's just not going to happen against us."

Tuesday's mature display meant Schalke could celebrate their 100th match in European club competition with a 50th victory.

"We've made a habit of losing concentration in Bundesliga games, and I urged the players at half-time not to let that happen," Slomka said. "We did the hard work and it gives us a good chance, but we'll have to play at the very highest level again if we want to go through."

Comments