Italy in state of shock as clubs fail in Uefa Cup

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The Independent Online
It has been a week to forget for Italian football fans. First an unprecedented players' strike wiped out all last weekend's Serie A games - then the sensational elimination of Milan and Roma in the Uefa Cup, which left no Italian teams in the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time since 1988.

"An awful night for Italian football," read a front page headline in the Rome newspaper La Repubblica yesterday, the morning after Milan were beatten by Bordeaux and Roma were felled by Slavia Prague on away goals in the Uefa Cup quarter-finals.

After last season, when Parma beat Juventus in an all-Italian Uefa Cup final to produce a sixth triumph in the event by Italian teams in the last seven years, it was a bitter pill to swallow. In France, Milan wasted a 2-0 first-leg lead, going down 3-2 on aggregate, and had three key players seriously injured in the hard-fought match.

The Liberian striker, George Weah, the 1995 Fifa player of the year, broke his right arm, the international defender Alessandro Costacurta broke his nose and the midfielder Stefano Eranio pulled a muscle. This adds to an injury list already including Dejan Savicevic, Marco Simone and Zvonimir Boban.

All will miss Sunday's crucial Serie A fixture against Parma. Milan lead second-placed Fiorentina by six points, with nine games left, but consecutive defeats against their city rivals, Internazionale, and now Bordeaux have got their fans worried.

In the Olympic Stadium, Roma succumbed on the away goals rule after rallying to earn a 3-1 victory in extra time of the second leg of their quarter- final, following a 2-0 first-leg loss. The Slavia Prague substitute, Jiri Vavra, scored the decisive goal with six minutes left, silencing a partisan crowd of 64,000 who were prematurely celebrating Roma's progress.