Italian football is alive and well. That was the message from Serie A's top clubs after wins for Internazionale FC, AC Milan and Juventus FC in the UEFA Champions League this week.
'Watch out Europe'
It was also the mantra of the Italian papers, the Gazzetta dello Sport leading the chorus of approval with its headline "Watch out Europe". Below, the original football 'pink' commented: "It is six years since an Italian team won the Champions League and one good night does not make up for so many disappointments. But there is a wind of change blowing through our football."
Arguably the outstanding Matchday Two result was Milan's 4-0 victory at RC Deportivo La Coruña in Group G. The Rossoneri have made their best start in the competition since 1992 and, in the Gazzetta, coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed the "stupendous" performance of hat-trick hero Filippo Inzaghi.
Juventus in control
Less superlative was Inter's 1-0 home success against AFC Ajax in Group D. "Inter struggle until the Argentinian [Hernán Crespo] strikes," reported the Gazzetta. Juventus, however, "are the team in control" of Group E after matching their best Champions League result in the 5-0 thrashing of FC Dynamo Kyiv. The applause for AS Roma was more muted following their Group C draw at AEK Athens FC, although coach Fabio Capello told the paper: "We achieved our goal which was to rediscover our mental strength."
Only in Israel was the reaction to the week's events more upbeat. Understandably so after Maccabi Haifa FC claimed the country's first ever Champions League win. The Israeli daily Maariv devoted its front page to "a stunning 3-0 victory over Olympiakos [FC]" under the headline "Unbelievable". The result, the paper said, would be "written in golden letters in the history books of Israeli football and even if an Israeli team goes on to win the Champions League we will always remember Nicosia."
Certainly, Maccabi's Group F success was the perfect riposte to their defeat at Manchester United FC six days before. United, too, "began to recapture territory" after "losing ground in the Premiership" with their 2-1 triumph at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, wrote the Daily Telegraph.
Like Sir Alex Ferguson's team, who claimed their first win on German soil in four decades, Arsenal FC also put their away-day blues behind them. Gilberto scored the fastest recorded Champions League goal in the 4-0 victory at PSV Eindhoven. Timed at 20.07 seconds, it was quicker even than Alessandro Del Piero's strike at Old Trafford five seasons ago. Hence the headline in the Sun newspaper: "Quick Silva".
Bayern doubts grow
Elsewhere in Arsenal's section, BV Borussia Dortmund "struggled to victory against [AJ] Auxerre", claimed Die Welt. "Dortmund end German run of poor results thanks to Amoroso goal machine," added the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The latter journal saved its opprobrium for FC Bayern München following the 1-1 Group G draw at RC Lens: "The doubts grow... draw has the 1. Bundesliga champions searching for lost dominance." While the AZ newspaper summed up "Bayern worries" writing: "KO looms as well as huge €45m loss."
Madrid better than Brazil
But the last word goes to the Spanish sports daily Marca: "Better than Brazil... pure samba, even without Ronaldo." That was Real Madrid CF in last night's 6-0 defeat of KRC Genk in Group C. Take away Deportivo, and it was a good week for Spanish football. Valencia CF, 2-0 winners at FC Spartak Moskva, "already have a foot in the second phase", while FC Barcelona kept up their 100 per cent record in Group H by "emerging victorious from the infernal Ali Sami Yen".
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