Style, not substance, generally defines Italian football. Yet three Serie A teams owe their continuity in the UEFA Champions League to the latter quality after the latest instalment of second group stage action.
Arguably the most compelling drama involved Juventus FC, who came from behind to beat RC Deportivo La Coruña in Group D. Igor Tudor's 93rd-minute goal clinched a 3-2 win for the Bianconeri which, barring a FC Basel miracle on Matchday 12, guarantees Juve's place in the last eight while eliminating Deportivo.
However, the Italian media left readers in no doubt as to the manner of this victory. The Gazzetta dello Sport wrote: "Even when Juventus were playing badly, you never felt they would be knocked out.
They proved their mental and physical strength. It is not about tactics or technique; it is more a kind of immortality in the matches that matter."
Juve's will to win had proved resilient to the most acid of tests. But not everyone was happy. "Juve will not go far in the competition with performances like this," Tuttosport warned. Meanwhile, Spain's Marca newspaper lamented the demise of "brave Depor". "Unlucky Galicians kiss goodbye to the Champions League," it said.
Lions of Highbury
Juve's domestic rivals Inter and Roma also showed themselves temperamentally incapable of accepting defeat. Roma were heralded as the "lions of Highbury" after they maintained their slender hopes of progress from Group B with a 1-1 draw at Arsenal FC. The Corriere dello Sport headlined with "Cassano keeps Roma in Europe". But the Gazzetta preferred to concentrate on Antonio Cassano's strike partner, Francesco Totti - apparently the victim of an "absurd decision to send him off".
According to the same paper, Inter "had a bad night" against a Newcastle United FC side that "controlled most of the game" at San Siro in Group A. None the less, a 2-2 draw kept the Nerazzurri a point ahead of the English club going into the final round of matches. The Daily Telegraph newspaper wrote: "Newcastle must beat Barcelona at St James' Park and hope Inter slip up [against Bayer 04 Leverkusen]. Breath should not be held."
Simply the best
Meanwhile, Italy's fourth representative, AC Milan, witnessed at first hand the brilliance of a player Marca referred to as "God". "
Raúl, you are simply the best," is the tune of glory in the Madrid sports daily. Madrid's 3-1 success against the Group C winners gave them a one-point advantage over BV Borussia Dortmund in the race for second place in the section.
"Madrid must win in Moscow next week," Spain's AS said, but the German online paper Spiegel insisted that "Dortmund can only dream of the quarter-finals", despite a 3-0 victory against FC Lokomotiv Moskva. "Only a miracle can save BVB now," concurred the daily Express.
Another third-placed team still in with a chance are Valencia CF. Next week the Spanish club "will decide their future at home" against Arsenal, whom they trail by a point. "Valencia manage to draw in Amsterdam and now have to beat Arsenal," wrote Marca after Kily González's penalty earned a 1-1 draw at group leaders AFC Ajax.
For the record
That was also the score between Group D winners Manchester United FC and Basel thanks to Gary Neville's first goal in the competition. "Neville saves United record," the Daily Telegraph said. United are unbeaten at home in the Champions League since October 2001. Meanwhile, FC Barcelona made it 12 wins and a draw from 13 games in this year's tournament (including qualifiers) after beating Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Group A. "Barça go into the last eight through the front door as group winners," El Mundo Deportivo wrote.
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