By Paolo Menicucci at Stadio Ennio Tardini
Parma FC sealed a UEFA Cup semi-final spot with a stout defensive display after a scoreless draw against FK Austria Wien tonight ensured they triumphed on the away-goals rule.
The sides drew 1-1 in Vienna last week and although Parma were favourites to make home advantage pay, Austria have a good record on the road in this season's competition, registering a win and draw respectively against Spanish sides Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Zaragoza in their last two away games.
Indeed, after a bright opening by the Gialloblù, it was the visitors who threatened first when Sigurd Rushfeldt cushioned the ball into the path of the on-rushing Sebastian Mila. However, the Polish midfield player shot straight into the arms of goalkeeper Luca Bucci.
The two Austrian players combined again soon after, before Mila cut the ball back to Štepán Vachoušek, who should have done better with his effort. The Parma defence struggled to get to grips with Rushfeldt all evening, although it was not until seven minutes from the interval that the Norwegian striker managed an effort on goal, but his header sailed over the crossbar.
Parma briefly rallied and the industrious Ibrahima Camara saw a low drive blocked by Saša Papac but there was still time for Austria to test Bucci at the other end. A stray elbow from Giuseppe Cardone gave the Viennese side a free-kick and Libor Sionko, with five UEFA Cup goals this season, curled an effort that Bucci brilliantly tipped wide.
After starting with a weakened side, Pietro Carmignani introduced first-choice striker Alberto Gilardino after the interval and the Italian international striker invigorated his side. Within seven minutes of the restart, Fabio Simplicio twice missed good chances, first shooting over after collecting Camara's terrific through-ball before Austria goalkeeper Szabolcs Safar blocked another effort at his feet.
Austria brought on veteran striker Ivica Vastic in the closing stages but although he helped force Parma firmly on to the back foot as the visitors launched a late onslaught, it proved in vain. The Serie A side duly held on to secure a semi-final against PFC CSKA Moskva - with the first leg here in Italy on 28 April and the return in Russia a week later.