Friday, 13 March 2009

Udinese lift wounded Italian pride

After Serie A involvement in the UEFA Champions League was ended this week, Udinese eased some of the anguish for Italian football with a 2-0 victory against holders Zenit St. Petersburg in the first leg of their UEFA Cup Round of 16 tie at the Stadio Friuli.

UdineseUdinese's vibrant performance was rewarded in the closing stages when Fabio Quagliarella and Antonio Di Natale struck to put the hosts in command, although nobody in the Zebrette camp is counting on a quarter-final place just yet.

"We are in a good position now but we are aware that the atmosphere will be hot in Russia," Di Natale said. "We will have to go there and try to score because defending would be dangerous."

The 31-year-old forward, who missed a penalty in Italy's quarter-final shoot-out defeat by Spain at UEFA Euro 2008, kept his nerve from the spot after Quagliarella had opened the scoring for the Serie A team with five minutes remaining.

"Before taking the penalty many things crossed my mind, even the one I missed against Spain at EURO, but fortunately I managed to score this time around," he said.

"We played beautifully and it was good that we pushed until the final whistle. I think the 2-0 scoreline is fully deserved."

Coach Pasquale Marino, who was sent to the stands with 12 minutes remaining, was full of praise for the performance of his players at both ends of the pitch.

"We played very well, risking almost nothing in defence and creating a few chances in attack," he said. "It was the right way to approach this game and I would not have complained to my players even if the final score finished 0-0.

"However, we will have to play with the same intensity in Russia and try to score a goal to kill the game.

"It would be a huge mistake to think that the tie is decided. We made that mistake against Borussia Dortmund in the first round when we won the first leg 2-0 in Germany and then we qualified only on penalties."

How Roma could have done with such spot-kick poise against Arsenal on Wednesday, as they followed Juventus and Inter out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage. Udinese ensured it is not all doom and gloom in Italy, however.

Source: UEFA

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