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Cluj stun Roma in Champions League debut

Latest update : 2008-09-17

The first Champions League day was marked by a shower of goals and a surprise victory for Romania's little known Cluj against AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. Elsewhere, Germany's Werder Bremen were unable to beat Cyprus' Anorthosis.

Champions League debutants CFR 1907 Cluj stunned AS Roma 2-1 in a Group A clash at the Stadio Olimpico here on Tuesday.

The Romanians thoroughly deserved their victory with Argentine Juan Culio scoring twice in response to Cristian Panucci's opener for the Italians.

Cluj, mostly a hotch-potch of little-known Portuguese and South Americans, were resolute at the back while showing confidence, speed and potency on the counter-attack.

Roma were missing first choice centre-back pairing Philippe Mexes and Juan while captain and talisman Francesco Totti started on the bench in his comeback from injury and they were second best throughout most of the game.

The hosts started well enough, though, as a sweeping move from left to right, typical of Roma, ended with Brazilian fullback Cicinho crossing for Mirko Vucinic to stab wide on 14 minutes.

The Montenegro forward then latched onto a long punt forward from Panucci and beat goalkeeper Eduard Stancioiu to the ball but prodded his effort onto the post.

Roma's pressure told and they took the lead on 17 minutes after Daniele De Rossi dispossessed a dawdling Culio near the corner flag and crossed for Panucci who stooped to head home at the near post.

But that seemed to spur on the visitors who responded in style and exposed Roma's makeshift centre-half pairing of Panucci and Marco Cassetti.

Argentines Sebastian Dubarbier and Culio, as well as Uruguayan Alvaro Pereira all had chances on the counter before the Romanians levelled on 27 minutes.

Left winger Culio made up for his earlier mistake by shrugging off Rodrigo Taddei, playing a one two with Eugen Trica and taking the return - a back-heeled flick - in his stride before firing home low past goalkeeper Doni.

Towards the end of the half Roma fans started jeering their own team as Cluj had clearly wrested the ascendancy from the hosts.

Things could have been worse too for the Italians as Portuguese midfielder Dani forced Doni into a sprawling save six minutes from the break.

Whatever coach Luciano Spalletti told his side during the half-time interval it had no effect as Culio grabbed his second with a left-foot volley after Cassetti only partially cleared Trica's chip into the box.

That prompted Spalletti to introduce Totti into the fray instead of John Arne Riise with Vucinic switching to the left flank.

Even then Cluj went closest to scoring as Gabriel Muresan curled a freekick just past the post before Cicinho escaped with a bearhug that prevented Culio from running clean through on goal.

The visitors remained the more dangerous and Argentine substitute Sixto Peralta was unlucky to see his 71st minute header from a Tony cross crash back off the bar.

It was only in the dying moments that Roma started to exert any real pressure but it was too little too late and the jeers at the final whistle from a spartan crowd told their own story.

Surprising Anorthosis

Werder Bremen made a low-key and unimpressive start to their Champions League campaign on Tuesday night with a scoreless draw against Cypriot debutants Anorthosis Famagusta.

Anorthosis became the first Cypriot team to reach the competition's group stage after beating Greece's Olympiakos in the final qualifying round, but neither side produced much in the way of attacking football here.

"We were hunting for a goal right up until the last minute, but didn't produce enough pressure to force our opponents into a mistake," Germany defender Per Mertesacker said.

"Perhaps there was some quality missing in our finishing.

"But we are very disappointed and must improve.

"Werder Bremen are famous for our comebacks."

With Inter Milan and Greek side Panathinaikos also in Group B, both Bremen and Famagusta will need to play much better if they are to have any chance of making the Champions League's knock-out phase.

With Germany midfielders Clemens Fritz and Torsten Frings playing alongside Brazilian Diego, Bremen were at full-strength, but lacked much in the way of finishing as they failed to convert a string of chances against a poor defence.

While Famagusta are top of their domestic league with two wins from two, Bremen only picked up their first Bundesliga win of the season last Saturday at the fourth attempt and their lack of form was clear on Tuesday night.

And the Cypriots rarely threatened Tim Weise in the Bremen goal.

Former Chelsea striker Claudio Pizarro was the most industrious player in the first half with his best effort being a header straight at Famagusta goalkeeper Arjan Beqaj on 24 minutes.

On 54 minutes, Bremen's Swedish striker Markus Rosenberg found the back of the net to much celebration, but he was judged off-side and the score stayed 0-0.

Germany midfielder Fritz went close just after the hour mark, but the best chance of the second-half fell to Portuguese substitute Hugo Almeida who fired his shot over the bar on 78 minutes.

Anorthosis' best chance of the night came with five minutes left when Greek defender Traianos Dellas hammered in his shot from 25 metres out, but Weise dealt with the threat.

Bremen will have to raise their game when they travel to Milan to face Inter in the next round on October 1, while Anorthosis will host Panathinaikos in Cyprus.

Date created : 2008-09-16