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Matchday Revisted: The 2008 Coppa victory over Inter!

Our columnist looks back on another memorable cup final success...

The 2007-08 season was a memorable one for Roma for many reasons. Despite falling three points short in the title race, they crucially capped off the campaign by winning their second consecutive Coppa Italia - and ninth overall.

In a season where they also defeated Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16 before falling to Manchester United in the quarters, having won the Supercoppa Italiana earlier on too, Luciano Spalletti enjoyed another productive campaign at the helm.

Unquestionably, however, defeating Roberto Mancini's outfit for the second year running in the Coppa was the crowning achievement, with the Giallorossi triumphing 2-1 with goals from Philippe Mexes and Simone Perrotta.

Lining up with a backline of Marco Cassetti, Philippe Mexes, Juan and Max Tonetto, which was supported superbly by the central midfield duo of Daniele De Rossi and David Pizarro, this acted as a solid foundation.

Then, in the absence of the legendary Francesco Totti through injury, Mirko Vucinic led the line, with Alberto Aquilani playing behind him and Perrotta and Ludovic Giuly as the wingers in Spalletti's base 4-2-3-1 formation.

In front of the Stadio Olimpico faithful, Roma were brilliant in the first half, producing some slick attacking football, as they continually put the Nerazzurri on the back foot. Full of dynamism, coordinated movement and tempo, Inter struggled to come to grips with their opponents in the first half.

The chief weapon in wreaking havoc was Roma's excellent central presence, as their smooth rotations and positioning ensured Inter couldn't settle into a rhythm of how to negate them.

To start with, how Aquilani would drop deep into true central midfield locations allowed Roma to generate numerical superiority here while forming a classy midfield trio with De Rossi and Pizarro.

Adding to their creativity in deeper areas, the Italian picked his moments craftily when to drop and manufacture an overload to help orchestrate proceedings.

As a result, Roma gained control of midfield and this trident ran the show beautifully in the first half. Moving the ball quickly and coherently and regularly manipulating Inter's defensive shape, this tactic worked wonders for Spalletti's men.

Meanwhile, in advanced areas, their interchanging of positions compounded issues for Inter. Persistently altering positions and causing dilemmas in regards to who should mark who, the Giallorossi's front four parlayed to devastating effect.

With Giuly, Perrotta, Vucinic and Aquilani dovetailing successfully and mostly positioned in central areas so they had strong connections and could combine rapidly in close proximity, plus strategically move to unlock their adversaries, this was the catalyst for many a thrilling attack.

By instructing the nominal wingers to drift infield into the half spaces or the 10 spaces, this also meant the fullbacks had oceans of space out wide to stretch their opponents horizontally and vertically. Moreover, the fact Roma's occupation of the middle was so strong saw the fullbacks have many options inside the box when they wanted to deliver a cross or cutback.

Perrotta and Vucinic's relationship deserved special mention, for their understanding was first class in dismantling their foes' backline. They did so in two ways especially, with neat rotations and opposite movements. For the former, when Perotta was out on the left, he'd come infield and Vucinic would then drift wide, where the Montenegrin loved receiving 1v1 against his man and using his powerful running and dribbling to get at the defence.

Indeed, both of Roma's goals owed something to this strategy, for the move that led to Roma winning the corner for their opener gained impetus with a Perrotta and Vucinic swap. Then, the blistering passage that culminated in the second brought their efficiency into sharp focus, where Vucinic peeled wide as Perrotta carried the ball forward. As the Italian international neared the edge of the box, he dinked a pass to Vucinic, who smartly struck a return ball for Perrotta to score the winner.

Another notable feature of this duo's output came whenever Vucinic would drop deep to link play, which served as the trigger for Perrotta to push up and occupy the striking role.

Not only did this maintain depth and give the Giallorossi an outlet, it also stretched the Inter backline deeper, thus widening the space between the lines as the central defence were unsure which man they should track.

Using the qualities of Vucinic didn't stop there, however, as the big man offered a fine target for long balls and goal kicks. Key towards Roma beating the press and giving them an outlet if they were under pressure, Roma smartly stationed at least two attackers around him to enhance their chances of winning the second ball.

From here, they could attack again from high up while taking advantage of their aforementioned central presence.

Knowing they had their work cut out against an Inter team that possessed talent all over the pitch from the likes of Maxwell, Maicon, Javier Zanetti, Dejan Stankovic, Patrick Vieira and Mario Balotelli, they performed soundly as a collective unit to largely blunt Mancini's men.

Particularly formidable was the performance of centre halves Juan and Mexes, who did a fine job of nullifying David Suazo and Balotelli. Commanding and authoritative, their aggression, intensity and reading of the play saw them comfortably win the majority of their duels.

Responding quickly to pressing cues like when their man came short with their back to goal, they'd get touchtight so their marker couldn't turn or execute their actions cleanly. In addition, how they tracked runners, dealt with crosses from all angles, knew when to adjust their positioning and operated with such confidence was crucial towards the triumph.

Dominant in the air and forceful in the tackle, this imposing duo hardly put a foot wrong. A winner's medal was definitely a fitting reward for their masterful stopping showing. Mexes' contribution even extended beyond his defensive work, with his sensational volleyed opener propelling Roma to a valuable first half lead.

Even though Inter came back into the game in the second half and pegged a goal back through Pele's thunderbolt, it was to be Roma's night, as they capped off an enterprising season with some deserved silverware.

 
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