Figo double steers Real into knockout stage
Luis Figo scored twice as Real Madrid eased
their way into the knockout stage of the Champions League with a
comfortable 3-0 win over AS Roma in their final Group B match on
Real knew they had to win against the Italians to be assured of a place
in the next round and never looked back after Ronaldo put them ahead in
the ninth minute.
"It was important to get that early goal because otherwise it could have
become very tense and complicated," said the Brazilian.
"After we got the goal we were able to take control of the game and it
was much easier," he added.
Apart from a scare when Roma's French midfielder Vincent Candela hit the
top of the post with a free kick in the 31st minute, the nine-time
European Cup winners had little trouble against a weak Roma.
"We played to win. We played to score. From that point of view I'm
satisfied," said Real coach Mariano Garcia Remon.
"Maybe we conceded a little too much to Roma, but that's natural when
you play in a certain way."
Real go through with Germans Bayer Leverkusen who beat Dynamo Kiev 3-0
to force the Ukrainians, who went into the final game leading the group,
into third place and the UEFA Cup.
Roma, already out of Europe, had nothing to play for and fielded a
weakened side without striker Francesco Totti and Vincenzo Montella in
an empty Olympic stadium.
The 70,000 venue was deserted as Roma were forced by UEFA to play the
second of two matches behind closed doors after trouble at their opening
group game against Dynamo when Swedish referee Anders Frisk was hurt by
an object thrown from the crowd.
Garcia Remon was especially happy with the way his Real players coped
with the unusual atmosphere.
"It was behind closed doors and could have been tricky, but I think we
handled it in the right way," he said.
"Roma were missing players like Totti, (Antonio) Cassano and Montella,
but despite that I thought they played well.
"They had a lot of youngsters out there, but we couldn't afford to be
complacent. Football is no longer a game dominated by a few, big teams.
Any result is possible."
In such a strange atmosphere, Real settled in quickly and Ronaldo had a
decent chance in just the second minute but he headed a Figo cross from
the right flank over the bar.
But the Brazilian made no mistake when after a lengthy passing move,
Zinedine Zidane slipped the ball into his path and he lifted it past
advancing keeper Ivan Pelizzoli to put Real ahead.
With the pressure having eased, Real were content to push the ball
around in midfield without much disturbance although in the 22nd minute
Ronaldo had another half chance, firing wide under a challenge from
French defender Philippe Mexes.
Roma created nothing in the first half hour but then went close to an
equaliser when Vincent Candela struck the woodwork with a free kick.
Then on the stroke of halftime Roma's Argentine defender Leandro Cufre
forced Real's Iker Casillas into action with a powerful long range drive
that the keeper opted to punch out.
Real took no risks after the break and were somewhat fortunate to extend
their lead in the 61st minute when Ronaldo was judged by Dutch referee
Rene Temmink to have been fouled inside the area by Greek defender
The Brazilian certainly made the most of the slightest of contact with
the Roma defender and Figo converted confidently to put Real 2-0 up and
in firm control of the game.
Real suffered a couple of late worries when Roma's Brazilian wing-back
Mancini had a powerful free kick parried out by Casillas in the 78th
minute and then Daniele Corvia had a header ruled out for offside.
But Figo wrapped up the win with a nicely taken goal eight minutes from
the end, showing excellent skill to beat Dellas before firing past
Pelizzoli from inside the area.