Serie A Week 2 - 11/9/05 (14.00 UK)
Roma 0 - 1 Udinese
Muntari 32 (U)
Luciano Spalletti's reunion with his old club was a painful affair, as Udinese leave the Stadio Olimpico with a victory that could prove crucial for fourth place.
There were many layers to this encounter at the Stadio Olimpico. Luciano Spalletti faced the club he walked out on in bitter circumstances this summer, while Vincent Candela returned to face his former teammates. Udinese boss Serse Cosmi is also a lifelong Roma fan who was tipped for Spalletti's job before eventually replacing him at the Stadio Friuli. Perhaps above all else, this was also a head to head battle for the fourth Champions League spot.
Once again, contract rebel Antonio Cassano was left on the bench in favour of Rodrigo Taddei in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Udinese came here to attack with three men upfront and Vincenzo Iaquinta's free kick was deflected over by Samuel Kuffour.
Roma wasted a golden opportunity to score soon after when Vincenzo Montella sprung the offside trap, but he practically passed the ball to the goalkeeper when it might have been easier to score.
Montella turned wide from another promising position, then Gianluca Curci was forced to leap out in order to turn Candela's cross off Iaquinta's feet.
The deadlock was eventually broken by Udinese after 32 minutes. Curci was at full stretch, but could not get a hand to Sulley Ali Muntari's deflected strike from the edge of the box. Daniele De Rossi's heel pushed the flight of the ball just beyond Curci's reach.
There was controversy when Di Natale requested a penalty for Christian Panucci's handling offence, but the defender was on the ground and the only obstacle remaining between the Udinese star and Curci.
Curci was again tested by an Antonio Di Natale header, though Roma continued to waste good chances, as Montella's cut-back was too far away from both Amantino Mancini and Taddei.
Totti saw his right-footed free kick come back off the defensive wall and immediately aimed a left-foot missile just over the bar.
Shabani Nonda replaced the disappointing Montella for the second half. It seemed to wake them up, as within the next 90 seconds there were two great Morgan De Sanctis saves on a pair of De Rossi headers from point-blank range on Totti set-pieces.
On 50 minutes Nonda gathered a throw-in and shook the side-netting, giving some people in the stadium the impression of a goal. Antonio Cassano came on soon after and was applauded by the home fans, as this week he is expected to sign a new contract with Roma.
Nonda was impressive and had a good chance closed down by some desperate defending, but Cassano skipped through the Udinese defence combining with Totti, only for the captain to scuff the ball when he only had to tap it in.
Udinese thought they'd doubled their lead on 67 minutes, but it was correctly disallowed for Iaquinta's offside position on a Di Natale pass.
Kuffour required a goalline clearance after Iaquinta's chip had beaten Curci at the near post, though the Italian international did not seem to be convinced of his scoring chances.
Udinese should have sealed up the points eight minutes from time with a classic counter-attack, but Iaquinta was greedy and went for goal instead of passing across to the better placed Stefano Mauri.
Mauri had his own chance soon after, his long-range effort pushed round the post by Curci.
Roma: Curci; Panucci, Kuffour, Chivu, Cufre (Cassano 54); Perrotta (Alvarez 77), De Rossi; Mancini, Totti, Taddei; Montella (Nonda 46)
Udinese: De Sanctis; Felipe, Natali, Juarez; Zenoni, Muntari (Mauri 63), Obodo, Candela; Di Michele (Vidigal 46), Iaquinta, Di Natale (Barreto 85)
Ref: MessinaChannel 4
Roma 0-1 Udinese
ROME, September 11 (Serie A) - Sulley Muntari ruined the day for former boss Luciano Spalletti by scoring a first-half goal to fire Udinese to victory over Roma.
Roma bossed the early going, but the Ghana midfielder struck in the 31st minute as the Friuli outfit claimed their second triumph in as many Serie A matches.
Spalletti was the leading topic in the build-up to the game as he guided Udinese to a fourth place finish last season before leaving in the summer to take the reins of the Giallorossi.
Sunday was the first meeting for Spalletti against his old team.
Bianconero boss Serse Cosmi, who praised his predecessor after Udinese's victory in the Champions League qualifiers, now has four wins as the boss of the north-east club.
The game had been important for the Roma fans for they had not seen their side win at the Stadio Olimpico in Serie A since March of last season.
They were optimistic after Roma's 3-0 success at Reggina in the opening week of the campaign, and the home side did have the brighter start on Sunday.
Last season's goalscoring sensation Vincenzo Montella found himself in a one-on-one with Morgan De Sanctis in the 15th minute but hit his shot straight at the Udinese goalkeeper and he cleared easily with his right foot.
Montella again put De Sanctis under pressure from close range but his shot went wide of Udinese's left post.
With Roma playing at their best but with no goals to show for their effort, they were hit with a sucker punch.
Muntari's long distance strike was deflected by Daniele De Rossi and there was nothing goalkeeper Gianluca Curci could do to avoid the ball going between the posts.
Roma reacted immediately and were unlucky not to level the scores after Montella crossed into the area but no team-mate was able to connect.
Udinese then could have extended their advantage before the break with Antonio Di Natale unleashing a powerful strike but it smashed off the crossbar.
Though Montella had threatened, Spalletti elected to take him off at half-time and introduce Shabani Nonda.
The Romans played with a sense of urgency and soon after the restart almost equalised but De Sanctis twice made excellent saves from Daniele De Rossi's close-range headers.
In the 55th minute, Spalletti finally brought on Antonio Cassano, who reportedly will end all discussions about his future by extending his contract with the Giallorossi this week.
Spalletti chose not to play the talented but temperamental striker at Reggina and was criticised for that decision later.
The Italian striker replaced Leandro Cufre and soon showed his skill, losing his marker before sending a fantastic ball into the box to an unmarked Franceso Totti only for the club captain to send the ball wide.
Udinese thought they had doubled their lead after a goal by Vincenzo Iaquinta but video replay showed he was offside.
The visitors managed to hold off Roma's late advances for the victory.
Confidence will be high on Wednesday in Udine when Cosmi and Co host Panathinaikos in the Champions League. Eurosport
Bittersweet reunion for Spalletti
Roma boss Luciano Spalletti faces his former club Udinese on Sunday still seething over his departure. Spalletti guided the unfashionable Udine side to a surprise fourth-placed finish and a Champions League place last season, before opting to head for the challenge of resuscitating Roma.
Spalletti guided the unfashionable Udine side to a surprise fourth-placed finish and a Champions League place last season, before opting to head for the challenge of resuscitating Roma.
But as he prepares the giallorossi for the game, the new man in charge at the Olimpico says his tug-of-war departure from Udinese and the behaviour of club president Giampaolo Pozzo still rankles.
"Giampaolo Pozzo aimed several insults at me that it will be very difficult to forget or forgive," said Spalletti. "It was easy for Pozzo to say certain things to the fans and picture me as a demon, but I have always treated him with respect, perhaps more than he showed me."
But Spalletti admitted he was looking forward to seeing many of the players he was able to inspire to new heights last term, and conceded he was fortunate to have gotten the Roma job ahead of the man who ultimately replaced him at the Friuli, Serse Cosmi.
"It will be a very difficult game against a team that always knows what it wants," Spalletti said. "Serse Cosmi is a great professional and I know he's a lifelong Roma fan who perhaps wanted my job. I guess it just means I was luckier than him this summer."
Spalletti will be without injured defensive pair Philippe Mexes and Luigi Sartor, so Sammy Kuffour and Cristian Chivu will continue as the central defensive pairing.
But Antonio Cassano - who missed the opening day win against Reggina - is again likely to miss out on a place in the starting line-up, despite contract talks between the temperamental ex-Bari forward and the club.
"I will continue to treat Cassano the same as any of my players," declared Spalletti. "What does irritate me is that Roma won 3-0 at Reggina and all anyone wanted to talk about was Cassano, not the fact that we got the three points without him."
Udinese boss Cosmi - who saw his side squeeze past Empoli 1-0 on the opening day - is without the injured Gian Piero Pinzi and Valerio Bertotto.