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INTERNATIONAL

July 25, 2012
BRADLEY DELIVERS
U.S. National teamer gives Roma 2-1 Fenway win
By Adam Burrows
New England Soccer News Contributor

Michael Bradley (front) broke the ice as Roma defeated Liverpool 2-1 Wednesday at Fenway Park.
Michael Bradley (front) broke the ice as Roma defeated Liverpool 2-1 Wednesday at Fenway Park.
photo by Paulo Lopes
BOSTON---After a slow start, Michael Bradley notched a second-half goal to get the scoring started and Roma went on to defeat Liverpool 2-1, disappointing the Liverpool supporters that dominated the near-capacity crowd of 37,169 on hand for the international friendly at Fenway Park.

As Liverpool players in their blood red home kits and Roma in their away papal whites with maroon and gold trim stepped out of the dugouts onto the once-cursed field where Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski could not slug their way to World Series hardware, the attraction was more spectacle than soccer.

While the primary purpose of the pre-season stateside tour for the European heavyweights is to regain game fitness and market their brands, the high-profile friendly, one of 39 international exhibition games in North America this summer, also offered an opportunity to showcase well-known stars, feature young players, and play some competitive soccer.

A transfigured Fenway Park was resplendent for the occasion with banners hung from the Green Monster, emerald turf laid over the infield dirt, and the Boston skyline framing the scene.

Liverpool supporters predominated in the bleachers and greeted their heroes with a rousing rendition of “You Never Walk Alone.”

The scoreless first half, though, featured few on-field highlights.

For Liverpool, 17-year-old Jamaican-born youth system product Raheem Sterling looked bright down the left flank, as did England U-21 international Jonjo Shelvey, who forced a pair of sharp saves from veteran Roma netminder Bogdan Lobont.

Joe Cole bounced a chip off the crossbar and Jamie Carragher launched a hard challenge into the back of Nicolas Lopez’s legs.

For Roma, American international Bradley, acquired after a stellar Serie A season with Chievo Verona, looked fit in deep midfield, while ageless legend Francesco Totti, fresh off a leading role in the Azzurri’s second-place Euro 2012 finish, impressed merely by his presence.

The action picked up in the second half.

Panagiotis Taksidis forced a nifty kick save from substitute Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones, Shelvey nailed a bullet of a free kick that sliced just wide of the mark, and Bradley sprung Aleandro Rosi with a delightful through pass that the right back couldn’t quite convert.

Bradley finally broke the scoreless deadlock in the 63rd minute with a roller from a tight angle that eluded Lobont’s reach and bounced into the net off the post, prompting a joyful chorus of “USA, USA” from the Fenway faithful.

The Giallarossi doubled their lead six minutes later when Argentine forward Erik Lamela reached the end line and fed an open Allesandro Florenzi near the penalty spot.

The Reds got one back in the 80th minute as Charlie Adam showed off his powerful left boot, driving a first-timer into the corner of the net off a lay-off from Daniel Pacheco.

Roma pressed to extend their lead but Lamela’s bid from close range glanced off the post, and Liverpool couldn’t find an equalizer as they pressed in stoppage time.

After the match, Florenzi, the scorer of the winning goal, praised his American teammate.

“I had already seen him in action for Chievo Verona last season but seeing him on the pitch and in training I can certainly say he’s a great person. He has very correct and proper conduct off the pitch and on the pitch he is a fighter; he gives his best effort and is very skilled.”

Despite the outcome, new Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers was happy with what he saw.

“I was really pleased with today. There were lots of real positives to take from the game. Obviously Roma was ahead of us in terms of games, but I was really pleased. A lot of young players getting experience and the most important thing for us obviously was our conditioning, our physical fitness. The quality was perfect for what we needed. Our pressing from the front was very, very good, and the goal we scored was excellent. Obviously we’ll improve in tems of defending.”

“The structure of our game was good,” Rodgers continued. “That’s the important thing for me at the moment. Overall no complaints. Lots of players are getting minutes under their belt. Lots of young players are getting invaluable experience, playing against top players like Totti. So they’ve got that experience and that is going to help them going forward”

Rodgers also paid tribute to the historic nature of the occasion.

“I said to the players before the game, you know, when you’re fifty-odd, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids and whatnot that you played actual football at Fenway Park. That’s something that will stay with them.”

   
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