Throwback Thursday: Ibrahimovic’s Magic That Sank Roma

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The 2005-2006 season was the last in Serie A before the Calciopoli scandal redesigned its map. It was also the last for Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a Juventus player. Ibra had moved from Ajax to the Bianconeri one year earlier, and even if his second season in Turin was far less impressive than the debut one, he still found the way to show some dazzling glimpses of his talent. Like the magic trick that helped Juventus trample Roma 4-1 when they visited the Stadio Olimpico on November 9, 2005.

The outcome of Serie A 2005-2006 was never in discussion. The Bianconeri took control of the league with an opening nine-game winning streak, and never saw their leading position seriously threatened. Zlatan was in good company in Juventus’ front line, which could boast players the like of Alex Del Piero and David Trezeguet. Juve were the backbone of the Azzurri squad, featuring soon-to-be World Champions Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta, and Mauro Camoranesi among others.

Moreover, the powerful Agnelli Family had secured the services of the best of all when it came to coaching back in those days. Sitting on the Old Lady’s bench was Fabio Capello, with five league titles in his pocket already, including the one won right with Roma in 2001.

It was Capello’s second year at Juventus, and Roman fans were still not over it. More than the transfer itself, Romanisti could not forgive Fabio Massimo – as they used to call him in the days of the 2001 triumph – for his famous, incautious “Mai alla Juve!” remark (Ï will never go to Juve”) pronounced when he was still coaching on the Tiber banks. Those were famous last words, and coming back to Rome had never been an easy thing for Don Fabio since he jumped the fence in the summer of 2004.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his Juventus days, celebrating his masterpiece goal in a 4-1 win against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico

A bizarre occurrence in a match which would predictably turn into a one-sided bashing, was the presence of long-time Milan flagship goalkeeper Christian Abbiati to guard Juventus’ posts. How could that be possible?

Well, Gianluigi Buffon had happened to suffer a dislocated shoulder after crashing into Milan’s Kaka’ during a pre-season friendly match. As the Gigi Nazionale was deemed to miss the first half of the championship, the Rossoneri decided to lend Juventus their home-grown goalie – who at the time was benched by Nelson Dida – as a “compensation.”

The Bianconeri showed no mercy at the Olimpico, and came back home with a sounding 4-1 win that punished Roma more than they deserved. Juve’s Pavel Nedved found his way to the first goal only just before half time, and after the home side spent the initial 30 minutes surprisingly putting their opponents to the ropes.

But then something happened. Zlatan happened. Ten minutes into the second half, the Swedish star suddenly turned into his alter ego Ibracadabra, the magician of football, like a Clark Kent switching to his superhero persona.

Italian football fans had learned already that Ibra did know how to use his heels. Before even joining Serie A, he had punished the Azzurri with a stunning karate-kick-style goal in a Euro 2004 group match. So, seeing him using his heel again to grab a pass by Emerson Ferreira and make the ball bounce past his marker Samuel Koffour was no surprise. It looked like a random, instinctive reaction to control a long-range pass which was accurate, yet very powerful.

But no, it was not unintentional. Using his heel was exactly what Ibrahimovic meant to do to get rid of his marker, and as Kuffour vainly tried to chase him before collapsing down in defeat, Ibra dashed towards Roma’s goal and whipped the ball past Donebier Doni to double Juventus’ lead.

A brace by David Trezeguet would eventually widen the gap between the two clubs, before Francesco Totti could score a goal della bandiera for his side from the penalty spot. But the match at the Olimpico virtually ended with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s mesmerizing exploit. It took a genius to even envision it, or maybe a madman. Zlatan was a little bit of both – that’s why such things looked so simple and natural when coming from him.       

Ibra left Juventus at the end of the season, part of those who abandoned the ship when the Calciopoli tsunami wiped the Bianconeri out of Serie A, and stripped them of their last two Scudettos.

But he didn’t move far, wearing the jerseys of Inter first, and then Milan, luckily enough for the calcio lovers who would still see him playing in Italy for some more years.  


November 9, 2005 – Serie A 2005-06 Round 12

45′ Nedved (J), 56′ Ibrahimovic (J), 58′ Trezeguet (J), 61′ Trezeguet (J), 65′ Totti (R, pen.)

ROMA (4-4-1-1): Doni; Panucci, Kuffour, Mexes, Cufrè (78′ Alvarez); Perrotta, Dacourt (75′ Tommasi), De Rossi (60′ Nonda), Taddei; Totti; Montella (Curci, Bovo, Aquilani, Kharja) Coach: Spalletti
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Abbiati; Zambrotta, Thuram, Cannavaro, Chiellini; Camoranesi, Emerson, Vieira, Nedved (92′ Mutu); Ibrahimovic (81′ Del Piero), Trezeguet (64′ Kovac) (Chimenti, Pessotto, Blasi, Giannichedda) Coach: Capello

REFEREE: Mr. Paparesta from Bari
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Dacourt, Mexes, Perrotta (R), Nedved, Vieira, Cannavaro (J); Red Card: Thuram (J); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 4′