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Soccerbana sets SkyDome hopping


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Soccerbana sets SkyDome hopping

50,168 fans see Roma edge Celtic

More games could to be staged in T.O.



Soccerbana closed to rave reviews last night at the reborn SkyDome — and it could return.

"Viva! Viva!" Italian fans shouted as the two-game ChampionsWorld Series ended before 50,0168 fans — the largest crowd to attend a soccer game at the SkyDome.

They were chanting for their team, AS Roma, which shaded Glasgow Celtic 1-0, but it could have been for the 48-hour party involving four top international soccer clubs. Including Friday night's 1-0 win by FC Porto over Liverpool, some 90,246 fans attended the two matches.

And that could mean Toronto will be considered for the annual Champions games in future summers, according to Champions spokesman Jim Trecker.

"We were overjoyed with the response in Toronto," Trecker said. "We were extremely impressed with the response of the crowd and the quality of the SkyDome. I think we'll have to look at this venue again."

Toronto could be considered for international matches as early as next summer, although "a lot of it depends on the schedule of the Blue Jays for games at the SkyDome. Baseball scheduling is always a problem for us."

Scheduling for Argos' CFL games at the dome would also have to be considered.

Roma coach Cesare Prandelli and Celtic coach Martin O'Neill said they would not mind bringing their teams back to Toronto.

"This was our first time down the east coast and I would feel very welcome to come back," O'Neill said. "With the big crowds, I think we've paid our way."

But O'Neill added his club would have to rethink playing four games in eight days, as it did during this tour, going 1-3.

Prandelli was glad his team improved following its 3-0 loss to Chelsea, but acknowledged that coming to North America just before the start of the season takes a lot out of the players who have a long season ahead of them.

"The season has become very long and there is the risk of injury. We just try to do the best we can."

Prandelli believes his team will challenge for the Champions League title in Europe this coming season.

The large crowds Friday and last night were partly a tribute to the strong drawing power of all four teams, Trecker said.

Last night's pre-season game had some crisp moments, but was at times sloppy as Roma got on top early and then kept the 39-time Scottish League champion in check.

The only goal came in the 24th minute as midfielder Gaetano D'Agostino set up Italian international star Francesco Totti.

Taking a long pass from his own end, D'Agostino broke out on a two-on-two rush and raced like a thoroughbred down the right wing.

He chipped the ball across the goalmouth to Totti, who headed the ball over the outstretched hands of goalkeeper David Marshall.

Throughout the match, Roma displayed what has been the hallmark of Italian soccer — solid defence, good ball control and lethal counter-attacking.

With a more talented side than the Scots, Roma outshot Celtic 5-1 in the first half and should have been up more than a goal. Most of the danger came from D'Agostino, who set up several other chances.

Celtic recovered to dominate the final six minutes of the first half and high-scoring Chris Sutton headed a shot over the bar and then Roma goalkeeper Carlo Zotti made a big stop on John Hartson from close range.

Fans were not allowed to bring banners hanging on poles, but many banners were hung on the sides of the stadium, including those from Celtic supporters' clubs in New York and Scarborough and by Italian-Canadian clubs around the GTA.

The natural grass, which was laid on top of concrete, held up well for the second straight night.

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