Roma have won 10 out of their first 10 matches this season. Roma have not dropped a point in their 2013/14 campaign. The Giallorossi have a 100% record both home and away this season. I Luppi have played and won ten matches so far scoring 24 goals and conceding just one.
It doesn’t matter how you try and write it down, the words simply don’t apportion an appropriate level of, “Holy Shitballs batman!”
Defeating Chievo one nil at home on a Thursday night while the footballing world watched on, eagerly waiting that first slip up, is also a tremendous achievement.
This match wasn’t so much about the 90 minutes on the field. It was about Roma keeping its’ rivals at arms length and solidifying a hard fought reputation for ruthless passion and footballing excellence. The classifica read first place vs last place while the papers read of experts wondering out loud when Roma would surely come back to the rest of the field. The team sheet did not read Totti, Gervinho nor Maicon.
While the Flying Donkeys are hardly the defensive debacle of Sassuolo, nor do they possess the attacking threat of a Bologna or Parma. Despite this, the last few years Chievo have inflicted some serious pain on a Roma squad that has always had more talented players at their disposal. Last night was no great change to this.
Despite the absence of Totti et al and the presence of Dodo, Chievo paid their Roman hosts a large amount of respect, refusing to commit numbers forward in the opening stanza. Both Torosidis and Dodo struggled early on to find the right balance of defensive cover and aggressive forward runs as Chievo failed to capitalise on a couple of early half-chances thanks to some tentative defending.
By the tenth minute Pjanic and Ljajic began to combine more comfortably and the cheese coloured squad retreated into their half, parking il autobus. This made for a rather congested midfield forcing Roma to practice their short passing game.
Things were ticking along pretty much as you’d expect them too when Adem and Marquinho were suddenly struck with a case of the diving ballerinas. Both went straight to ground without so much as a mystical breeze blowing towards them and the ref was right to wave play on. One senses that had a yellow card been issued to either for simulation, Rudi would have had some rather pointed ‘Sacre Bleus!’ at halftime.
As it was, Castan stole the focus copping a rather ordinary yellow card for a clumsy challenge that will see him suspended for the upcoming Torino fixture. You may commence your speculation as to his replacement.
The half ground to a halt, with Miralem Pjanic playing some millionaire football, tricky-dicky flicks and free kicks covertly passed to Ljajic. Chievo were giving nothing away, except the ball pretty much every time they moved forward of the halfway line. Despite Roma’s uber possession stats, they hadn’t really been able to make any threatening breaches into the box. It was all sort of standard Serie A stuff and certainly nothing to be alarmed about.
Which is an odd thing to write when describing Roma against a lesser side. Call me old fashioned, but usually this is the part in the script where completely unqualified and hopelessly self-important, armchair experts (hey mum, I’m on the internet!) begin howling about the dysfunctions on the field and professing wholesale tactical and substitution changes to the high heavens.
Not with Rudi baby, not at home in front of the newly optimistic tifosi and sure as hell not against a team called the f**king Flying Donkeys!
Chievo were always going to tire and Roma were always going to convert their possession into some solid chances in the second half.
The substitutions of Marquinho and Dodo for Florenzi and Balzaretti respectively, were not bolts from the blue but more so a shifting of gears, from trot to run. Both Marquinho and Dodo played above their worst but still failed to stake a claim for a regular spot and indeed lacked the cutting edge this Roma team has grown to regularly produce. Dodo’s second half produced more turnovers than an Austrian strudel contest.
Florenzi’s injection against a tiring Chievo was the classic ‘pig in shit’ move. He immediately began probing the right wing and gave the centrebacks another potent goal scoring adversary besides Borriello.
It was therefore hardly a surprise (and yet another testament to Rudi) when Florenzi combined with Ljajic on the left hand side to weave his way through the Chievo bus and volley in an absolute pearler of a cross to Marco Borriello. The ball was made exclusively for the striker who was too strong for his defender and angled an inch perfect header destined only for the side netting, giving the keeper less chance than StL against the Red Sox (oooh feel the burn! and no I don’t understand the rules to baseball either).
As the ball struck the net and Marco wheeled away towards his voraciously aroused teammates on the bench, I think its safe to say the Olimpico got a little pregnant. I mean shit, if it can happen to Arnold Schwarzenegger, surely the most virile man in Serie A scoring is bound to induce morning sickness for Roma Tifosi around the world in the coming months.
Marco needed this goal just as much as Roma did. Following the trauma of missing out on Disney Land in the offseason, Marco hasn’t quite sealed his position in the squad as everyone closely monitors the progress of Destro’s fitness. Although no replacement for Totti, Borriello has provided a solid avenue to goal and that extra bit of firepower that has contributed to the hesitation of the opponents defence and offered a target to the often wayward crossing coming in from the flanks. Put simply, he has been doing all of the team things a bajillion times better than Osvaldo ever did and hopefully this confidence booster will kick-start a scoring rate equal to his nightclub conversions.
We may all be Bradley, but we sure as hell wouldn’t say no to spending an evening or two as Marco.
The rest of the match was rather standard. The crowd roared a constant approval and gasped when Morgan spilled a non-threatening shot that nearly resulted in catastrophe. Luckily, Benatia was steaming back to assist in the rather unsightly cleanup helped by the linesman’s offside flag. Bradley came on for Pjanic, Morgan claimed a high ball in the dying moments and before you knew it Grazie Roma was bellowing from the stadio speakers.
Ten from Ten.
This match while rather dismissive on paper was another tricky obstacle that Roma in years gone by would have coughed up the goods. Once again it highlights the sheer primacy of Francesco Totti to this team. I know I’m preaching to the converted when I point out his ability to suck opposition defences completely out of whack whilst providing spatially mystifying passes that give our attackers the ferocious edge of a Caesar led battle column.
Likewise the reintroduction of Maicon and Gervinho will provide another two or five shots on goal. But it’s nice to know that this team can still grind out results and stay strong at the back when things aren’t all tickety-boo.
Rudi Garcia was rather circumspect after the match.
“First I want to say that the Chievo do not deserve the last place, they played well as a team, I said that it would have been the most difficult game and I was not wrong, we now have a little less solutions on the bench on the offensive side but what matters is to win.
“But it is important that we do not get into the habit of relying on Dhaw to change the picture to a hot southern cheerleader before we convert our chances.”
A perfect ten is an outrageously impressive way to start a season and it is with good reason Rudi and the boys are starting to turn heads in European football with this dream run. We’ve got another short turnaround until Torino away so soak up the perfect ten and maintain your vigils for Totti’s hamstring. The season is young and there is yet another 28 to go.