Rudi Garcia sent out Maicon and Alessio Romagnoli in place of Vasilis Torosidis, respectively, along with the same other nine players that started in last week's 3-2 victory over Udinese. Early reports were that there was heavy rainfall in Verona, and while the pitch was certainly wet; I think I can speak for everyone in saying that we've seen worse when playing away at Chievo.
Maicon took a knock early in the first few minutes after kick-off that would eventually lead to him being substituted at the half. It may have been down to the weather, but errant passes, poor touches and players taking knocks were all a regular occurrence today. Chievo seemed to prefer attacking on their right, by trying to get in and behind Romagnoli. The one and only time they did, Mehdi Benatia was forced to make an acrobatic clearance. He had to make a few other uncomfortable tackles, and somehow ended up hurting his lower back. Rodrigo Taddei threw the ball back forward on a Chievo goal kick and Bostjan Cesar nod back to Michael Agazzi was a massive failure on his part and Gervinho did just enough with his kick to put the ball into the net. 1-0. Another Chievo giveaway shortly after gave Mattia Destro his chance, but his first touch led to a very tight angle and he couldn't finish it off.
Taddei took his turn with spending a few minutes writhing on the pitch after getting stepped on by Simone Bentivoglio. After a few minutes mending on the sideline, he came back and caught Chievo napping with the simplest of passes down the middle to Destro. Maicon and Benatia were seen (and heard) arguing quite loudly before the half-time whistle, and my initial thoughts were that this was why Maicon didn't start the second half, but Garcia later clarified that it was a knock.
The second half was one of the most thrilling halves of football I've ever witnessed. The only things that stuck out to me were that one really cute counter attack where Totti & Destro exchanged backheels, Benatia nodding a Pjanic free-kick just over the bar and Miralem penetrating Chievo's box a few times - finding Gervinho's face once, but the Ivorian squared it on Agazzi. That and the very predictable (perhaps preplanned?) substitutions (Florenzi for Totti at the hour and Michel Bastos for Destro with 15 to go). Oh, and arm banded Benatia picking up a late yellow, meaning he will have to sit out in Tuesday's match against Torino.
How good is Rodrigo Taddei? Okay, it is Chievo and they are bad and their backline collectively pulled a Paolo Cannavaro circa "that one match against Napoli earlier this year" but he's doing great. He's had a few matches now which have helped his match fitness improve and he's proving himself to be a very decent cover option in the midfield. Although not as strictly held to it as De Rossi, Rudi seems to like him in the holding role, which may be a little surprising. But then again, this is the same guy we've seen play as a leftback in that season we don't talk about anymore. His mop bangs are gone but his pursed lips aren't and he's still very much every coach's favourite - Rudi Garcia being no exception.
"Taddei? He's a consummate professional who has always worked really hard. He has great technique, a fine pass on him and excellent control. He's smart defensively and knows what positions to take up. Given that he has all these qualities I thought I could field him in the playmaker role. At the start of the season we spoke about the future and I wasn't wrong about him. He's an example to everyone. Every coach would be delighted to have someone like him on the roster."
Rodrigo Taddei - Played a hand in both goals and was one of the most reliable players on the pitch today. Two key passes, a team leading total of 84 passes and 5 tackles (tied with Romagnoli). Easy pick for me.
Miralem Pjanić - I thought he quietly had a solid performance. He saw the ball the most aside from Taddei and came up with 4 key passes and 2 dribbles, both team highs.
Leandro Castán & Mehdi Benatia - Okay, I might be cheating a little bit here but they really do complement each other. Castán earned 4 tackles and 3 interceptions while Benatia had a team high 6 interceptions and the duo combined for over 30 successful clearances. Together they are the biggest reason Roma have 17 cleansheets this season.
With today's win, Roma have won 64 points from 28 matches, already beating the 62 point total they won last year in 10 less matches.