History, as they say, tends to repeat itself. Fortunately for Roma, the legacy of this one match old rivalry didn't repeat itself; this time around, Roma was able to capitalize on Sassuolo's mistakes to walk away with a 2-0 victory, temporarily pushing the gap over third place Napoli to nine points.
So, while we await the Juventus-Napoli showdown, let's take a quick look at Roma's rather one-sided victory.
Mattia Destro: 16th Minute, Right Footed Chip
Now, as lovely as Destro's little chip over the diving Gianluca Pegolo was, this goal was built on the back of Radja Nainggolan's defensive work. There is no need to dissect this one since it was clear as day, but look how Nainggolan reads the pass and, rather than immediately trying to intercept it, waits until the Sassuolo player begins to turn with the ball and then dispossess him. Had he jumped the gun and went for the pass in and of itself, he may have missed it and the Neroverdi would have had plenty of open space to advance up the pitch.
As far as Destro is concerned, he did all that was required of him: give Nainggolan a target, wait for the keeper to commit, and guide it home.
Michel Bastos: 96th Minute, Left Footed
No sound in this highlight, but Michel Bastos' first Roma goal, and the club's 4,000th was, much like Destro's, resultant from some excellent defensive work from a Roma midfielder. In this instance, it was Rodrigo Taddei's picture perfect slide tackle that created the turnover. Taddei took advantage of some lazy dribbling by Pedro Mendes, slid around his right leg, simultaneously dispossessing and delivering a perfect pass to Francesco Totti, who then sprung Bastos in the open space. From there, all it took was one touch and Bastos beat Pagolo with a lovely left footed shot.
Roma 2, Sassuolo 0. Game over.
Tweets & Talks
First up, Rudi Garcia's praise for the defensive work of his midfielders and his the serenity of his goal scorers
#Garcia: "Nainggolan and Taddei did well on both goals to press, while Destro and Bastos were cool in front of goal"— A.S. Roma (@OfficialASRoma) March 30, 2014
Not lost on Garcia, the second goal was created entirely by bench players.
#Garcia: "The three players who came off the bench made the third goal: that's a great sign"— A.S. Roma (@OfficialASRoma) March 30, 2014
This is not a small point of praise either, particularly considering how fatigued this starting lineup has become. Taddei was particularly effective in his role off the bench, creating two scoring chances, completing all of his passes and making five tackles in only 27 minutes of official action.
Today's victory and this evening's Napoli-Juventus matchup prompted Miralem Pjanic to speculate on the Serie A standings.
This evening the two teams around us go head-to-head, but all that counts is to win.Then we'll see what happens, but it will be a tough race right to the bitter end. We want to finish this season off well. Are we still looking in front of us? Certainly, nothing is finished yet. If Juve get a negative result, then we're watching.
While that might be a tad bid optimistic given the way Juventus has dominated this season, it's nice to see Pjanic hasn't given up hope.
Garcia followed suit, saying:
#Garcia: "I want Napoli to win tonight: there's a big gap with Juve but we'll keep going while it's still mathematically possible"— A.S. Roma (@OfficialASRoma) March 30, 2014
We'll close this one out with Rudi Garcia's summative comments about this match and the race for the Scudetto in general:
I would like Napoli to win tonight. It's true there is a big gap between us and Juve, but if they lose then it will be smalle. Until it becomes mathematically impossible, we have to keep looking forward.
Speaking on the difference between the first and second fixtures against Sassuolo, Garcia commented:
That game is one of our only real regrets. They did well to believe until the end and snatched their equaliser in Rome....Our strategy today was to press them high up the field, then Radja Nainggolan and Rodrigo Taddei did well to win back possession on the goals. I also won't forget Bastos and Destro kept their cool with the finish in front of the goalkeeper. We knew it wasn't easy against a team fighting for safety. I liked our performance until the penalty-non-penalty incident.
Lastly, Garcia buoyed the performance of referee Rizzoli
I think the referee did very well, as he was the one who had to make the final decision. I think the goal line official told him it was a penalty, while Rizzoli asked the player to be honest. Honesty always pays off and I compliment the Sassuolo player
Honesty in Serie A, who knew?
Napoli and Juve kick off at 14:45 EDT/20:45 CET, feel free to follow the match here.