I liked that game. I liked that game a lot. I would've liked it more if they could've removed that magical forcefield around the net which made its not-so-illustrious return, but I'll take it. A commanding win over a team which started December 1st in 2nd place is more than fine by me. And hell, it didn't even require a heroic return from Francesco. Hugs all around.
The opener was a bit more of a back-and-forth affair than the second half, which was all Roma. The opener saw Udinese have their fair chances on goal, and stifled all but once by the back four or Doni. The Fab Quags goal, as you can see below, was going to be near-impossible for anybody to stop. He simply got the ball, turned and shot, all within a fraction of a second, and put it in the one place where Doni couldn't reach. Pretty pedestrian stuff from the guy who never scores a normal goal. I'm not even sure he could score a PK unless it came 10 yards outside the box.
The Roman goals were both pretty ugly for all the beautiful buildup the Giallorossi created at times. Juan's was a rebound being guarded by Casper the Ghost. (Has nobody learned? Always mark Roma defenders.) While Taddei's was deflected off the defender into the back of the net after his first attempt was, shall we say, less than clinical. No matter how it went in the back of the net, however, it's fantastic to have Rodrigo back on the scoresheet and his contributions approaching his typicl levels of quality. And this is where we say Roma has conceded all of two goals with Taddei and King Alberto on the pitch at the same time (feel free to throw Simone in there as well). Coincidence? Probably not. Both have superior defensive characteristics as opposed to their usual replacements (in baseball we'd be referencing their VORP). Halfway there.
The second half was pure and simple Roman domination. I'd venture to guess the possession must have been around 65%, and if they'd brought their finishing booties with them, we'd probably be talking about a commanding scoreline, as well as performance. They really slacked off after those two red cards and nearly got bitten for it (it has been a long week), but eventually held on for a much-needed three. Regardless of late game drop-off, this is two straight games in a row, both without a few of the big guns, where Roma has been reminiscent of their early season counterparts, who had nut-huggers from all over Europe lining up outside the Olimpico. Going into a stretch containing Cagliari, Livorno and Torino, things are looking sky high.
Inter 31pts (+18)*
Roma 28pts (+11)*
Juventus 26pts (+16)
Udinese 25pts (+2)
Fiorentina 24pt (+8)
Milan gave some help, not so much the Viola - although that was always a little bit far fetched. If both Roma and Inter can take care of their opponents on Wednesday, which shouldn't be too great a task for either, then both teams can really start pulling away from the pack. Even more, after Atalanta's thumping of Napoli, that Juve-Atalanta game doesn't look like all that much of a sure thing for the jailbirds. Either way, this is really about to become a 2-3 team race.
And if Roma could get some help against Inter all would be great in the world. So, uh....Forza La....
I can't do it.
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni; Cassetti (40' Panucci), Mexes, Juan, Tonetto; De Rossi, Pizarro; Taddei (23' st Cicinho), Giuly, Mancini (40' st Brighi); Vucinic.
A disposizione: Curci, Barusso, Esposito, Totti. Allenatore: Spalletti
INDISPONIBILI: Perrotta, Aquilani, Andreolli
DIFFIDATI: Mexes, Vucinic, Cassetti
UDINESE (3-4-3): Handanovic; Zapata, Coda, Lukovic; Zapotocny (1' st Mesto), G. D'Agostino (18' st Pinzi), Inler, Dossena; Pepe (28' st Floro Flores), Quagliarella, Di Natale.
A disposizione Chimenti, Ferronetti, Emerenko, Paolucci. Allenatore: Marino
INDISPONIBILI: De Martino, Siqueira
ARBITRO: Saccani di Mantova (Leggi la scheda)
GUARDALINE: Strocchia e Rossomando
QUARTO UOMO: Stefanini
MARCATORI: al 10' Juan, all'11' Quagliarella, al 26' Taddei
NOTE: espulso al 32' st Pinzi per gioco falloso e al 32' st Dossena per proteste. Ammoniti al 23' D'Agostino, al 41' De Rossi, al 3' st Taddei, al 19' st Tonetto e al 26' st Pepe per gioco falloso. Recupero: un minuto nel primo tempo, tre minuti nella ripresa.
(Only the goals, full highlights when they're put up somewhere.)
Doni: Boy did he save the entire post-game outlook with that save on Floro Flores when Udinese were down to a futsal team. This game would've been complete disaster if Roma had dropped yet another 2 points in the final 10-15mins, only to be amplified by the fact that they were up against 9 men. Had some pretty good saves otherwise, and was not to blame for the FQ goal, but this game came down to that save. 7.5
Cassetti: Simply awesome getting up and down that right flank during his limited time on the pitch. Toto had little impact for much of the game and Marco was a huge reason. The injury is supposedly muscle-related, no clue as to yet the significance, but RB appears to be one spot where Roma can afford to lose someone (for a week or two). 7.5
Panucci: No goal, and didn't appear to be all that effective throughout his time on the pitch, but then again we were never hearing Di Natale's name, were we? Part Roma controlling the game, part those with the responsibility of watching him. 7
Mexes: He looked like a guy who had be thwacked over the head with a folding chair and hadn't played in a few weeks. Which is exactly what he was. Still, played up to a quality level and didn't fuck up, which is numero uno for defenders just coming off a brain rattling. 7
Juan: Phenomenal. All over the pitch. Just phenomenal. 8
Tonetto: Vintage Max, worked well up the flank and was a good supporting option when Mancini started drifting inward. 7.5
DDR: A solid, if unspectacular game. I still feel he's getting better and better on the defensive side each and every game he plays. Nearly had a goal on the other end, too. 7
* - Due to the yellow he's out for Cagliari.
Pizarro: A very good game from the little man, his second in a row, and it was greatly appreciated. Did a great job in working around and keeping possession, which limited Udinese's chances at the counter attack. And hell, he even passed to his own team. 7.5
Taddei: A very good game in his Roman return, and worked himself into the equation well on both ends. One of my favorite moments of the match was Rodrigo throwing his shoulder plus full body weight at Dossena then continuing to play as if iit was a completely legal move. 7.5
Giuly: I never feel comfortable when he has the ball on his foot for more than a second, always appears as though he's going to lose it (often does). Certifiable nuisance, though. Might have gone unnoticed that he was involved in both goals, feeding Juan the ball in front of goal which he eventually scored, and on the second, making the darting run on the right hand side of the box, taking a shot which was deflected towards Rodrigo, and thus won the game. For those alone, he gets a gold star. 7.5
* - And can we get him some goddamn miracle-gro or something. It's funny when he goes up for headers and all, but not when he's trying to trap the ball with his chest and it turns into a header anyway.
Mancini: Had some great chances on goal, only he was completely incapable of shooting without hitting a Udinese defender. Other than that he worked hard, created plenty of runs, lots of opportunities, and was very smart when he had the ball in possession. Even though it didn't always amount to results, he had a great game. A for effort, and eventually these are going to start turning into game and season defining performances. Not that he won't still get subbed. 7.5
Give A Shit Factor: 8.5
Now which one of you female readers took one for the team, flew to Rome and started shagging him.
Vucinic: Everpresent and an integral part in creating plenty of chances for the offense. His chemistry with Giuly didn't seem as in-tune as it had been in Kyiv, but they still work well off each other. In fact, same can be said for much of the team, as much of the final passes tended to be either a little long or a little short. Still, a very good game for himself, but most importantly: good enough that Il Capitano was afforded another weekend of rest. 7
* - That open net was so painfully slow. Seemed like it took forever to watch it drift past.
Cicinho: Got involved a few times and had a couple strong shots. At least he came in and made things happen. I suppose the more receptive he gets to playing RW, the more we'll see him on the pitch. 7
Brighi: Not enough time. N/A
TGIP: Quite simply, this is as close to the best XI we're probably going to get at the moment (yes, including Cassetti, whose form just hasn't let up), and his job today against a squad like Udinese was pretty simple. The subs were dictated by either a new injury or recent returnee. Solid stuff, but it probably wasn't his most difficult day as a gaffer. 7
Vucigol v The Replacments: Well, he didn't score, even though he took part in plenty of opportunities. Had a couple chances stifled, and I still think he should've taken the shot ala Sporting when he had Handanovic 1 v 1 on the left side of the box. A solid game from Vuci, but no goals. Winner: Push
Defensive Flanks v Udinese’s Lateral Forwards: Both Pepe and Di Natale, to an extent, were largely non-factors. And though occasionally provided a worrisome moment, the defense did a fantastic job of not just containing those two, but also prohibiting Udinese from getting too many chances where they could get the ball to them further up the field and use their skills. Total performance. Winner: Defense
Udinese v Panuccigol: What a fucking waste of space. What's the point if he doesn't score a goal? Winner: Udinese
Attacking v Exposing The Counter: 'Twas inevitable they'd allow a few counters considering the open nature of both teams, especially in the first half, but when they did they were able to track back and defend well. More bending, no breaking, which I don't see a problem with as long as they can get up enough efficiency on the other end to put the scoreline firmly in their favor, which they did today (but just barely). Of course, this all changed when Udinese got their huge advantage going down to 9 men (duh). Winner: Attacking
Good Doni v Bad Doni: Good Doni came to the game, and from what I recall Butterfingers Doni only made one appearance. The most important thing is he spared us a lot of bitching and moaning with that save on AFF's 1 v 1. Winner: Good Alexander
Totti v Totti: No Totti. And when there's no Totti, everybody loses. Winner: Nobody
MOTM: Juan. Some of those tackles were just stupendous. Clinical stuff. The guy is an all-around asset to this team.
This team that showed up today probably gets the exact same result or better off of anybody in Serie A. Udinese, as we saw, is a very dangerous team with some serious attacking life, and one which can strike at any moment. It was great to see such a dominating performance (more so in the second) and another little nudge to Inter to let 'em know that they're right behind them and not going there. Two weeks ago I was a little nervous as to what the return leg to the San Siro might be like. Now, I absolutely cannot wait.