Roma Takes Control & 3 Points...Again
Normally when I watch games nowadays, I have a pen and piece of paper on the desk in front of me to scratch notes on, to remind myself of little things for the followup and game recaps, because, well, I'm getting to the point where I shouldn't be allowed in public without a helmet on. After about three to four minutes of yesterday's game, I put my pen down, as it was quite clear this was going to be Roma and all Roma. Dynamo Kyiv could have just stayed home, because no matter how well they played (they weren't awful), Roma was always going to get three points. Always. Stadio Olimpico is just a mountain that Dynamo could not climb.
The game wasn't a walkthrough, and it wasn't the type of drubbing that left mouths agape and tongues ahangin', a la the 6-2 spanking of Inter last spring. However, Dynamo never really mounted any serious challenges, and Roma just completely controlled every aspect of the game, although I'll stop short of saying they dominated (but the back line did) or that Roma made a statement - outside of the first goal. I guess we could easily say it was a very strong performance, and leave it at that.
Now, here's what matters: 5 games, or 450 minutes (or 479), of football without conceding a goal. For a team whose forte is supposed to be the attack, and a backline that was supposed to implode due to the departure of What's-His-Nuts, this is nothing short of awesome. Doni has been put to the test a few times, especially in the second half of the Palermo game, but by and large, this defensive back four has been spectacular, even though this summer's two biggest acquisitions, Cicinho and Juan, haven't even played 3 games combined (not that Cicinho was brought in for his ability to singe-handedly provide clean sheets or anything). Juan's abilities are clear, but much of this has to do with the progression of three outstanding youngsters - Philou, King Alberto and Daniele - and a couple of old dogs, one learning (relatively) new tricks. This is a long subject for another day, but yet another clean sheet is a testament to how good this team really is on both sides of the ball. Apart from 5 hat-tricks from Il Capitano, I don't think we could ask for a better start - statistically speaking.
It took all of 8 minutes for Roma to go into full-on "joga bonito" mode, and when they did, damn was it spectacular. Short, crisp, one-touch passes, a perfectly placed through ball followed by a bullet cross and the perfect redirection from Simone's noggin. This is how the game was meant to be played. I can assure you it will only be a matter of time before Monsieur Joga Bontio himself, Arsene Wenger, starts up his weekly Roma nut-hugging routine. Enjoy.
This game had a few running themes, many of them Roma's passing and ability to create fantastic chances....then completely miss the back of the net. As you can see in the above video, Juan missed a sitter. Actually, he kind of missed two with that rebound that looks like it whizzed right past him, but we'll give him credit. However, sitter being missed and all, we cant blame him. Why? He's a central defender, and it's kind of hard to blame central defenders for missing goals, even if he does play the offside trap up past Totti during most of the game (seriously, keep an eye on him sometimes during the games, he'll just keep sneaking and sneaking and sneaking...until he's out of the picture because the ball's still in midfield and he's pulling a Pippo).
It's also becoming quite clear that all has been forgotten with That Other Guy, who is now - shockingly - plying his trade on a physio's table in Milan, and already being criticized by the management for it (how many times a day do you think he regrets leaving, 25? 50? at least on days he doesn't get a check - and how stupid was it for him to join a club whose colors are "black & blue" - get a clue, bro). In fact, during the game I started wondering why he wasn't pursued more this summer. There was interest from Sevilla, but you can't tell me Inter wouldn't love to have him instead of that Chivu character right at the moment. Or Juventus wouldn't mind having some semblance of a decent defense. Or half the teams in Europe at bargain basement liquidation pricing. Although maybe it's the stache.
The defense was quite active getting up into The Roman Clusterfuck, and it's quite the luxury (theme forming) having two center backs streaking towards the opposition's goal and toeing the line on crosses coming into the box. Max Tonetto was his usual stellar self, and has nothing but dispel the notion that he was a one-hit wonder, or that he was "lightning in a bottle", as so many fans of the opposition like to refer to him as. The guy's a stud. I didn't see it coming, neither did most, and we're damn happy about it. One of the surprising inclusions of the evening, at least to me, as it really appeared like Cicinho would be making his debut at the Olimpico, was Marco Cassetti, who was phenomenal, and it's not often that we get to say that.
Philippe Mexes was, for me, Roma's best and most impacting player throughout the entire game. He locked down everything, stifling nearly every potential shot the Ukrainians could take, closing down lanes, taking men off the ball with ease. But what's more is his mental toughness, and his do-or-die mentality. Outside of the first goal, my favorite moment was at the end of the game, when Matteo Ferrari was warming up on the sidelines and preparing to enter the game. Philou looked over towards the sideline and made the substitution gesture by rolling his two index fingers one on top of the other. Then he got this stern look on his face and started doing the Dikembe Mutombo finger wave, as if to say, "There's no fucking way you're taking me out. This is my game." We all know about his passion, but his leadership and mental strength are growing with every game. Top 100 lists or not, he is one of the best center-backs in the world - Raymond Domenech be damned.
The Dynamo offense was largely kept at bay throughout the game, and there weren't really any close calls to speak of. Their most dynamic offensive talent, Ismael Bangoura, was certainly present, but didn't create any heart-stopping goal opportunities. He was eventually subbed off at halftime from what looked to be some sort of side injury, but really, who cares?
The duo in midfield was solid, as usual, with David Pizarro eventually making a cameo in the 83rd minute. Taddei was Taddei, and same goes for Simone Perrotta. Mancini was obviously out of form in the first half. In fact, he was very out of form. His passes were pretty sloppy and it's clear he was lacking rhythm and range, but the second half showed improvement, and he should get better with every game he plays. Having significant time off is not exactly a worry for a player of his stature. Although, his positioning was certainly in midseason form, as he parked his lounge chair in central midfield after drifting as he does oh so well, leaving Old Max to patrol the lefthand flank all by his lonesome on more than a few occasions. Nice to have you back, Amantino.
Ludovic Giuly needs to to be parked in front of Doni in training and told to score until he hits a respectable rate. Actually, same goes for the entire squad. The finishing has left much to be desired throughout the first 5 games of the season, but luckily enough, Roma have been able to snuff out any pf the opposition's finishing attempts, so it's moot - at the moment. Another great worry for the squad was how obviously tired they were towards the end of the game. With 4 games in 10 days impending, this is very bad news. But both of these are subjects for another day.
Then there's Francesco. It wasn't his best game, but he did what he does best these days: scored a goal. Quite simply, all he did was take a sweet ball from Simone (one in a string of many the boys knocked out in succession) drop to the right, pick his spot and put into the back of the net. Typical. And yet again, in a close game that Roma is controlling with a short lead, he puts it away late. He's quickly earning the title of best closer in Serie A, in other words: he's Bizarro Eric Gagne. The second, much less spectacular, goal:
Roma: Doni; Cassetti, Mexes, Juan (Ferrari 82), Tonetto; De Rossi, Aquilani (Pizarro 83); Taddei, Perrotta, Mancini (Giuly 62); Totti
Dynamo Kiev: Shovkovskyi; Markovic, Fedorov, Gavrancic, El Kaddour; Gusev (Correa 71), Mikhalik, Yussuf, Michael (Rebrov 56); Bangoura (Diogo Rincon 46); Shatskikh
Goals: Perrotta (8), Totti (70)
Yellows: Tonetto (for being a nice guy)
Man of the Match:
The entire back four, for keeping it easy and smooth, and not allowing Dynamo to get a hint of momentum. If I was pressed it would be Mexes, who has quietly become the best defender in Serie A.
Quote of the Day:
From Bob, The Offside's Power That Is
"Is there a team in the world playing better football right now than AS Roma? They are undefeated in Serie A and they looked more than capable of capturing the big trophy against Dynamo Kiev."
And I'll end with this...
I don't have the words to properly convey how unintelligent, moronic, misinformed, naive, arrogant, pigheaded, thoughtless, and simply fucking stupid those comments are.
So what has Totti won? In the last year: Coppa Italia, Capocannoniere, Super Cup, Golden Boot, and, oh yeah, the World Cup - something they wouldn't know much about up in England.
And to Graeme Souness I would say this: Ali Dia. That is all.
* - That said, be back tomorrow with all the fun stuff, including all those ridiculous David Pizarro to Juventus rumors.