Well, it's nice to know that old habits still die hard. In the 87th minute of yesterday's Roma game, the referee abruptly stopped the game with the ball in play after a legal throw in by Cicinho. Why? For time wasting. Which would be a yellow card offense, had the ball not been thrown in already, which just makes it ridiculous (it took 9 seconds). So, instead of giving Cicinho a yellow and telling him to retake the throw, the rules, he hands the throw in the Juventus about 15 yards from the corner flag. Juventus scores off the throw in and takes two points away from the deserving Roma. What's more? Giorgio Chiellini's throw in appears to be illegal. The video isn't the greatest, but it looks like he clearly takes his foot off the ground on the throw in. Either way, that throw in was never Juve's.
The sad part? I've come to expect this against Juventus. The year in Serie B was a joke of a punishment, most notably when you factor in the effect Luciano Moggi had outside of refereeing decisions. Juventus tainted Serie A with their presence for years and now they're back at it again. What's more is how utterly idiotic can a referee be to give a borderline call to Juve, nevermind a blatantly illegal one.
Regardless, Roma lost that game as well. Specifically Simone Perrotta and Mancini, who missed a few sitters which could have put the game in the "veni vidi vici" category. Roma beat Juventus' asses up and down that pitch all game, and apart from a few lapses, were the dominant team and earned their perch upon the Serie A leaderboard and all the praise which has been heaped on them in past weeks.
Also, Juventus sucks. Well, compared to Juves of old. If they make the CL next season they should get down on their knees and start to thank the football gods. That defense is going to give up goals like nobody's business, especially now that Andrade is out for the year.
1. Roma 3-0-1 10pts (+7)
2. Inter 2-0-2 8pts (+4)
3. Fiorentina 2-0-2 8pts (+3)
4. Atalanta 2-0-2 8pts (+3) Enjoy it while it lasts
5. Napoli 2-1-1 7pts (+5)
6. Juventus 2-1-1 7pts (+4)
Fact is, Roma is still top of the table, still looking stronger than anybody in Serie A and still playing some gorgeous football (oh, and that Totti guy is en fuego, always a good sign). It's not disastrous, but it is when it's against Juventus. All in all, this from my season preview does alleviate the pain a bit:
Third, that 7 week gauntlet of calcio hell. How well will Roma perform and then rebound? Will it be either focus on Serie A or CL? Will the squad, particularly the defense, be healthy enough by then? My feeling is this: Roma needs to take a minimum of 7 points from the first 3 weeks against Palermo, Siena, and Regina. That allows at worst two wins and a draw, which is more than doable - with 9 points a very real possibility. Then that leaves the 7 weeks of hell. As we all know, one of Roma’s worst problems is dropping points against weaker opposition - then playing their collective arses off against the big boys. With the new depth this shouldn’t be as much of a problem, so it’s fair to say Roma can easily take 6 points off the two “breathers” in the middle, Parma and Napoli. In the remaining 5 games against Fiorentina, Juventus, Inter, Milan and Lazio - I think they can and should take ten points. Beating Juve, Lazyo and Fiorentina while dropping one of Milan and Inter with a draw to the other. That leaves 23 points after 10 games, with a pansy schedule the rest of the way until the winter. Inter isn’t going to have nearly the season they had last year, and it won’t require 113 points to take the league this year. And if the performance in the Super Coppa was foreshadowing in any way, then taking close to maximum points is a very real possibility in these first ten weeks. After that, Roma can work itself towards that 7 week gauntlet in the second half a bit more smoothly.
They got the nine points in the first 3 games, have 10 points total after 4, look very strong and are more than capable of 13 points in the next 6 games. The way Milan and Inter look, should Roma beat them? Absolutely. Will they? Whole different question. But the fact is, after watching them play, I am much more comfortable with the gauntlet of calcio hell than I was to begin the season. Right now I can absolutely see Roma picking up 14-16 points in this little 6 game stretch, especially considering the rest of the big 4 is looking a little squeamish. The forecast is good, but damnit I hate giving points to Juve.
On the 6-8 scale, individual performances.
Doni: The first goal was not his fault. He probably should've stayed on his line on the second goal, but that looked more like a flick than a header. It was a lucky goal. Other than that he played ok. 6.5
Cicinho: Yes, he conceded the penalty. Yes, he supposedly screwed up that throw in. But he was still good and had a few flashes of the brilliance he is capable of. Didn't show the sprint speed as much as I thought he would, though. Maybe he is really injured or not up to par. Despite the miscue, a relatively good performance and a few glimpses into the (bright) future. 7
Mexes: Not his best game. Not his best game at all. Largely responsible for at least giving Trezeguet that much space and letting him head that ball back. With how good he is every other game, we can live with it. 6.5
Juan: Nothing special, a few miscues, but nothing major. This was actually the first time the defense looked almost weak, but nothing to scoff about. That Juve front line is decent (minus Del Piero, of course). 7
Tonetto: Vintage Max Tonetto. If you had told me last summer that meant yet another extremely good performance while taking over the left wing, I would never have believed you. 7.5
Aquilani: Played a fantastic game and was especially evident when fulfilling his defensive responsibilities. His partnership with DDR and Francesco's goals will be the driving force in Roma's push for the Scudetto. 7.5
De Rossi: Ditto. He has come a long way in taking over some of David Pizarro's duties from last season, while dropping back a bit more and allowing King Alberto to push up more often. No complaints here. 7.5
Mancini: He just seemed slow. Not uninspired, but lacking like 2-3 steps. The sitter he missed to start off the second half didn't help things either. I'm not sure if he's still out of form or that the injury is lingering a little more that he's letting on. He'll be fine eventually, but sooner would be better than later. The club can afford to have him at 50% for Catnia. Inter? Not so much. (Well, maybe, they blow right now) 6.5
Perrotta: What can you say? I love Simone, but he cost the team 2 points. He's a grinder and he provides so many of the small things that go unappreciated, but he could've easily had the scoreline 4-1 when the Serie B champs got that early X-Mas gift from the ref. I'm willing to start taking up a collection to get Simone a hypnotist to convince him he has the finishing abilities of ll Capitano. This team would never lose if that was the case. 6 (My prediction of Simone netting 10 goals this year isn't looking all that great, but hell, he probably could've had 7 by now)
* - Simone made goal.com's honorable mention team for Gio 4. Apparently I watched the wrong game.
Taddei: What the hell was that left-footed shot he took in the second half? I thought he was bound for a stellar goal and it winds up almost a throw in. That's the on-the-ball version of the finger roll substitution signal, "time to get me off, coach." Quite obviously running on complete empty by the time the 70th minute rolled around (probably eariler). Methinks he'll be taking a seat in the stands on Wednesday. 7
Totti: I'm going to steal a quote from Ruud Gullit here: "Totti is Totti." Yes, yes he is. He's a goal-scoring machine, creative genius, virtuoso with the ball on his foot and one of the greatest players to ever grace calcio, you dumb fuck. 8
Cassetti: Not enough minutes to really judge, but that was a hell of a run he had when Francesco put him through, only to be saved by Gigi. Still, he has been playing well enough that we hadn't missed Cicinho. Who saw that coming? I
* - Looks to be out a month, hello Cicinho.
Giuly: After one of those twelve offsides called in succession I said "one of these is going to go through. It's inevitable." But alas, wasn't meant to be. Lulu was still a regular nuisance and a very dynamic addition to the team when he was brought on. 7.5
Brighi: Not enough minutes, but I like what he's bringing to the table.
Poobah: I knew we were going to see the majority of Roma's best XI, but I didn'tt realize we would see Roma's actual best XI...like all of them. I was very surprised when I saw the initial lineup, even though I didn't have any issues with it. Though I was hoping Lulu would get the tart over Mancini, but he came in a provided his greatest attribute in the second half: an injection of pace for a tired, overmatched defense. A lot of people were complaining about the lack of substitutes, but I think they may have forgotten Cassetti was taken off early and TGIP lost a sub. I'm in the camp of not wanting to use your last sub too early in a close game in the event of injury, so I have no issues with the subs - even though I wanted to see Lulu (or DP with KA pushing up) on for Simone when it was apparent he wasn't finding the back of the net anytime soon.
While he certainly wasn't to blame for the finishing, and you can't fault him for putting out Rom's best XI - the team was still exhausted and we all knew that was going to happen. I wish we had seen a few different faces. 6.5
Roma v Fatigue: The team didn't get gassed until the 80th minute, as far as I could tell, but it only takes a few seconds to have it bite you in the ass. I really think we're going to see a lot of new faces for the game on Wednesday. Winner: Fatigue
Philou v 1st Degree Murder: Mexes didn't pick up any cards, but he also didn't play his finest game. Surprisingly there were no verbal confrontations between Philou and Nedved, and he was relatively tame throughout the game. Winner: Philou (kinda)
Francesco Totti v Gianluigi Buffon: 2 goals. 'Nuff said. Winner: Francesco.
Mancini, Lulu & Max Tonetto v Juve's Patchwork Right Side: Roma didn't start to expose that left/right side until Lulu came on, and I'll give you one guess as to why. However, it wasn't as cut-and-dried as previously thought, because Calduio Ranieri threw out a 4-3-3 instead of the expected 4-4-2. Not to mention two of their previously "injured" players finding their way into the starting XI (Grygera, Nocerino). In the end, neither really won, although Lulu was one more pass from beating that offside trap and making Juve pay...or missing the net completely. Push
Roma v Goal Line: Ugh. Winner: Goal Line.
MOTM: Francesco. (Duh)
I'm wholly too depressed to write more about dropping two (what should have been) easy points against the cheaters, so that's about it. Anyway, there's a game in about 48 hours and we must let bygones be bygones and focus all of our energy on that game. If Roma plays like that, then the season will be just fine and the Scudetto is firmly within reach. Viola game stuff tomorrow.
But this always makes me feel better.