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Grazie Mister, Grazie Ludovic, Grazie Mirko...Grazie Roma

capt5e1f73965a9049e2be645a9c501bbec6italy_soccer_ajm113.jpgRoma 2 - Milan 1

Putting the summer of '06 aside, that was the best game I have seen in many years. I laughed, I cried, I smiled, I cowered, I bit my fingers off, I yelled too loudly in enclosed spaces, I rocked back and forth like Leo Mazzone for 90+ minutes, and I blacked out before Pirlo's free kick in the 94th minute and totally missed the end. (Actually, I was covering my eyes, I thought it was going in - it was Pirlo, after all.)

What can you say, really? It was nearly everything one could hope from the Giallorossi. The first half was football on a cloud, precision movement, passes, running....everything but the finishing. It was largely a back and forth affair, but that first 45 was simply sublime. David Pizarro and Max Tonetto must have run about three marathons combined in the first 45 alone - with David's stellar intro being greatly welcomed and Max continuing to look like a stud on a weekly basis (give an old man a week in between games - it'll do wonders).

After the half there was a big letdown, and Milan really took the play to Doni. Clarence Seedorf was everything he should've been in the Champions League, and we have Cicinho to thank for taking three points instead of one for that goal line clearance (and who daresay Cici can't defend, eh?). Kaka's run was a whole bunch of disorganization (and credit to Milan for causing that disorganization) and whole lot of freakin' luck for Oddo to actually put a serviceable ball into the middle of the box.

Then the Rossoneri were all over Roma like flies on shit Emerson, and I know what each and every person was thinking after that goal went in, too: "This game's over, they're going to collapse. This is what Roma does. Play the best football on earth, and then collapse."

Not this year. Not this team.

Enter Luciano "Sex On A Chalkboard" Spalletti, who has earned every ounce of praise he's ever received in the last three weeks alone, with two crucial, crucial substitutions.

r2469386566.jpgLudovic Giuly.
As large as Oompa Loompas get, mon ami. Fantastic technique on the goal - probably learned it, oh I dunno, watching highlights or something. And the goal? The very definition of a Roman Clusterfuck.

Mirko Vucinic. What to say about Mirko Vucinic? How about this: If he needed a kidney, I'd gladly give him one of mine and then the other to put on ice - you know, just in case. After so many failed chances on sitters early in the season, he's come through when it counts. Come through immeasurably when it counts, actually. Eight goals this year, here are the opponents:

Milan (2).
Dinamo Kiev; Champions League (2).
Real Madrid; Champions League.
Sporting Lisbon; Champions League.
Lazio; The Derby.
Parma (fluke).

Last year? Manchester United, Champions League.

And for four of those he was a sub. (ManYoo as well.)

That's no coincidence. His performances otherwise have been fantastic, especially his late game appearance against Inter two weeks ago, another massive game. The very definition of a difference maker, and just simply a big game player. It may only be one season, but those goals and performances alone have earned him the tag "Legend in the Making". Actually, you know what?

Legend in the Making.

If you can pull off those goals in those games, you've earned it, my friend. Here's to many, many more years of the legendary Balkan Maradona.

(And I sincerely appear for ever doubting the comparisons between you and Zlatan.)

Flying beneath the radar is the all over the field performance from Il Capitano, who was not directly involved, but made so much happen over both halves. It's hard to imagine what this game would have been like without him. A loss, surely.

And before we head onto the overly exuberant player ratings, watch Mirko's goal one more time......

.....and then tell me Daniele De Rossi is not the best player in the world right now.

The highlights are here, and that insane corner kick situation is here.


ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni; Cicinho, Panucci, Juan, Tonetto; De Rossi, Pizarro (17' st Giuly); Taddei (27' st Aquilani), Perrotta, Mancini (11' st Vucinic); Totti.
A disp.: Curci, Brighi, Ferrari e Antunes.

MILAN (4-3-2-1): Kalac; Oddo, Maldini, Kaladze, Favalli; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini (40' st Gilardino); Kakà (42' st Paloschi), Seedorf (27' st Emerson); Pato.
A disp.: Fiori, Simic, Bonera e Brocchi.

Arbitro: Rizzoli di Bologna

Marcatori: 11' st Kakà, 33' st Giuly, 36' st Vucinic

Note: Ammoniti: Gattuso, Pato, Favalli. Recupero 3' pt e 5' st. Spettatori 48.000, per un incasso di 812.147,00 euro circa. Calci d'angolo: 5-4 per la Roma. Tiri in porta 6-4 per il Milan. Possesso palla: Roma 49.6%-50.4% Milan.

Player Ratings

All I want to know is if he was drinking liquid Valium in that little brown bottle in the first half, because the man was the very definition of "nonchalant" for the rest of the game. Aliens could've anally probed him mid-game and I'm not sure he would've done anything but sat there and thought, "ooh, that tickles". As long as they win, whatever gets it done. 10

Had an immensely tough task with The Quacker, who looked every bit of being 18 years old mentally, Seedorf and, on occasion, Kaka. They scored one goal straight down the middle. That's enough for me. (Oh, and he saved the game.) 10

Old Man River:
I swear, he and Maldini must have gotten a twofer at the fountain of youth pregame, because he looked like anything but an elderly right back playing in the middle. Floating all over the place, taking the ball up the field....he must've thought he was playing on the other side for the day. 10

This guy....again, confusing himself with a striker. I love it. 10

Max is going to need a third lung. The guy covered more ground than UPS on Saturday. Getting up, getting back, getting up, getting eventually hurt him, but not enough. Ole Max has been huge part of this resurgence over the last month, let's hope he's got a couple more years of this left in those twigs. 10

Daniele De Rossi:
Immense. Simply immense. Gattuso dressed in Armani laced out with diamonds and jewels. A 24 year old legend of indescribable qualities; and when he is done, without a doubt in my mind, the best Italian of his generation. I think they should hand out diapers when he plays - he's just that good. No number can quantify Daniele De Rossi right now.

David Pizarro: I give David Pizarro a lot of schtick, so here goes...

That was awesome, fucking awesome. The first half he was everywhere, fighting for balls in Roma's box, in Milan's box, in the press box, in Rosella's suite. Laying the ball on a string, directing a little bit of traffic. And yeah, he faded in the second half; but one, Milan really picked up, and two, all that running in the first half made his little legs tired. Those 45 minutes made this his best game of the season. 10, @#$%ing 10.

Taddei: I didn't notice him until the 25th minute, really, and after that he was everywhere until he came off. Everywhere. 10

Perrotta: What a pass from Simone to Ludovicious. And it was nice to see him dropping back there when it was clear Roma was going to need to put something into the back of the net and get the lineup a bit more attack-oriented. Finishing or not, what a man, what a man, what a mighty good man…Simone! 10

Mancini: Simply got beat to nearly every ball by Space Balls - not that he had a poor game. Had he scored that scissor we would’ve been talking about it for the rest of our lives. Off after 55, which means he’ll be fresh for the derby. Oh boy.....Amantino! Amantino! Amantino! 10

Il Capitano:
The best we'll ever know. 10

Mirko, Ludovic & Alberto:
3 subs and the goals start coming, all three playing at least some part in the goals. What a difference a bench makes. 10

The Grand Imperial Poobah: The best coach in the business. 10

Key Matchups

Cicinho v Favalli:
I may be mistaken here but I'm pretty sure Favalli didn't make it anywhere near the final third but a couple times, especially in the first half (probably because he's still showin' off his ass to his highway reststop buddies hanging in the nord). In fact, I’m not sure Favalli did anything, which makes Cicinho winner by default. Winner: Cicinho

Carletto v Carletto: Carlo seems to be taking a lot of crap in the Milan circles for taking off Clarence – easily Milan’s best player – and bringing on The Pussy Cat (that last part can be omitted). But Clarence was hurt recently and he may be hurt again. And his hand was really forced with the double Gila/12 year old substitution due to Kaka’s back injury. But still…Emerson? Come on – Carlo should’ve laced them up himself. Winner: Everyone but Milan.

Ricky Kaka v DDR: The Rickster did have a goal, but DDR kept him in check, and that foot race where DDR ran step for step with Kaka then took the ball off of him was everything that is right about the game. Kaka disappeared way too much, as he tends to do, so….get those t-shirts ready. Winner: DDR

The Frontline v That Backline: Paolo looked like he was pushing 20, not 40, but Kaladze was utter shite and that’s all that really matters. Roma probably should’ve had at least 1-2 in the first half alone, and Milan couldn’t hold them when it really mattered – including that Under 6 like scrum around the ball for Ludovic’s goal. Winner: Frontline

MOTM: The team picture. I lupi…all of them

And one last thing:

Before the Napoli game Aquilani, De Rossi, Mexes, Pizarro, and Mirko were all one yellow away from suspension. In the last two games, not one Giallorossi has been handed a card. It may just be coincidence, or poor refereeing, but I like to think this team has hit a much higher level of focus and determination, and that being "on form" is only the half of it. This is a different Roma.

Now bring on the burini………