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La Magica Turn On The Magic

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captb976808e359b4e8b9e35f50711841e70italy_soccer_ajm106.jpgRoma 2 - Empoli 1

You know how there's a glitch in video games - whether they be football, basketball, or whatever the hell else type of video games they make - and a guy just cannot miss from a certain spot, becomes invisible or whatever? That's Christian Panucci on free kicks two yards from the box and two yards from the end line. Therefore, I hereby name that spot in all Italian stadiums and those in Glasgow Panucci's Place from now until eternity. Who says 34 year old white men can't jump?

Now let's get down to brass tax for a moment here: Francesco Totti.

What a wizard. Jealousy must've been enough to break Merlin's ankles in his coffin by the time the whistle hit. Gravitated towards the ball and once he had possession proceeded to take the team to an entirely different level. And how he managed to do so after taking such a beating from Empoli's defenders (bringing back horrid memories) is a question beyond answering. No doubt, had Simone Perrotta been given the standard yellow, Francesco would've been subbed off. Assuredly mighty sore on Sunday morning, but well worth it for the three points. Still the best player in calcio.

The game got quite difficult with the moderately-to-severely absurd straight red Perrotta was shown for a "tactical" foul, as The Poobah mentioned pre-game. The exact same foul Max Tonetto was guilty of in the Super Coppa and was simply shown an expected yellow; also the very game which saw Simone red carded for saying not nice things to the referee's assistant on the sidelines. I think it's fair to say if Pierluigi Collina gets a bullet or a horse's head in the mail this weekend, Simone's going to be suspect number one.

Now here's the best part: Juventus won also, thanks to a little bit of karma for the Nerazzurri, and the lead is now down to four little points, as opposed to 11 about a month ago. With Roma's world tour of the relegation zone and bottom half of the table now in full swing, the sun is at least peaking through the clouds for the time being. The following table, stolen graciously from Gabriella, shows just how the final weeks of the season will pan out for both sides (I deleted Juventus because they don't have a prayer, simple as that):

Week 31 - 29-30/3/08
Cagliari - Roma
Lazio - Inter

CL - 1/4/08
Roma - ManU

Week 32 - 5-6/4/08
Atalanta - Inter
Roma - Genoa

CL - 9/4/08
ManU - Roma

Week 33 - 12-13/4/08
Inter - Fiorentina
Udinese - Roma

Coppa - 16/4/08
Roma - Catania
Inter - Lazio

Week 34 - 19-20/4/08
Roma - Livorno
Torino - Inter

Week 35 - 26-27/4/08
Inter - Cagliari
Roma - Torino

Week 36 - 3-4/5/08
Milan - Inter
Sampdoria - Roma

Coppa - 7/5/08
Catania - Roma
Lazio - Inter

Week 37 - 10-11/5/08
Inter - Siena
Roma - Atalanta

Week 38 - 18/5/08
Catania - Roma
Parma - Inter*

* - This is setting up to be one of the biggest karma games of all time.

Could be much worse. Actually, I'm not sure it could get much better. (This week at some point a full break down on the run of calcio hell.)

The other huge news from the game was the yellow card accumulations of Mirko Vucinic and Daniele De Rossi, along with Simone's rosso. This means they miss the Cagliari encounter and make that a fun starting XI to think about for the rest of the week. And Cagliari may have the look of a "trap" game (they've been playing quite well as of late), but it's safe to say if I could pick one game for them to miss for the rest of the year, this would be it - and I doubt I'm the only one who would do the same. Plus I'm sure Bruno will have a little talking to with Daniele just before the game. You know, let 'em know how it's going to be.

Standings

1. Inter 68 (35)
2. Roma 64 (26)

Four points is a mighty small sum.

Highlights

Tabellino

ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni; Cassetti, Panucci, Ferrari, Tonetto; De Rossi, Pizarro (77' Brighi); Giuly (54' Vucinic), Perrotta, Mancini (65' Taddei); Totti. A disp.: Curci, Cicinho, Antunes, Esposito. All.Spalletti

EMPOLI (4-4-1-1): Bassi; Raggi (72' Volpato), Piccolo, Marzoratti, Antonini; Buscè, Abate, Marchisio (51' Moro), Budel (81' Giacomazzi); Vannucchi; Giovinco. A disp.: Balli, Tosto, Marianini, Vanigli. All. Malesani

ARBITRO: Gava di Conegliano (Stefani-Faverani; 4° Scoditti)

MARCATORI: 35' Tonetto, 50' Giovinco, 63' Panucci

NOTE: Espulso Perrotta al 57' per gioco violento. Ammoniti Raggi, Piccolo, De Rossi, Panucci, Abate, Vucinic, Buscè. Recupero 1' pt, 5' st.

Ratings

Doni: I'm pretty sure had Giovinco's knuckleball not hit the post I would've given him a -27 just for having his feet set in stone on that shot. However, he did damn well in saving that close range bullet and was not at fault for the goal whatsoever. 7

Cassetti:
Next time Roma plays a team including Giovinco (guessing it's not going to be Empoli, likely Juve), he needs to read The Art of the Trailing Foot beforehand. Or just call up Momo Sissoko for tips on how to tackle like you're having a seizure mid-lunge. 6.5

Panucci:
The only possible way he could top that clutch performance is if he walks up to King Alberto on Monday morning and says, "Hey, I'm going to get a tattoo of you getting a yellow in the derby, then having to watch me score another game winner from the stands." I think TGIP has found his targetman 3rd striker. 8

Ferrari:
I know Roma, even if they didn't spend his equal in value, could probably do better, but it's days like yesterday I kind of hope that "after this year I'm gone" declaration was a negotiating tactic/bluff. Especially when he laid full out for that tackle late in the game when Empoli surely would've taken a point and jubilation would've turned to pissedoffness. Still a nice 3rd/4th option to have around - at least for the rest of the season. 7

Tonetto:
Max will have to send Totti a huge fruitbasket for the service on that goal, but it wasn't a gimme by any stretch. Had Doni not saved that close range shot from SG, he would've looked quite sheepish for what looked to be skipping over the ball as Giovinco made his way into the box. Luckily, Alex saved the day and Max has his day. 7.5

Pizarro:
Speaking of fruitbaskets, I really hope David has already sent his to Old Man River for pulling his arse out of the ditch with that header. Nice service, but one of these days he's got to learn counters going in the opposite direction are equally important as setting up your teammates. 6.5

DDR:
Spent a ton of time on the ball behind The Roman Clusterfuck, which was out in full force. Wonder if The Don watched. Other than that, more of the same, though not "I'm going to need to change my pants" good at any point that I recall. Just a regular monster. (I'm just probably not remembering it correctly.) 7

Mancini & Ludovicious:
For some odd reason, both of their performances are escaping me at the moment, so I'm just going to wish them a Happy Easter and be on with it.

Simone:
He gets an eight just as consolation for his second unjustified red card of the season. Maybe it'll help soothe his wounds. 8

Totti:
Jesus rose from the dead a day early this year. 8

Brighi: Filled Simone's maniacal, Energizer boots well, but this game could've easily been 4-1 and a no-contest with 10 men had he pulled his skirt up and sent in some balls with mustard. Or maybe it was because the pitch was one big Slip n' Slide by the end of the game. Probably more the latter. Word is he got in trouble with The Mister afterwards. Uh oh. (Still, he gave 'em what they needed to help obtain three points after Simone was sent off.) 6.5

Vucinic: C'mon. Did you think he was going to bust out the heroics for Empoli? He's waiting for Chanmester. Until then, everyone else can fill in against the relegation fodder for the three points. 7

Taddei:
Absolutely anything not reminiscent of his Wednesday suckitude was welcomed. That and more with the game on the line. 7

Key Matchups

Roma v Set Pieces: There weren't many of these because Giovinco was busy creating miles of space between himself and the defenders and uncorking shots before any Giallorossi could get a whiff of his Old Spice. So Roma wins by default.

Cicinho v Runways: I'm just going to give you a little look back to the preview.

Given that Marco was out injured and then seemed to get real banged up at the end of the derby, also throwing in the fact that he’s probably the third CB (what’s Rodrigo Defendi doing these days? he available?) and ONLY reliable back up defender on the roster for the game (minus any DDR experimentation), logic says it’s going to be Cicinho.

* - Also, you know how it works, feel free on betting the deed to your house that Cassetti starts.

Always listen to me, then do the exact opposite.

Doni v Doni:
I'm pretty sure he soiled himself when Giovinco's knuckler came in, so that would explain the statuesque pose. Some of you may have as well (not looking for a show of hands here). Saved the three. Forza Alex.

Empoli v DDR:
Benjamin Franklin once said the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. Well I'm now adding a third:

Daniele De Rossi owning the midfield.

Roma v Mentality:
A ten man win and essentially playing everyone but Giovinco off the pitch in terrible conditions pretty much summed it up for me. Given how good Roma looked with ten, this really isn't a concern right now. Their minds are in the correct places.

Four points.