Fiorentina 0 - Roma 1
Undeserved? Unfair? Unlucky?
Fiorentina commendably ran and played so hard, so long, like eleven purple Perrotta's, there's every chance they're still at the Artemio Franchi hassling non-existent Romans, looking for Jovetic's drift and threading the ball to space on the left wing for a stampeding Juan Manuel Vargas. But when that cross comes in, despite the box entirely filled with purple, the ball hangs in slow motion, looking destined for the nod of Gila, the locks of Stevan or the boot of Bolatti, before launching to midfield before helplessly puzzled Viola eyes.
You see, the ghosts of Mexes & Juan are still there, clearing all in sight, dominating the air in such a way the Italian Air Force has hastily dissolved itself in embarrassment, and expelling problems like a power-hungry principle. And if they are ever to fail - ever so rarely - there is a Brazilian safety net, hair tight and cape donned, ready to play the hero.
The best team was not, as you may have read, Fiorentina. The best team was a team of three: Roma's Bermuda Triangle. All that entered was swallowed up without mercy, only to be spit back out as mere mythical fantasy.
Better than good; better than great; better than words. Defending like champions, because defense does, well...defense wins championships. And to win championships, one must win games. Thus the result.
The problem isn't that Roma absorbed so much pressure; this would imply that Roma was the one with the problem. No, the problem was that if this game were to play out for another 90 minutes, Fiorentina still would not score a goal. They could spend all day - all week if they'd foot the hotel bill - whipping crosses into the box and Philippe Mexes' punk skunk coif would still intercept it before reaching the masses. And if it did, in some inexplicable fashion, manage to get beyond Philippe, Juan would rise from the back like a wave in that very Bermuda Triangle to engulf a ship.
There were more involved in the victory, but the Brazilian-French trio shone above all. Everything that can lift a club from the mundane, efficient daily workings of a machine, to one that is worthy of whispers.
- I'll say this every week until he gives me a reason not to: Juan is the best defender in calcio right now.
- And while Burdisso has been wonderful, the pairing of Crockett & Tubbs is on another planet.
- Much thanks to Di Silvestri for bottling it from the off like a true Laziale, but the chances that JSB saves that anyway are somewhere round 80% or higher. The angle was cut tight and so was JSB's hair*. (See: Gila, half two.)
* - You laugh at my abstract theories, but don't question their legitimacy for a second.
- Motta was positively Cicinho-esque on the right flank at times. In fact it reminded of one of Cicinho's debut games against Empoli in which he offered more space by a fullback not sent off I think these eyes have ever seen. It may ave been a tactical masterstroke by Ranieri in giving Vargas to throw in crosses he knew wouldn't be finished. It may have been that Marco was so terrified at being rotisseried into the box he simply hung back like he was marking Marchionni on the right.
Either way, it was very much reminiscent of an early Cicinho. Which is probably why Cicinho is being shipped out of Rome (back to Brazil) later today. Who needs two pacey, attacking rightbacks whose confidence in defense is still budding?
- I'm holding to the theory Spalletti left his remaining paychecks on the table over the embarrassment of Julio Sergio's performance against Juventus, knowing full well he'd dropped the ball years ago.
- Mirko Vucinic should never be substituted during a losing/even affair again. (With Ranieri at the helm, this is a distinct possibility.) For years, the same old thing: he has It. I don't know what It is, but I know he has it and that's a good thing.
- Menez ran more for the team at the end than he may have run all year combined. There's hope for him yet.
- Baptista also wasn't quite awful two games in a row. (!) His touch is and will remain so until the end of time - more commonly known as TDTD (The Day Totti Dies) - but as a counter-attacking threat he has some more than useful abilities.
Less hope, but still some remains.
- No one began more Viola attacks in the first 30m than Daniele De Rossi.
- Now, what does this team need most of all right now? An empty week before a nice home fixture.
They've done an incredible job creating their own luck, but the stars might just be aligning as well.
One thing I've come to notice: to manage this Roman team, one needs Roman-sized balls.
For all his obvious faults (which will send him straight to a raging hell for eternity), Capello has 'em in tow and in spades. Ranieri would appear to have them to, as evidenced by his Edvard Munch-inspiring decision to drop Francesco Totti at the half because he sucked. Yes, he played 90 minutes on Thursday unnecessarily, thus lacking match fitness, which is precisely why he sucked, but he still sucked and was substituted -at the flippin' half - because of it.
The cantaloupes that takes...and the respect it earns from everyone in the lockerroom, including that Totti fellow.
Maybe Ranieri isn't the greatest coach alive, something I'll gladly concede, but he needn't be. He needn't be perfect, needn't be ideal, needn't be brilliantly visionary. All Ranieri needs to be is the right man at the right time. Only time will tell, but the path certainly looks, dare I say, hopeful.
Right man. Right time. True love.