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Livorno: Damn The Gods.

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SOCCER-ITALY/

Gods 3 - Roma 3

You want to tactically analyze this match until kingdom come; to throw blame around with no regard for women and children; to lay waste to hopes, dreams and all those abominations of optimism life offers us. But you can't. Why?

Fucking Livorno.

No amount of tactical reasoning or shortcomings can describe this game, or any game against Livorno, for that matter. This one comes from on high. (A mythical high, but upon high nonetheless.)

How do you explain the Juan penalty? There was nothing wrong with what he did - it was a stonewall penalty, no question - but every defender flies into challenges like that, and this one somehow magnetized to his awaiting marionette hand. The missed Pizarro penalty? He's no Totti, who can draw a map with a giant X and hand it to the keeper yet still inexplicably bury it, but the post? Tell me the wind didn't push it. Freakin' creakin' Cristiano Lucarelli scoring three goals? He was averaging one in four before this!

The curse lives on, and we are suddenly Livorno fans. Why? Well, two reasons: their safety improves the chances it's the goatophiliacs going down to Serie LOL, and it also means it won't take years for another crack at the Armando Picchi.

San Siro: home away from home*.

Armando Picchi: where Roman dreams go to die.

* - Insert snappy Roberto Rosetti one-liner here.

You can't help but love this team. They'll kill you, but you can't help it because there's simply nothing rational about Roma.

  • All that said, if Cassetti or Burdisso starts, they win. Why? Well I'm @#$%ing full of answers today.

    Not because Mexes or Motta were poor defenders, but simply because switching two of the four in a team which relies so heavily upon a cohesive back four is bound to burn you once or twice. Livorno burned it - twice.

    And this goes on Ranieri, who was channeling his inner Tuscan sympathizer (coughspalletti).

    Edit.: Breaking from Blogistuta: scratch Mexes from this list, 'twas only Motta. So merely skip down to the next point, which still stands.

  • Marco Motta is one of my favorite players on this team. His upside, enthusiasm, class, ability to say the right thing in an era where athletes bow to the alter of saying the wrong thing, and sheer giddiness when he arrived sold it from the go.

    But his defending this year has made Cassetti look like a '91 Maldini. Rightback is a priority this summer - either through sale or sending Motta to South Africa as Juan's apprentice for summer school.

  • I saw so much Kaka in Jeremy Menez this weekend. (Notice how I subtly slide step the softball lob of an immature joke here. You're welcome.)

    I saw the elegant, graceful Kaka who can roast professional athletes with nary a hint of difficulty.

    And I saw the Kaka who sat on the ground whining while play continued around him against Lyon, and then was subbed off, despite being needed by his team.

    I want so much to like Menez, and I do, but he is infuriating. He wasn't brought off tactically - it was punishment.

  • Scarecrow needs a loan. Fortunately, it's March. Unfortunately, Spalletti has called yet.
  • I hold no blame over Pizarro. A man who's been so important to the team this year is allowed to falter.

    Just remember to take Francesco's advice: put it bottom left every time, you can even point if you'd like, and it'll go in - every. single. time.

  • Two silver linings. Well, two and a half.

    i. Simone Perrotta: 1 goal, 2 assists. When he's in form, this team is a different animal.

    ii. Luca Toni. If he's even a stone's throw from fitness, he will score goals. The end.

    ii.5. Jeremy Menez is a premier talent when allowed to play his game. And when he stands up with some small degree of urgency.

  • There is a degree of reality in this "gods" business. It's not the nonexistent (duh) gods, but rather a bit of mentality - from both sides. Everything is often looked at from the Roman point of view, as it should, and there's definitely a degree of mental doubt when they face Livorno. Most of the starting XI has never beaten Livorno, and all of them saw first-hand the disgrace that was Livorno Olimpico '09.

    Conversely, Livorno are brimming with confidence when facing Roma. They understand the history and play as such. Yes, there is losing games and dropping points, but occasionally, the other team can win them too. (Shocking, I know.)

    Some of it's a mystery - there was a hanging cloud of inevitability about the Juan penalty (not in the Inter sense), even though you know the gods can't be Livorno fans (two words: Vikash Dhorasoo), and you can't discount the simple balancing of the universe after seeing a Taddei backheel assist - but there's also a mental block.

    Ranieri's done brilliantly to turn this ship a full 180 while far surpassing the expectations of anyone in their right mind after the early season implosion, so if the inability to beat Livorno is one the curses which must linger until 10/11, so be it.

  • And that said, the first half was some of the most fun I've had watching Roma in years. The way they blitzkrieged back from the first two Livorno goals - each within a minute - was both impressive and affirming. At one point I may have even muttered I don't care about the result, this was simply sumptuous, swashbuckling footballing.

    I was wrong, I care, but it won't stop me from filing this one into the vault of reasons why this team is simply epic.