Normally when you see close competition dropping points to let Roma gain some ground, we see Roma return the favour as the kind and generous neighbour it's known to be. Both league leaders Juventus & current third placed Napoli dropped a pair of points each in their respective draws yesterday. Roma took advantage in Verona today, in a tough fought and well deserved victory.
Verona has been this season's surprise promotion side, sitting on the cusp of qualifying for European competition for much of the season. Their record is without a doubt carried by their impressive home form, which is fourth in Serie A. After a shaky start, Roma were able to win another crucial three points to continue their impressive campaign. Club captain, Francesco Totti, capped the victory by converting a penalty that was given for a controversial foul on Vasilis Torosidis.
Disappointing First Half
For anyone who watched the match, it was obvious to see Roma struggle to get anything going in the opening 45 minutes. Verona was understandably hard to break down and gave the visitors very little room to work. Roma didn't help themselves, either, looking very sloppy in passing with what may have looked like a hangover carrying from the Coppa Italia quarterfinal victory over Juventus. The match looked to be heading in the direction of a poor draw or even shock defeat before Gervinho & Adem Ljajić combined to score moments before half-time.
Incidents after the Break
In his post-match press conference, Rudi Garcia mentioned that he was unhappy with the first half and the move that led to Verona's goal that came minutes after half-time. The second half began looking more open than the first but Leandro Castán's mistake led to Verona's Icelandic midfielder, Emil Hallfreðsson, drawing level with a left-footed finish. The entire back-line, as well as Morgan De Sanctis, seemed to have been caught off-guard on the move shown by their delayed responses. Morgan looked like a terrified cat after the ball crossed the line; it's been a while since he's been asked to stop a ball after all. Credit has to be given to Verona's #10 - he had a great match that proved how important he is for his club.
Garcia threw on fresh legs with Miralem Pjanić around the hour mark, and moments later, Gervinho was able to score. He danced his way to creating an opportunity on goal before he was able to find the back of the net. It was a great goal that left me asking why we can't see this Gervinho on a more frequent basis.
Later, Alejandro González brought Torosidis down in the box, resulting in a penalty. There was controversy surrounding the foul, since González appeared to have nicked the ball in the process of sweeping Torosidis off his feet. It was perhaps a harsh call, but it was not necessarily the wrong call. We're lucky Vasilis can still walk, right? The resulting converted penalty effectively ended the match ten minutes early. Totti goal #232.
Gervinho - It's like flipping a coin to see what Gervinho will do whenever he has the ball at his feet. Heads, and he makes the right decision that benefits all or tails, and he seems to grow one and chase it. The Ivorian continued his unpredictable decision making today, but came through with a great run and assist to break the deadlock before half and another beautiful display of his skill when he broke it again with his goal.
Daniele De Rossi - While his long passing wasn't as accurate as it's known to be, he wasn't alone in that regard. Still, Roma's acting captain was very influential on the match. He led the match in touches, passes, tackles and interceptions. He was everywhere he needed to be when it came to the defensive phase of the match.
Kevin Strootman - I could copy and paste Kevin's blurb from previous matches. Maybe I will. It was another solid performance from our favourite Dutchman. He contributed more so on the defensive side of the match, but was there trying to find the breakthrough with the rest of the forwards. He looks like he could use a rest, but with Radja suspended for next week's tie against Parma, do we have a choice?
Mehdi Benatia - He was great. Short or tall, he will boss you. Preferably tall, though, so he doesn't have to get carded for being so awesome. Luca Toni was his Vidal today (I'm making it a thing) and Mehdi broke up numerous attacks by intercepting or blocking the final passes to Toni and Iturbe.