Now that was a quintessentially Italian match: dodgy calls, reversed calls, penalties, make up penalties and even some near fisticuffs. And that was in the first half hour alone. Things just don't get much better or more chaotic than a Roma-Juventus match, particularly when the top of the table is at stake. In a match that ultimately proved the differences between these teams are shrinking, Juventus proved once more that matches are 90 minutes long for a reason. Roma simply couldn't capitalize in the second half and were done in by a late Leonardo Bonucci wonder strike.
In case you missed it, let's run it back.
The first quarter hour of the match wasn't so kind to Roma; passes went astray, counters were broken up and the defense was picked apart by Carlos Tevez and even Claudio Marchisio. Despite their less than stellar start, Roma kept a level head and actually saw more of the ball than the Old Lady, but the first half would turn on yet another mistake from Maicon.
Andrea Pirlo, who made a last minute recovery to suit up for this match, delivered a signature free kick from the left side of the box, only to find the outstretched hand of a leaping Maicon, or so it seemed. Referee Gianluca Rocchi initially saw nothing untoward about Maicon's block, but after some serious protestation by the boys in black and white, Rocchi reversed his call and awarded Juventus a penalty, which Carlos Tevez put past Lukasz Skorupski with ease.
In the ensuing scrum, Rudi Garcia was sent off the pitch for a bit of sarcastic imaginary violin playing, which was totally unjustified but hilarious nonetheless.
Then, in what could only be called a make-up call, Rocchi awarded Roma a penalty after Francesco Totti was taken down by Stephan Lichtsteiner. Totti calmly steered one past Gianluigi Buffon for his 236th career goal, leveling affairs at one apiece and picking up a yellow card in the process for "excessive celebration".
From there, the match nearly came unhinged, as Rocchi struggled to keep order on the pitch and was challenged at nearly every turn by nearly all of the 22 men on the pitch. Not an easy job, especially under these conditions, but he certainly didn't do himself any favors, dolling out six yellow cards in 45 minutes.
Roma would score a goal on their own accord just before the stroke of halftime. With Gervinho driving in from the left flank, Juan Iturbe found the smallest of spaces behind the Juventus line, where he got on the end of a sublime pass from Gervinho putting Roma up 2-1. It was fitting that this was the only goal from the run of play, because it was lovely; Gervinho put the ball in the only possible place Iturbe could make a play on it, to the left of the defenders, but Manu's darting right-to-left-run was just perfect, he slid right through them virtually unnoticed.
But then, things got, well, more Italian, let's say. Just for the hell of it, Rocchi awarded Juventus another penalty at roughly the 46:27 minute mark, in a match that had only one additional minute. Tevez then picked on Skorupski once more, sending the sides into the lockerooms knotted at 2-2.
Have a look for yourself? Was it a penalty? Did Pogba still have possession? Can you really be awarded a foul in 27 seconds that shouldn't have existed in the first place?
So, if you were keeping score at home, in 45 minutes this match had four goals, three of which were penalties, and six yellow cards.
The second 45 was more about missed chances than referee discretions. Roma had a couple genuine chances to grab the lead--Miralem Pjanic's tight angled toe poke that sailed wide and the dive-that-never-was-but-should-have-been from Gervinho, as he evaded a last man tackle but stood his ground--but simply were not able to capitalize, which, as we're too painfully aware, is the absolute worst thing you can do against Juventus.
And the absolute worst is precisely what happened. In the 86th minute, Leonardo Bonucci scored what will undoubtedly be the goal of his career, catching the ball off a headed clearance and nailing it with his right foot before the ball even had a chance to touch the ground. Skorupski didn't stand a chance, and neither did Roma.
The remaining five minutes and stoppage time played out like the end of an NHL playoff game, desperate attempts on goal, frantic passes and, yes, a couple of brief dust ups. But this has been the dividing line between these two sides over the past year; Juventus simply does not relent and they take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
We can't necessarily say Roma played poorly this evening, they just didn't create enough chances and they certainly didn't capitalize on enough of them. Juve came at them for the full 90 minutes, peppering Skorupski with 20 shots, despite holding only 44% of the possession.
After the international break, Roma takes on Chievo, Sampdoria, and Cesena, so there is chance to gain ground and keep the heat on Juventus. However, if this match showed us anything, it's that the margin between Juventus and Roma is indeed shrinking, but Juve can pounce upon even the slightest capitulation late in a match sending Roma home sullen and disappointed.