Well, my dear friends, it looks like the Quest for Ten will have to wait again. Roma's march towards Coppa Italia history was once again forestalled, this time by an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Rafa Benitez and Napoli. Roma entered the San Paolo with the slimmest of aggregate leads, one which was obliterated in a mere 30 minutes thanks to José Callejón, who is really putting together a great season, coincidentally. Gonzalo Higuain's 48th minute goal ratcheted up the pressure on Roma, pushing the aggregate to 4-3 in favor of Napoli, while Jorginho put the final nail in the coffin in the 51st minute.
Now, if you're the type prone to over analysis or find yourself cursing the very notion of hindsight, you might be thinking, if it weren't for Morgan De Sanctis' anything but sturdy hands or Roma simply getting worked by Dries Mertens last week, this match would've been squared away at 3-3 and headed for extra time.
Well, stop. Take a breath and ask yourself, if Roma weren't gunning for a record tenth Coppa Italia title, would you care as much? Sure, it would be nice to hold that honor, and they might still, but this season is about one thing and one thing alone, Europe.
We'll have a more in-depth review in the coming hours, but let's take a quick glance at the fallout from Roma's crashout.
Our resident Napoli blog is quite excited, obviously. Incidentally, they do good work over there, stop on by if you're curious.
NAPOLI WON! COPPA ITALIA, HERE WE COME! http://t.co/UvN3j2nbz1— The Siren's Song (@SirenSongNapoli) February 12, 2014
Meanwhile, the Italian iteration of Opta statistics heralds Napoli's victory by lowering the bar for the world ‘prestigious'
9 - Napoli have reached the Coppa Italia final for the 9th time, the second in the last three seasons. Prestigious. #NapoliRoma— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 12, 2014
While the folks at the head office decide to rub it in just a little. Geeze, did Napoli win 3-0? I couldn't tell!
It wasn’t the perfect performance, but it was almost perfect. Everyone worked in the defensive phase and then we were able to score three great goals...It was easier to win with Maradona there, but let us not take the credit away from these lads, as they played really well. I met Maradona some years ago, he could be useful for us on the pitch! The team showed its quality. It was difficult to win against this Roma team and to do it without conceding a goal.
Almost Perfect?I don't know about that, but I sometimes wonder how Roma will treat Francesco Totti after his playing days are over. Will they trot him out like some token idol, or opt for a more reserved, dignified role?
We'll start off the Roman purge with a couple of immediate and pragmatic thoughts form Rudi Garcia, and you have to say, he's absolutely right. Roma needs to put this loss behind them and focus on increasing that lead over Napoli in the league standings. No use crying over spilled milk, even when it flows from a glorious silver chalice.
#Garcia: "At the moment we're four points ahead of Napoli in the league with a game in hand. Now our focus switches to Sunday"— A.S. Roma (@OfficialASRoma) February 12, 2014
Perhaps we lost the qualification in the first leg, as we conceded two goals when we were 2-0 up. This evening we had three chances to score in the first half and didn’t make the most of them. We should’ve been more ruthless in attack and also in defence, as we made mistakes in both legs.
I compliment Napoli, they have a strong attack and I wish them all the best for the Final. As for Roma, we’ve got to think positive because we do create chances in every game. The key to the future is to be more effective up front. Now we close the Coppa Italia book and re-open the Serie A one. We’ve got to win our next game against Sampdoria. For the moment we are four points ahead of Napoli in the League and have a game in hand.
We'll end it with that. While the Coppa Italia was a pleasant distraction, the mission of the next three months is clear: Keep ahead of Napoli.
And with one less thing hanging over their heads, there is really no excuse. It's second place or bust, and it starts on Sunday.