Hey, you'll never guess what happened! Roma was decrepit in the first half, one where they were reacting to the pace of play rather than dictating, then did just enough to manage a draw in the second half. That's the blueprint for titles, right?
This story is getting pretty tiresome, so we'll keep this recap brief and simply hope that the Roma-in-the-second-half can, you know, maybe make an appearance in the first half one of these days.
Mario Gomez: 19th Minute
Nothing terribly fancy about this one, Gomez was in the perfect position and deftly redirected the ball with his left instep past a diving Morgan De Sanctis, putting Roma in an early hole; a situation which is becoming all too familiar. For Gomez, that was his third goal in four days, or as many as he scored all of last season.
Was he offsides or not? Roma certainly protested the point to no avail, but our bigger concern should be how was he left so wide open, did Kostas Manolas even look over his shoulder? Injuries or not, you can't leave a man with Gomez's reputation alone in the box for even a nanosecond.
But, as he's done so often this season, Adem Ljajic came to the rescue.
Adem Ljajic: 49th Minute
First off, full credit to Ljajic for not celebrating excessively versus his former team. Sure, his time in Firenze wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, but Ljajic did the right thing there, particularly on the road. Nutella has really turned a corner this season, both in terms of results and maturity.
Anyway, about that goal, Ljajic's part in which was rather minor.
Can we talk about the work done my Juan Iturbe there? With Totti lobbing the from just past the midfield, Iturbe had an awful lot of tracking to do, while also remaining onside and skirting around the Viola defender. Manu used his speed, agility and low center of gravity to his advantage here, getting around Jose Basanta to center the ball to Ljajic, who kept the ball from sailing wide before putting it past the helpless Ciprian Tatarusanu.
Ljajic's point saving goal was his club leading seventh, his most since his last season with Fiorentina when he scored 11 during the 2012-2013 campaign. Given his fine form and versatility, it's no stretch to imagine him matching that figure before all is said and done this season.
Given the stark difference after the break, Rudi Garcia had quite a bit to say about his side's performance in the second 45.
The reaction was good and we played an excellent second half, so let's look at the positives. It's true we could've done better in the first half, but we knew Fiorentina had a lot of quality...We kept backing off our opponents in the first half and the plan had been the opposite of that. After the break we saw a more ambitious Roma that created many scoring opportunities
Now for my expert analysis...Umm, the plan had been the opposite? Then what, pray tell, happened? And why does this keep happening? Why can't Roma go full tilt from the first minute, not in a Zeman sort of way,mind you, but why must they wait until they fall behind to press the issue?
Roma has been the reactionary far too often this season, needing second half heroics simply to scratch a point out of an otherwise winnable match. By waiting until the second half to flip the switch, not only are Roma setting themselves up for failure, they're wasting some brilliant performances from the likes of Ljajic and Totti.
Fiorentina were very aggressive and deserve credit, but it was also our problem as we were defending by backing off. In order to attack, you need to win the ball...We had come here to win, albeit knowing Fiorentina are an excellent team. This is why I prefer to work on the second half performance and go forward from that. Like my team, I am motivated and relaxed.
Perhaps I'm being too glib here, but once again I ask, why? Why back off in the first place, with a midfield of Radja Nainggolan, Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman, Roma should be pressing, calling the shots and pinning Fiorentina back on their heels, not waiting back and reacting.
This team, particularly the midfield, is simply too talented, too tenacious and too athletic to be restrained.
We'll go the hockey route here and shine a light on Roma's three brightest performers from this afternoon
Despite only taking 41 touches, Manu was quite effective against the Viola. In addition to his assist on Ljajic's equalizer, Iturbe completed 86% of his passes, put two shots on goal, dribbled past six defenders, drew five fouls, made two tackles and intercepted one pass. This was perhaps his best performance since the 5-1 blowout of CSKA Moscow back in the fall
Ninja was his usual self; active, efficient and effective. Nainggolan took 60 touches and completed a whopping 95% of his passes today, creating one scoring chance and pulling off five shots in the process. Behind the ball, Nainggolan wasn't quite as active, but still managed two tackles and one INT.
Beyond his equalizer, Ljajic was remarkably effective, particularly once he dropped behind the strikers. In 86 minutes of action, Nutella put two of three shots on target, created three scoring chances, and completed 40% of his crosses. Not his most prolific performance in a Roma shirt, but Ljajic was instrumental in whatever modicum of offense Roma managed this afternoon.
I shudder to think where we'd be without Ljajic this season.
Edging Towards Empoli
So that's it, Roma's first half woes continue to plague them, but in an odd twist, the seven point gap between the Giallorossi and league leading Juventus is actually less than it was at this time last year.
We've been saying it since September, Juventus, as fantastic as they've been, are eminently more beatable than last season. However, in order for that to happen, Roma simply cannot wait until the second half to assert themselves. This team is far too dynamic and much too talented to be so passive; the pieces are there, Garcia simply needs to unleash the beast.
Roma jump back into the fray Saturday when they host Empoli.