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Zebra's Zapped: Roma Defeats Udinese 1-0

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Roma travelled north to the Stadio Friuli to commence their 2015 assault on the Scudetto against the enigmatic Udinese Zebras.

Dino Panato/Getty Images

First of all an explanation as to why in the name of Jupiter this match was played on a Tuesday morning. January 6 is a public holiday in Italy as it commemorates the day of the Epiphany or La Befana. This is meant to have something to do with the Three Wise Men trying to find little baby Jesus. However in modern times this is more commonly associated with Franco Sensi’s decision not to sell Francesco Totti to Sampdoria, thus giving birth to la Chiesa Di Totti. In celebration you can see Walter Sabatini dress up in an old black dress and fly around the place offering lollies (that’s candy, for you heathens) to young South American wingers.

For all the non-Italians out there, I encourage you to do 30 seconds of Googling so you can fully appreciate my clever joke.

The Africa Cup of Nations tournament (no one seems to care that the Asian Cup is also taking place. Just saying.) meant Garcia fielded Iturbe and Strootman in the starting eleven at the expense of Gervinho and Keita while Astori was given the nod in central defence as Mapou dealt with an acute case of the sniffles. I’m not sure there is much point anymore in highlighting Holebas was picked ahead of A. Cole.

Udinese is coached by Stramaccioni, nice guy, bad circumstances and have that Antonio Di Natale guy as their striker. Hey, do you guys remember when Ivan Piris played for Roma? Dark days indeed! He strikes me as someone that would be good at rugby as a nippy little half-back. Anyway, he also plays for the Udine club now.

Roma started quite sprightly and passed the ball around slickly in the opening exchanges. It was pleasing to see Strootman get his fair share of early touches and seems better ingrained with the squad following the Christmas break. Iturbe, meanwhile, took his instructions to play the ‘Gervinho role’ a little too literally. In the 11th minute Pjanic’s free kick hit the wall and rebounded to him where he then fired a fierce volley towards the goal only to see it smack into Iturbe’s Gervinho-esque leg. Sigh.

Still, Roma had the better of their Zebra striped hosts and it was no great surprise when we went ahead 1-0 after Astori headed in from a Francesco Totti free kick.

Ok, I may be over-simplifying this a touch. Astori’s header hit the bar and then bounced into the ground before being scooped up by Udinese’s keeper, Karnezis. At this point the Muppet appointed as the ‘goal line man in fluorescent yellow shirt’ failed to award the goal and was soon overruled by the match referee. Cue chaotic scenes sadly typical of Serie A. Of course Italy doesn’t have Goal line technology, have you met the President of FIGC?

Replays showed it was a close call but that the ball clearly crossed the line as it went from the crossbar to the ground.

Was it a goal? Of course it fucking was. Was it awarded correctly? Yes. Is this incident worth repeating over and over again? No not really.

The outcome was just, get on with your lives. That goes double for you Beppe Marotta, you googly eyed fuck.

This lit a spark under the home fans and the Udinese players who made it their personal mission to harangue the referee at every stoppage in play from this point on. They also started playing some pretty sweet football.

Roma was breathtakingly lucky to remain ahead at the break after Toto Di Natale lofted an exquisite cross to the far post for Gabriel Silva who was only able to toe it wide with the goal net begging for a football’s embrace.

The second half, like so many this season before it, wasn’t really top notch stuff. Both Totti and Ljajic struggled to have meaningful impacts and Iturbe kept getting fouled trying to dribble past 8 defenders. Even Dougie Maicon seemed to be having a rough day as his opponents began moving past him with relative ease. I don’t think the man is quite 100% fit. He was missing that samba swag and just didn’t seem to have that extra gear of pace on the overlap.

Rudi probably thought something similar and decided to throw on Torosidis so he could join the Greece national team’s reunion with Manolas, Holebas, Kone and Karnesiz. Say what you want about Rudi, but a party pooper he ain’t.

Roma looked dangerous enough on the counter-attack and DDR made sure he never roamed too far from his defence to keep Udinese largely at bay.

Florenzi was subbed on for our illustrious Capitano around the 66th minute and set about chasing the ball like a puppy.

Despite Udinese’s increased possession, Roma was still grinding it out relatively well. That was until the 83rd minute when Adem Ljajic fell to the ground clutching his knee after a challenge.

As the poor old Serbian wunder-kind was stretchered off in agony the stage was set for a classic Roma meltdown. In an effort to calm our nerves, Rudi subbed on Urby Emanuelson.

URBY FUCKING EMANEULSON TO CLOSE OUT A MATCH!

As my nonna always laments, "Life wasn’t meant to be easy."

So what does Urby do once he is bestowed this unusual opportunity? He slides late into the box and nearly gives away a godamn penalty, that’s what! Roman hands went to Roman heads. Was it a penalty? I’d probably say yes, he came in from behind, even though he may have got the ball by the length of a bee’s dick. Fortunately lady luck (and possibly the constant bitching of the Udinese players and fans) convinced the ref to wave away the appeal.

Urby was back into the fray at the other end, blasting a shot into the keeper’s outstretched hand after a pass from Florenzi. Such a goal probably would have resulted in a thirteen-year contract and a statue outside the new Stadio. Ah well, chin up big fella!

Late on, Florenzi had a super chance to put the game to bed when he was put through one-on-one with the keeper, only to see his rough effort saved by the very impressive Karnesiz. Mercifully, the referee then blew time on this match with Roma still a goal to the good.

Once again we find ourselves saying 3 points is 3 points. Are we playing the way we want to be? Yeah nah, we still have a ways to go, especially offensively in the final third. Both Ljajic and Totti were struggling to have an impact on the game and Iturbe remains, well, Iturbe.

With that said, this is a very handy game to walk away with the points considering the spectre of Lazio on Sunday has been looming large for every Romanistass and his dog for at least the last week.

Ljajic’s injury was as scary, scary moment. The club have come out and said he is in contention for the derby match after only suffering a contusion and escaping structural damage. I think deep down we all know the physio just smeared some nutella on there.

So now we can stop talking about goal-line technology and penalty debates and start to focus on arguably the best match to be a Romanistass, the derby. Thanks for the hospitality in your oddly un-built stadium Zebras, catch you on the flip! This Roma has a dirty rotten step-brother to crush.