With the sword of Damocles dangling ever closer to his scalp, Rudi Garcia received some much needed relief ahead of today's match, the return of Gervinho; the Sancho Panza to Garcia's Don Quixote. There's no doubt that Gervinho has been Roma's most lethal player this season, but was the return of The Predator enough to save Garcia's ass and Roma's European hopes?
Well, after 25 decidedly uninspiring minutes or so, Gervinho hobbled off the pitch--possibly carrying Garcia's job with him--apparently re-aggravating the injury that kept him sidelined to begin with. But, that's what happens when your manager has no other ideas; come hell or high-water, you ride your option A straight into the ground.
Honestly, outside of that substitution and the scuffle between Alessandro Florenzi and Afriyie Acquah, action in the first half was practically non-existent. Through the first 45 minutes, Roma and Torino combined for a pitiful five shots on goal and three chances created, all of which came from Torino. Yes, you read that right. Roma didn't do shit in the first half. Even by Garcia standards, this was an uninspiring half.
Fortunately for Roma, Torino was equally ineffective. The first half was marked by lost possessions, sloppy passing and desperate long balls over the top, as neither side could scrape together any semblance of a coherent game plan. It was almost as if 22 dudes just met up in a parking lot and decided to kick the ball around for 45 minutes to see what happens, but, like, two of their girlfriends showed up to watch, so they were the only ones actually trying to impress.
With Garcia's job on the line and Roma's place in the top tier in danger, the first half, despite the blank scoreline, was probably the worst case scenario; there was nothing in the first 45 minutes to suggest this club is headed in the right direction.
The second frame was just as directionless and lifeless as the first, with neither side able to gain any sort of traction in the match. In a sense, this was reminiscent of a preseason friendly; both sides just looked so awkward and so disjointed.
Roma and Torino traded punches in the midfield for the first 40 minutes or so of the second half, with the play seldom wandering towards either goal. With neither side able to mount a sustained attack, the deadlock remained firmly intact. But then, just as they always do, Roma relied on a set piece to save their asses. Fortunately, Roma employs the best in the biz at the moment, Miralem Pjanic
Pjanic: 83rd Minute Free Kick
Kudos to Pjanic for working his magic once again, but this was damn near an own goal. It's hard to say what Daniele Padelli was doing, but his charge off the line was completely mistimed and the ball soared right past him and bounced into the goal unencumbered.
Of course, this being Roma and all, Pjanic's brilliance was rendered moot by boneheaded defending 11 minutes later as Antonio Rüdiger's mishandling of the ball allowed Andrea Belotti to pounce, which, in turn, led to the Kostas Manolas tackle/trip from behind, gifting Torino a last ditch penalty, which Maxi Lopez promptly buried into the back of the net.
In the end, the stagnant play, the Pjanic brilliance, and the defensive deficiencies led to nothing more than another Garcia Special. This 1-1 draw, by my count, is the 17th of the Garcia regime. I'm not sure of the broader historical context of that, but it seems awfully high doesn't it? Or at the very least, extremely odd?
For the anti-Garcia crowd among us, this result brings about mixed emotions. You never want to see Roma drop points, particularly when a place in Europe next year hangs in the balance, but this was further evidence to everything that's wrong with the Garcia regime—Roma was, once again, completely bereft of ideas, inspiration and ingenuity. How much more do we need to see?
Garcia has been weighed, measured and found wanting. There is nothing left to see.