Seriously Roma, what is with you? How many times were you left crying as a toddler, as your mother and father ignored your outstretched arms?
In easily the most important match of the first half of this season, Roma decided to produce a psychodramatic meltdown of such obscene proportions that would leave the most patient counsellor running out the door with tears streaming down their face.
After starting the match breathing fire, a second yellow card to the brand spanking new Belgian precipitated a frantic Roman retreat. This was not so much a game of two halves but rather thirds. The first was superb, the second atrocious and then an almighty negative nancy of a third.
The pre-match speech from Spalletti was a good one. Roma came out slinging the ball at will and pinned Porto into a defensive crouch. The home side rarely poked an arm or leg outside their turtle shell as Salah, Dzeko, Strootman and Nainngolan laid siege.
Roma were simply all over their storied rivals and to be perfectly frank, historically this meant for Spalletti’s Roma that disaster was usually lurking around the corner. Imagine my surprise when it was Porto who accomplished the first astonishingly counter productive act of the evening by scoring… for Roma!
Felipe failed to keep his eye on a well taken corner and then decided to Shakira shake his hip into the oncoming ball which deflected at pace into the gaping net. And just like that, Roma had an away goal.
This match was the very definition of one sided. Roma bullied the young Portuguese in every facet of the game and certainly looked more deserving of a place in the grand European competition.
Strootman was magnificent on the ball, De Rossi looked like he was playing for Italy and both Salah and Dzeko appeared to have the complete measure of their opposing defenders. Roma could have been 3 goals to the good by the 30th minute.
But then the brainless Belgian Centre Back (BCB for short) felt compelled to complete an utterly useless sliding challenge on the halfway line. This was about as clear a yellow card as one can award in any brand of football played outside of a prison. Maybe he was upset that he hadn’t seen enough of the ball yet, or maybe The Mighty Ducks was really popular in Belgium and he thought that he and Radja could make a Roma ‘Bash Brothers’.
Whatever the hell it was, it was more or less the exact thing Roma did NOT need in a stupendously important match against a dangerous opponent, where even the smallest mistake could magnify into the most heinous of season ruining lamentations.
That yellow card signalled the conclusion of Roma’s dominance and served as a beachhead for Porto’s comeback into the match.
After a couple of threatening attacks on Allison’s goal, a clever ball was lofted towards the space in front of Porto’s striker, Andre Silva. Vermaelen was wrong footed and threw up a high boot in a last ditched attempt to intercept the ball but succeeded in only kicking his opponent and possibly his new club’s Champions League ambitions in the groin.
Predictably the crowd went bonkers, the Porto players protested profusely and the Referee withdrew from his person a second yellow and then a Red.
It was just such a vintage Roma thing to happen; two of the most insanely stupid tackle attempts by a high profile summer signing in such a critical match.
Diego Perotti was deemed by the manager to have unquestionably the worst tattoo in all of European football and was therefore sacrificed to make way for Emerson Palmieri as Rrrrruan Jesus shuffled over into the CB spot vacated by the BCB. Meanwhile puzzlingly, Fazio remained on the bench.
I’m only speculating here, but I suspect Spalletti’s half time speech wasn’t quite up to Champions League standard. Actually I think it quite reasonable to suspect it had the coherence and universal appeal of a Donald Trump campaign speech. Because whatever the hell he said, it sure as hell didn’t put his players to ease as they came out for the second half.
Roma was a complete shambles in the opening of the second half, losing possession and chasing at shadows as they allowed Porto to come right at them. For a side that appeared clueless in the opening half an hour, Porto suddenly appeared as potent as any European giant and gladly got into the face of the trembling Roma players.
The ball soon found its way into the Italian’s net courtesy of possibly the most offside goal in modern memory, but fortunately after a spasm of madness the referees consulted and then waved it away.
Porto soon had another terrific chance when Andre Silva placed his free header wide of the target.
This was a time where someone in the red and yellow needed to stand up and be noticed. This was a time for Emerson Palmieri!
After getting away with a ball to the arm region in the first half, the substitute failed to keep his paws to himself during a Porto corner and gave the referee no choice but to point to the spot and issue another Yellow card.
From the moment he was substituted onto the field, Emerson appeared to have a rather fanatical desire to self inflict misery upon himself and his teammates. The LB role certainly appears to be Roma’s biggest red flag coming into the new season if we are going to rely on Rrrrruan ‘the new Marquinho’ Jesus and Emerson Seppuku Palmieri.
Of course the penalty was converted and Roma’s brilliant start to 2016/17 was vanquished from history like a chisel happy Ancient Egyptian vandal.
The remainder of the match was an exercise in damage control and emptying a sinking boat with a bucket. Fazio was substituted for Salah in an attempt to overcome our fullback’s defensive deficiencies and in the 83rd Florenzi came off for #saveLeo.
Indeed the most positive aspect appeared to be Paredes feisty impact as he scuttled a few Porto attacks and looked assured on the ball for his brief moments on the field. Fingers crossed this now cup ties him and makes his sale in the short term a less likely outcome.
It simply beggars belief how Roma could adopt such dramatic mood changes during this match. I mean how many other sides out there could possibly turn a potential winning rout into an anti-football ‘defend for your lives’ panic.
There is much to fix for next week’s return leg (don’t even consider fielding a strong and confident side against Udinese) but the good news is that clearly when in the right frame of mind, this Roma is going to produce some stunning football and the goals should come. Alisson proved an upgrade on Woj imbetween the sticks, but the remainder of the back four have a long way to go to inspire us to a successful season.
After the dark days of boring Rudi football, we are back to the Spalletti halcyon times where none of us will be able to figure out if we love or hate this team for weeks at a time.
Bentornato tutti, We’ve missed you.