To say the atmosphere in the Stadio Olimpico today was unique would be doing the tens of thousands of people there a great disservice. With nary an empty seat to be seen, Roma’s home ground was rocking in a way not seen since their 2001 Scudetto celebration. The reason for that was simple, this was Francesco Totti’s final match in a Roma shirt.
So, things went swimmingly, right?
In the grandest of Roma fashion, the Giallorossi came out fraught with nerves and nearly blew the match after three minutes when they let a 16 year old kid score. You read that right, thanks to some lax defense, Roma were done in by a kid who was born the same year they won their last Scudetto. How fitting.
Pietro Pellegri: 3rd Minute
16-year-old Pellegri breaks the deadlock! #Tottiday has not started the way Roma have wanted. 0-1 Genoa. pic.twitter.com/fnQRiF0z9Y— Stereo Serie A Radio (@StereoSerieA) May 28, 2017
Roma just got worked on this one, as Genoa was able to stretch them far and wide, while Pellegri just made an impeccably timed run, holding off a last gasp charge from Kostas Manolas. Look for Pellegri to be staring for Juventus as they fight to earn their 12th straight Scudetto in 2023.
Roma would equalize several minutes later, sending the crowd into hysterics.
Edin Dzeko: 10th Minute
Dzeko equalizes for Roma! 1-1 at the Olimpico! #Tottiday pic.twitter.com/W7gOczmrSW— Stereo Serie A Radio (@StereoSerieA) May 28, 2017
You have never...I repeat, never...seen Edin Dzeko move this quickly. After clanging one off the post, Dzeko reacted immediately, dropping to his knees almost to chest the ball home, grabbing a direly needed goal. The tension on the pitch after Genoa’s opening was quite thick, full on Roma thick, so this was goal was manna from heaven.
@RomaThings Just the tip— BrenCdT (@BrenCdT) May 28, 2017
While I’d like to say the good feelings kept rolling, shortly after this goal Emerson Palmieri went down with what looked like a rather serious knee injury, instantly writhing in pain to the point where he was carted off the pitch. While we’ll hope for the best, we’ve seen this sort of injury several times this season.
Might as well end the season the way we started, with torn ACLs— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) May 28, 2017
What a potentially horrific blow for Palmieri, who was truly in the midst of a breakout season, but he was later seen on the sidelines smiling, though in crutches. Keep your fingers crossed.
The remainder of the first half played on like we all expected, with Roma mounting charge after charge, only to be left wanting. El Shaarawy shot one just wide of the post, Antonio Rüdiger was lobbing wayward cross after wayward cross, Mohamed Salah tried to run around people and Dzeko missed a couple sitters. Pretty standard Roma stuff, right?
The first half ended with a whimper, but could Roma come roaring back, and would Totti play any part in it?
Luciano Spalletti opted for no changes as the second half started, though he was true to his word, bringing on Totti around the 50th minute or so, pulling off Mohamed Salah in the process.
Now, the real Hollywood ending we all hoped for—Totti saving Roma’s ass in his final match—didn’t happen, but watch this clip closely and you’ll see, he was milliseconds away from doing just that, but Daniele De Rossi, the former capitano futuro, just beat him to the ball, slamming it home and giving Roma a temporary 2-1 lead.
Daniele De Rossi: 74th Minute
Genoa! 2-2 & #Napoli fans everywhere go wild.. pic.twitter.com/pgqQ2KbnHS— Stereo Serie A Radio (@StereoSerieA) May 28, 2017
De Rossi capped off what was a nice series of moves by Roma, pouncing on the loose ball and leaving no doubt about it as he fired it low and hard into the bottom corner, giving Roma a temporary 2-1 lead.
I say temporary because, well, because this is Roma. Darko Lazovic struck five minutes later, capitalizing on yet more horrid defending and/or keeping from Roma, putting not only Totti’s farewell in doubt, but Roma’s safe passage into the group stages of next season’s Champions League.
And while it wasn’t Francesco Totti who ultimately bailed them out, Roma nevertheless rose to the occasion, thanks to Diego Perotti.
Diego Perotti: 90th Minute
PEROTTTTIIIIII GOOOOOL pic.twitter.com/kMLW5EkKCs— Roma Press (@ASRomaPress) May 28, 2017
Perotti capped off a fantastic sequence of touches and flicks from Roma, particularly from Dzeko, who, with a deft flick of his forehead, found Perotti in the slightest of spaces on the far post, where Perotti did the job well, slotting it home and sending the Olimpico into pandemonium.
There will be a time to celebrate the positives from the season, and a time to harangue the leadership for their treatment of Totti, but this was it, Totti’s final match. And while he didn’t score or even set up the winning goal, Totti’s time on the pitch proved one thing: this guy can still fucking play. Totti took 42 touches, hit on two of two long balls, attempted a club leading seven crosses and contributed four key passes in only 37 minutes, and yet people think he’s toast. Amazing.
We could go on forever about what this match meant to this man, but as the old adage says, a picture (or in this case a gif) is worth a thousand words...
When it finally hits you that Totti has retired pic.twitter.com/Jajgj9zV79— Serie A News (@TransfersCalcio) May 28, 2017
You will never see another scene like that simply because you will never see a player like Francesco Totti again. I’m not a talented enough writer to put this into perspective, and quite frankly, I’m not sure one exists, so we’ll leave it to the man himself:
Ora scendo le scale, entro nello spogliatoio: mi ha accolto da bambino, lo lascio ora che sono uomo. Orgoglioso e felice di avervi dato tutto quel che potevo. Vi amo