Today's match between Roma and Tavagnacco was a study of contrasts. From the bright blue and yellow kits donned by the home team versus Roma's muted yet beautiful grays to their respective forms and positions on the table, these two sides couldn't be more different. And while Roma couldn't really advance their station in life with a win today, they nevertheless came out guns blazing on this dreary Udine afternoon.
We mentioned it on Twitter during the match, and really throughout this entire season, but the thing that impresses me most about this team is how absolutely relentless they are. While Tavagnacco had the opening kickoff, it took maybe 45 seconds for Roma to dispossess them of the ball, and they immediately went to work, orchestrating an attacking move within their first two to three touches of the match. Pardon my French, but this team doesn't fuck around; there is no equivocation when it comes to Betty Bavagnoli's tactics—she's going for your throat.
And on this afternoon, that aggression paid off almost immediately, as Claudia Ciccotti got the party started after only 180 seconds, getting on the end of a lovely lofted ball from Giadia Greggi in only the third minute. We've lauded Greggi for her speed all season long, and rightfully so, but she has been dropping dimes lately. This ball was absolutely perfect, finding Ciccotti right in the pocket past the last defender and between the keeper—too much weight and the keeper could have pounced, not enough and the defense would have collapsed around her. It didn't look like anything special in the run of play, but when you give it a second look, the brilliance is hard to miss.
Ciccotti would return the favor 12 minutes later, and in spectacular fashion. After intercepting a clearance at the edge of the 18-yard-box, Ciccotti quickly (with her back to the goal) played the ball through to a streaking Greggi, who then beat the keeper on the far post with a well placed left-footed shot. Ciccotti doesn't garner as much attention as Greggi or Bonfantini, but she contributes in all facets of the game and has shown a decent nose for goal, too; her three goals ranks third on the squad.
After 15 minutes, Roma was up two goals thanks to two Romans; doesn't get much better than that!
Rushing out to such an early lead, it would have been understandable if Bavagnoli pulled back a bit, but Roma could have easily doubled their lead were it not for two attempts from Agnese Bonfantini being thwarted by the Tavagnacco keeper, Alice Bonassi.
Roma would make up for those missed opportunities in the second half...
We'll embed the full highlights as soon as we can (see above), but the Giallorosse wasted little time putting Tavagnacco to sleep in the second half. In the 49th minute, Annamaria Serturini found the back of the net for the seventh time this season, barely tucking a free kick under the cross bar—it was one of those looping knucklers that seems to always fool keepers despite its lack of relative velocity.
Luisa Pugnali would heap further embarrassment on the home team in the 72nd minute, getting on the end of a through ball and beating the keeper without delay, pushing the scoreline to 4-0 in the process. Flaminia Simonetti, another Roman, would cap the match off in the 85th minute, giving Roma a resounding 5-0 victory.
It's too bad Romahave an eight point gap behind third place Fiorentina because this was most definitely a statement game. Putting your opponent on their backs two-nil after only 15 minutes, and on their ground no less, was a signal of intent. Roma dropped points to Tavagnacco at the Tre Fontane back in the fall, but they seized the initiative today, barely letting their opponents into the match—I can't really recall many clear cut chances going against Roma—and in the process they are now two-for-two on their second half revenge tour.
We're now almost 13 weeks through the 22 week season and a clear pecking order has been established. This league isn’t necessarily blessed with parity, but the fight among the top five sides (Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Roma and Florentia) promises to be intense as we work our way towards spring.
While it's a pity Roma got off to such a sluggish start—that winless start may have ultimately doomed their European dreams—their performance since then proves they're among the league's elite.
Roma will finish out the month against Verona on the 26th of January before competing in the first ever (I think) Roma vs. Roma match in the Coppa Italia against Roma CF, but when the calendar flips to February things could get interesting, as Roma faces first place Juventus and fifth place Florentia to kick-off the coldest month.
Roma will need a lot of help from her adversaries to close the seven point gap on second place AC Milan, who hold Italy's final Champions League spot, but performances like these make you think anything is possible.