You don't need me to remind you what Roma were up against when they traveled to Firenze this afternoon to take on Fiorentina in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals. While Roma did well to come back in the first leg, with a 1-1 aggregate scoreline things were far from secure, especially since the Viola had the precious away goals advantage in their pocket. For all intents and purposes, Fiorentina had every right to aim for a biscotto; a stilted, frustrating match would play right into their hands.
And through the first 20 minutes or so of this match, that's precisely what happened. Roma's attack was in shambles and really followed the worst-case script for this match; Giada Greggi and Vanessa Bernauer were hemmed in and created absolutely nothing in the first half, while Annamaria Serturini and Agnese Bonfantini were equally frustrated and ineffective.
In sum, Roma simply couldn't string together any effective possession early in this match. Starting all the way at the back, Rosalia Pipitone and Roma's central pairing, Allyson Swaby and Federica Di Criscio, struggled at times to even clear the ball. There was one sequence late in the half where Swaby and Pipitone traded two or three passes, resulting in Swaby being pinned in the corner and narrowly avoiding a howler. It was a microcosm of Roma's struggles in the first half; they looked disjointed, nervous and completely lost.
Still, thanks to some impressive defensive work put in by Elisa Bartoli and the back tracking Greggi, Roma were able to keep the seams from completely busting loose until Fiorentina caught them slipping in the 24th minute when Tatiana Bonetti slipped behind the defense and beat Pipitone from close range.
Since a scoreless draw would have sent Roma home packing anyway, falling down 1-0 wasn't nearly as bad as we're making it seem; simply scoring a goal would have knotted the aggregate scoreline at two apiece, and with one away-goal per side, this match would head straight to extra time.
But could Roma make that happen?
Well, things in the second frame did not start off well for the Giallorosse. Within minutes, Swaby committed a ghastly turnover in Roma's area, putting Pipitone in an extremely perilous position; one-v-one with the attacker with no help whatsoever. Just when it seemed like Roma would wet the bed, Pipitone pulled a miraculous save out of nowhere, leaping in the air and tipping the attempt over the crossbar, keeping Roma's Coppa hopes alive for the moment.
For the moment...until Alice Parisi doubled Fiorentina's advantage in the 48th minute.
Things were bleak for Roma, who now needed two goals to force this match into extra time, but given how poorly they've played, they might as well have needed to score a dozen. And as it turned out, that two-goal gap was insurmountable.
Bavagnoli attempted to shake things up in the second half by swapping out Piemonte for Luisa Pugnali and Vanessa Bernauer for Flaminia Simonetti, who is criminally under appreciated, but neither woman could make a dent in the Fiorentina defense.
Roma would stem the tide through the remainder of the half, managing to at least limit the Viola's chances, but they just couldn't get it done on the other end, seldom (if ever) truly threatening to score.
Bavagnoli's final sub was really an academic move at best, as she pulled off Angelica Soffia for Jenny Bitzer in the 85th minute or so.
In the end, Fiorentina was just too much for Roma to handle and they advanced to a deserved appearance in the Coppa Italia finale against Juventus, whom they trail by one point in the Scudetto race as well.
So for you objective observers out there, you'll have the same two teams vying for the Coppa Italia and Scudetto—that's gotta be pretty rare.
Look, I can't mince words, Roma failed to show up today. This was perhaps the worst performance we've seen from them since the beginning of the season. The dynamic and fluid side we saw run through the league from late fall through late winter has seemingly vanished over the past month.
With this match in the books, Roma have now gone four straight games (all comps) without scoring a goal in the run of play and have now gone a full month since their last victory, the 5-0 romp over hapless Chievo Verona on March 16th. And that's really the troubling thing: the matter in which Roma has taken a nose dive to end the season.
While there was a brief stretch in the winter when it looked like Roma were making a case to be considered among the league's heavyweights, the gap between the Giallorosse and the troika of Juventus, Fiorentina and AC Milan was always apparent; they're just deeper, more experienced, and more talented at the moment.
However, the manner in which Roma rebounded from their 0-3 start gave us hope that Roma could and would close that gap before too long, and while they still might (depending on what they do over the summer), ending the season on such a sour note really dampens all they achieved this season.
With one match left to play, one in which they can potentially play spoiler in Fiorentina's attempt to win the Scudetto, Roma still has a chance to end the season on a high note.
Despite their April swoon, you should still be excited about this club's potential, but if this past month has proven anything, it's that they've got a lot of important wrinkles to iron out before they can truly join the elite.