With three matches against Fiorentina in barely a month, I think I'm a bit sick of the color purple and the word Viola, and the less said about their pitch the better; it's too fast to the point where it ruins the game. But I digress. After their bitter exit to Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia semifinals on Wednesday, Roma and their Firenze neighbors ran it back this morning in what ultimately proved to be an academic affair.
With Roma having sewn up fourth place last week, the GIallorosse's ambitions were purely intrinsic. The same could not be said for the Viola, however. Trailing first place Juventus by only one point, Fiorentina were theoretically still in the Scudetto chase, and by extension still had a shot at the domestic double when they face Juventus in the Cup final next week.
But all that mattered little after about 30 minutes once Juventus took the lead over Chievo in Turin. The Old Lady would rout Chievo 3-0 en route to their second straight Scudetto, making whatever occurred in Firenze moot.
Despite those foregone conclusions, Roma did well to erase the problems that plagued them in Wednesday's semifinal: the defense kept its shape and limited Fiorentina's chances while the attack was far more aggressive and synchronous than they were earlier this week, particularly in the second half once Flaminia Simonetti came on; she's really been the unsung hero so many times this season.
After falling behind in the 30th minute thanks to Ilaria Mauro's 12th goal of the season, Roma leveled the match moments before the half-time whistle when Annamaria Serturini found Luisa Pugnali in the 43rd minute. It was a beautiful bit of patient play, one where Roma made six uncontested touches, switching play twice, before Claudia Ciccotti found Serturini on the left post, who then quickly lobbed it over to Pugnali for the tap-in. This was the Roma we saw for so much of the season, so it was quite a sight to behold.
The second half was really what we expected from Wednesday's semifinal; an evenly contested affair where clear cut scoring chances were hard to come by. Betty Bavagnoli's most critical substitution was, as we mentioned, bringing in Simonetti for Vanessa Bernauer, and while Roma's #7 wasn't able to find the back of the net, she was instrumental in sustaining attacks deep in the final third.
Back and forth went the second half, until the 90th minute when Roma were done dirty by the official. With Mauro streaking down the left flank, pretty much parallel with the edge of the 18, Allyson Swaby made light contact with Mauro, nothing more than your standard jostling shoulder barge, who then went down, drawing an incredibly soft penalty in the process.
Given that she had two defenders behind her and that Mauro would have had an incredibly tight angle on the goal, it was probably an ill-advised challenge from Swaby, but it was a poor call any way you slice it; the contact wasn't illegal and by no means sufficient to send Mauro flailing to the ground.
Nevertheless, Valery Vigiliucci converted the penalty in no short order and Fiorentina walked away winners, finishing the season one point behind Juventus.
Despite the bitter end, Roma should be proud of their efforts today. As we mentioned, they pretty much erased whatever mistakes they made from Wednesday's Coppa Italia semifinal against this same team and deserved a share of the points in this match. However, if there's one axiom in Italian football it's dodgy officiating.
It can be tough to maintain perspective after such a controversial loss, but Roma still came away from their inaugural season with flying colors. Could it have been a bit better? Yeah, probably, but at the end of the day there is a clear gulf between the top three sides and the rest of the league, one that Roma seems poised to close next season.
We'll have much more on this next week, but with an extremely young and talented core at their disposal, Roma figure to be major players in the very near future. With a year of experience under the belt, and hopefully with a few more talented additions over the summer, the Giallorosse should make even greater gains next season.