It all looked so simple. Bryan Cristante struck in the fourteenth minute and Aleksandar Kolarov followed that up with another Roma goal in the forty-first. The Giallorossi took a 2-0 lead into the half; one that they carried late into the second half. Three points seemed all but assured. That is until Artur Ionita got Cagliari scored in the 85th minute. The Sardinian side was on the board and just like so many matches during the EDF era, things got complicated. Very complicated.
Roma fought to hang on to its lead tooth and nail, but not even two red cards for Caglairi in the 92nd minute was enough for the capital club to hold on. The unthinkable happened when in the 94th minute, 9 man Cagliari drew level on a Marco Sau goal. Roma had thrown away two points, two points that would’ve been gold when looking at the current standings.
Whether Roma find a way to qualify for next season’s Champions League or not, this season will be remembered for missed opportunities and dropped points against some of the minnows of Serie A. With just five matches remaining and the Giallorossi only a point behind both Milan and Atalanta in the race for the top 4, perhaps none of those dropped points hurt man than the two at the Sardegna Arena. Roma may have lost to worse teams than Cagliari, but the match in Sardinia was in the bag.
Roma v. Cagliari: April 27th. 18:00 CET/12:00 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Rome
This time around Roma have no margin for error. Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Inter looks on paper to be a good result, but in reality it was a missed opportunity. After Milan drew to Parma in the early Saturday match, Roma could’ve been in the Champions League driver seat. However, things remained status quo with the draw in Milan and actually got worse when Atalanta won at Napoli on Monday. Roma now must find away to leapfrog both teams, which likely means needing to win out or close to it.
Roma have no margin for error this time around against Cagliari, as the Serie A season hits its homestretch. Anything less than a win at the Olimpico would likely doom its Champions League dreams. Cagliari will be a tough nut to crack as the Rossoblu come to the capital in good form. Since the beginning of March, Cagliari has dropped only 8 points in 8 matches and sit safely in 11th place on 40 points.
I Lupi must come out with a hunger and desire that they didn’t display the first time around. If not, they risk seeing their Champions League dreams all but vanish like the lead in Sardinia. Cagliari are not to be underestimated. I’ll leave you with a quote from Ranieri which sums up Saturday’s game nicely.
“I believe we need to respect all opponents. The lads are working hard and showing professionalism in order to fight for a place in the Champions League. There are lots of teams in the hunt and it would be stupid for us to underestimate this game. Cagliari never give up, they’re having a great end to the season and they have excellent players. [Leonardo] Pavoletti is always the target man for every high ball. We’ll need to show a lot of intelligence and focus.”