Playing under the same cloudy skies and dealing with an equally saturated pitch, it may have seemed like the women of Roma were just as frustrated with their Sunday afternoon as their male counterparts. After all, both the Giallorosse and Giallorossi played to draws yesterday, but where the men were left frustrated by referee Fabio Maresca's decision making process, the women had no one but themselves to blame.
For context, let's turn back to manager Betty Bavagnoli's pre-match comments, which focused on a very specific (and some might say systemic) concern, finishing:
We are a team that always wants to dictate the play and we’ve been showing that in each game. We know that we have things we need to work on though, like our chance creation and finishing.
Now, given that both Roma teams were playing at the same time, it was a bit difficult to fully absorb both matches, but take one look at the highlight package and tell me whether or not Bavagnoli's concerns were allayed yesterday.
So...what did you see? By my count, I noticed eight missed chances, only one of which was thwarted by a genuine save (Manuela Giugliano's curling effort) and one (Paloma Lazaro in the 27th minute) that required little more than a tap-in (one might say that was an inexcusable miss). Throw in two or three shots that hit the woodwork, another curled effort from Elisa Bartoli that was a few degrees off and we're looking at a match that could have easily ended in a 7-1 rout.
Bavagnoli spoke to that point earlier today:
I think we could have scored six today. It’s hard for me to discuss, I’m frustrated. The girls created so many chances, but the weakness we tried to work on is clearly still there. I have to take responsibility for that, but from six yards out you have to score.
Above all the mistakes are individual ones, both for the goal we conceded and the wastefulness we showed in front of goal. It’s not good
Kudos to Bavagnoli for shouldering the blame, but before we harangue the club, let's focus on a few positives. First off, Camelia Ceasar should resume her role as the starting keeper. Lost amid that parade of missed shots were two world-class saves from Ceasar. She may not cut the same imposing figure as Rachele Baldi, but she was outstanding yesterday, flashing the same agility and cat-like reflexes that helped her finish second in the league in clean sheets last season. Baldi is a solid keeper, but you never feel 100% secure watching her. Ceasar has all the fundamentals and that extra little something that produces those miraculous saves.
Okay, back to the diatribe.
Despite the missed chances, and thanks to Ceasar's heroics, this match was Roma's for the taking, but take a look Florentia's equalizer. There wasn't a ton Bartoli could do to stop the cross; Sofia Cantore had her boxed-out like she was Karl Malone and then pulled off an audacious overhead volley/cross, serving the ball up to Melania Martinovic (a born and bred Roman) for the header, who was completely unmarked at the far post, slipping right behind Allyson Swaby.
All it takes is one momentary lapse to drop points, and despite their eight (and likely more) missed chances, Roma were ultimately done-in by that one second of lax defending.
I love this team with all my heart and enjoy watching them every week (even at 6:30 a.m.) but these same issues keep rearing their ugly heads week after week. Chance creation isn't the problem, execution is, and it's become incredibly frustrating to watch, so I can't imagine how Bavagnoli and the players must feel.
But what should Bavagnoli do? What can she do? There are only so many hours you can practice shooting, but look at that Lazaro missed sitter or Bonfantini striking the post or Claudia Ciccotti's inability to catch up to Serturini's cross—are those tactical failings? Can more training improve that? More film work?
Roma weren't done in by the subtleties of formations, philosophical preferences, or a paucity of chances, they came up short because they failed to executed. When the season began earlier this fall, Roma were considered by many (especially us) to be a legitimate threat for one of Italy's two Champions League places, if not an outright Scudetto contender. But thanks to performances like these, which have become regular occurrences lately, they find themselves mired in seventh place.
With 13 matches left to play, there is plenty of time to correct course, and while their European dreams will likely have to wait another year, that's ample time for the squad to show growth, to recapture their confidence and to set themselves up well for the following season.
But that spark shouldn't come from Bavagnoli (it can't)—the onus is on the players. They know they're better than this and now, after so many weeks and months of near-misses, yeah-buts and what-ifs, they have to execute.
It won't be easy, as they face Juve on the road next Saturday, but what better way to reassert yourselves than to topple the Old Lady?