Referee Daniele Orsato's decision to award a penalty after Henrikh Mkhitaryan was fouled by Wojciech Szczesny rather than play the advantage (which would have seen Roma score an equalizer, or maybe not if Orsato spotted Mkhitaryan's handball...it was a mess all around) garnered the majority of headlines after Roma's 1-0 defeat at the hands of Max Allegri's Juventus side, and for good reason: it was a quintessential Serie A moment. Orsato's decision wasn't the reason Roma lost, but that single call had an undue influence on the outcome of the match, so it was only natural that Orsato came under the media microscope.
Believe it or not, there was an entire football match before and after Orsato's fateful call, one in which Roma probably deserved (however one quantifies that word) a draw but came up short. And for the umpteenth time, we were bludgeoned over the head with one simple but critical rule: when it comes to Juventus, every second counts. Let your guard up—even for a moment—and the Old Lady will send you home crying, which was certainly the case in yesterday's bitter one-nil defeat.
But a strange thing happens when you dive into the box score: Roma kinda played better than Juve? More shots, more possession, more corners won, fewer fouls conceded, more passes, and at a higher rate. Despite the final score, you can pick nearly any stat you want, and chances are Roma came out on top.
So why, then, does this defeat feel so deflating? Part of that might stem from Orsato’s conspicuous decision, which gave an otherwise dull match one bright light of contention; a target to which Roma fans can hurl all their anger and disappointment. And throw in the fact that this happened against a struggling Juventus side on the road, and Orsato not only becomes a convenient scapegoat but a bellow fanning the flames of frustration.
I was certainly guilty of that yesterday but I'm going to make a contentious decision of my own. For the first time in the history of Sinners & Saints, we...have no sinners and no saints. Given the strange nature of yesterday's match, both the Orsato decision and the fact that Roma played better than you likely felt about it in real-time, I can't justify praising or punishing anyone; and indeed, I started and stopped this piece several times before reaching this decision...
Everyone is Stuck in Between, our version of post-match purgatory. Strange, I know. But then again, so was yesterday's match, so here are a few players who were particularly confounding yesterday.
Stuck In Between
Veretout's otherwise solid performance (two key passes, 90% passing, 3-5 long balls, and enough km covered to make you sweat just watching) was marred by a missed penalty in the 44th minute. Normally surefire under pressure, Veretout wilted yesterday, firing an easily diagnosed penalty attempt low and to the right, and, as it turned out, directly into the Wojciech Szczesny's waiting arms. Veretout seemed fazed, or at least annoyed, by Orsato's inability to restrain the Juve defense prior to the penalty attempt, which definitely threw off his pre-shot routine, but the normally surefire Veretout picked an awful time to miss the first PK of his Roma career.
Mancini’s performance last night was, in some ways, emblematic of Roma as a whole: something just felt off. I know that's not terribly descriptive, but neither Mancini nor Roma were terrible in the strictest sense but they definitely did not seem up to the task in Torino on Sunday night. In 90 minutes, Mancini managed little more than two clearances at the back but he still hit on 91% of his passes, including 60% of his long attempts.
I know, you're shocked, right? As we mentioned before the international break, I think we have to come to peace with Cristante. He's an average at best, occasionally great, hybrid player who doesn't really have a genuine position, to begin with. Cristante's crisp passing and penchant for playing long balls were on full display yesterday, but so were his defensive fragilities. Yet, with one swift blow of his right foot, he almost pulled Roma back into the match, denied only by a last-ditch deflection.
For my money, he's a net positive and when used properly, he's an asset. But has Roma ever been able to master that formula?
Hearkening back to another pre-break revelation: We're past couching our Karsdorp criticisms in our gratitude for his health. Rick Karsdorp's recovery was nothing short of miraculous, but he's been back a while, so we shouldn't feel guilty for critiquing his performances, right?
While Karsdorp's passing was as precise as ever yesterday, he offered little beyond one tackle and one interception, while falling short of his attacking responsibilities. In a match that was screaming for his burst and playmaking, Karsdorp wasn't able to make a dent in the final third, or anywhere for that matter: zero dribbles, zero key passes and only one completed cross.
Depth is an issue at both full-back spots, and you get the feeling that it's already taking its toll. On Karsdorp, on Viña, and on Mourinho.
We'll see you in this space on Thursday. Let's hope for a more definitive result!