You really couldn’t have scripted a better ending to that game, right? You have Zaniolo, navigating a return to full fitness and form following two disastrous ACL injuries, showing flashes of brilliance, yet still very much under the microscope during every performance, in a game where our namesake, Francesco Totti, is in attendance watching arguably the most hyped talent in a Roma shirt since Il Capitano himself.
Then you have Roma herself, riding a three-game win-streak, in the middle of a nil-nil slog with bottom of the table Genoa. Cue Zaniolo, first showcasing the strength to hold off the defender while he receives the pass, then demonstrating his technical ability as he delicately dribbles away from multiple Genoa defenders, and finally letting his supreme talent shine through by rifling a shot with pinpoint accuracy back across goal and right into the back of the net.
The Olimpico erupts, celebration and pandemonium ensue, and it’s at this point you put your pen down, wipe the sweat off your brow, and celebrate a job well done.
Instead, our writer decides to rip up the last page of the story, our perfect ending, only to scribble onto a crumpled napkin, “VAR decision, no goal”.
Tragic, right? Well, having said that, we return to everyone’s favorite series here at CdT, where I examine three things I liked, or didn’t like, from the match.
The Kid Is Back...Sort Of
Man, what could’ve been. I think we all collectively breathed a sigh of relief when our golden boy put Roma on his back and fired the Giallorossi into the lead against a stubborn Genoa side. For Roma of course, but also for Zaniolo, such was the significance of this would-be winner. It really felt like this was going to be the springboard for a dominant second half of the season for Zaniolo, something absolutely vital to any top-four aspirations Roma still has.
But, in the words of the great Albus Dumbledore, “Alas, earwax.” It wasn’t meant to be. Zaniolo is a professional, so you’d hope that whatever momentum for himself his goal generated, is still something he can tap into despite the outcome. And Nicolo said as much himself in a recent Instagram post, stating something to the effect of “I’ll still remember this feeling forever”.
As for his red card, I have no issue with it from a Zaniolo perspective. He knew how significant that moment was, and to have it taken away in those circumstances, can’t really blame the kid for feeling hard done by the referee. Speaking of the referee...
C’mon man, what are we doing here? For the umpteenth time this season, Roma fell victim to a horrible refereeing decision, this time with a would-be winner being ruled out by VAR. The foul in question? A moment in the “buildup” where Tammy Abraham was dispossessed, simultaneously coming down on his defender’s foot, in a play that wouldn’t be called for a foul in your local Sunday league, let alone a Serie A match. It just so happens this action happened right in advance of the ball falling to Mkhitaryan, who provided the crucial pass to Zaniolo, so after a lengthy VAR review, the goal was ruled out and Roma were back to square one.
I don't know what more we can say about the standard of referring in Serie A this season, particularly in the context of Roma’s season. It always feels like sour grapes discussing the refereeing when Roma drops points, but it’s getting ridiculous at this point, and we’d be doing a disservice to our analysis of Roma’s season as a whole if we didn't factor in the refereeing.
Sure, Roma didn’t play great, but you want that to be the only issue the team has to play through on the pitch. Worrying about the standard of refereeing shouldn’t also be a concern.
Adios, Top Four Hopes
“That’s it, we’re done. It’s over”. Aside from saying this the moment something goes against any of my favorite sports teams, I also feel this way about Roma’s top-four chances this season—it’s just not meant to be.
After a weekend in which Milan beat Inter to keep pace in the title race, Napoli took care of business against Venezia, and Juve climbed back into the top-four thanks to goals by newcomers Dusan Vlahović and Denis Zakaria, dropping points was the last thing the Giallorossi could afford to do, least of all to a poor Genoa side. By the way, I know it’s sacrilegious to compliment any other Italian team, especially Juve, but if you’re a fan of wonderful goals, do yourself a favor and look up Vlahović’s first goal for Juve. Man, that dude’s good.
At 39 points with just 14 games to go, several of which are against Roma’s top-four rivals, it’s not looking good for the Giallorossi in terms of qualifying for the top-four. At this point, I’ve made peace with the fact that it’s just not our year for that particular goal, it is what it is. What I will be looking for in the games soon to come is a response, just a figurative middle finger to the league and the standard of refereeing this season. Or at the very least, a sign that this deflating result won't have any lingering effects in the next few games.
Well, that’s all from me. A Coppa Italia quarterfinal date with Inter awaits the Giallorossi on Tuesday, a less than ideal proposition considering Inter must be seething in the wake of their capitulation against Milan on Saturday. But, Roma have every right to be equally as irate going into Tuesday’s match, setting the stage for a potentially dramatic encounter with a good bit of fireworks. Oh, and let’s not forget about that Jose Mourinho guy and his connections to Inter. Should be a fun one.