05 April 2007
Last nights game showed my faith in AS Roma was well placed. It also announced Romas presence as a real-deal European footballing power, capable of competing with the best. If Romas inspired 2-0 away victory in Lyon flew under the radars of most Anglophone football enthusiasts, last nights impressive display certainly did not.
From the opening kick off Rome showed that they came to play, earning a corner in the first minute that was nearly converted when it ended up on the foot of Christian Panucci, who I'm sure replayed the sequence over and over in his mind on the way to bed last night. It was mere minutes later when Romanian defender Christian Chivu, sporting a phantom of the Opera mask nearly curled in a free kick conceded outside Manchesters 18 yard box.
And the first half went on like that with Roma taking it to the Premiership leaders. I remember thinking 'they've really gotta score this first half, because Manchester's gonna hit the dressing room and get organized for the second.'
And despite losing midfielder Paul Scholes to a second yellow card in the 34th minute, and conceding a late goal to Rome off some more downfield pressure, courtesy of Mancini and Totti and finished by Taddei, despite all that, Manchester came out strong in the second half. Rome still surged forward led by the ispirational Totti, but they couldn't convert. Manchester pulled level on the hour when the Pretty Portuguese earned himself some space up front and put a pass through to the best name in football, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer who gave a neat cross to Rooney, who deftly handled the ball and hammered it home.
That was not the result of mistakes, but it was the result of a defense playing less than perfect, and when you're facing off against Cronaldo and Rooninho they will make you pay, whether they're down a man or not.
However, as predicted in this blog yesterday AS Roma, and in particular Lucky Luciano Spalletti, was equal to the challenge. Realizing that he had to earn a victory he pulled off lanky Swede Christian Wilhelmsson to put on lanky Montenegrin Vucinic. Waitaminute?! What? Wilhelmsson was a dangerous looking force all night, and Vucinic is kinda clumsy, and still a long way from proving himself, as far as I'm concerned.
But I trusted Lucky Luciano and he trusted Vucinic. Vucinic responded by miraculously and brilliantly hammering home a Mancini rebound 4 minutes after the substitution. Shit! That kind of quick return on his investment makes Spalletti seem eerily prophetic.
The rest of the game trailed off; though Totti had a couple nice chances and Roma looked like they wanted another goal , they didn't get it. Final score Roma 2 Manchester 1.
That's not a bad result for either side. Manchester will count themselves lucky to have not had a worse outcome and I hope will make Paul Scholes sit by himself on the way home. Sir Alex will certainly pore over the game tapes and re organize his team before Tuesday. Roma will be happy to chalk up a win against Mighty Manchester, but they'll be disappointed to have not capitalized on the numbers advantage, and doubly disappointed by the fact they conceded an all-important away goal. Roma's concession of the away goal certainly narrows their margin of error, and takes some of the lustre of the victory. Rome basically needs a goal at Old Trafford to win.
I think they can do it.
Stand outs on the night:
Mancini. I think he lost the stepover battle to FancyPants Prettyboy Crybaby, but he was instrumental in both Roma goals.
Wilhelmsson. I haven't had a chance to see much of him, as he arrived in Rome as I left. But I like what I see.
Chivu. Welcome back.
Doni. Did well to challenge Cronaldo for a couple of balls that could've easily spelled 'undoing.' And kept his home in neat order all night.