We already knew they were good but now we know they have guts. Down to 10 men for most of the second half, Rudi Garcia’s Roma kept their 100 per cent record intact on a tricky trip to Udine. A single Michael Bradley strike was enough to make it nine wins out of nine.
The doubters had the Stadio Friuli pegged as a potential venue for the table-toppers to trip up. It was not so much the quality of the opposition as questions about how they might cope with adversity which raised such suggestions. With the ever-influential Francesco Totti and something-of-a-revelation Gervinho both ruled out with injury, it would have been easy for the Giallorossi to drop their first points. But this team has replaced the comic collapses of last season with a real ruthless streak.
“This is a tough place to come to,” said Garcia post-match. “We knew that they had not lost at home for more than a year and then we went down to 10 men. In the first half we struggled with their counter-attacks and left them too much space, but in the second half we made some changes and things went better.”
Injured skipper Totti was more colourful in his praise. He reckoned his team had shown the physical attributes most often associated with courage. “It doesn’t matter who plays,” he added. “We are all Roma.”
The capital club can banish all doubt over who holds the record for the best start to a Serie A season with a midweek win over Chievo. Fabio Capello’s Juventus also managed nine wins out of nine but that was a campaign which ultimately saw them stripped of their Scudetto. Garcia’s side can put that debate to bed with one more victory.
Their closest pursuers both needed penalties to help keep the five-point gap unaltered at the top of the table. Napoli converted two spot-kicks through Gonzalo Higuain to down an off-colour Torino side. The referee could easily have given neither of them, but Giampiero Ventura was honest enough to admit his team was off the pace for most of the match.
Meanwhile, in Turin, a was-it-in-the-box-or-not decision helped Juve bounce back with Arturo Vidal breaking the deadlock against Genoa from the spot and Carlos Tevez adding another. The machine-gun celebration stayed in its holster this Sunday.
In his post-match interviews Antonio Conte did, however, take a potshot at journalists who he claimed were trying to destabilise the club. He dismissed reports of a rift between himself and director Beppe Marotta as “nonsense”. “Stick to talking about football and how the team plays,” he thundered. “Don’t go inventing things about the relationship between myself and the club.”
A little further down the table, Inter and Fiorentina kept themselves in European contention with wins over the two halves of Verona. The Nerazzurri saw off Hellas in a six-goal Saturday night battle which left their boss Walter Mazzarri raging about their lapses in concentration. Last season those kind of blackouts cost the Milanese giants dearly, but this term it seems they have a little more focus. No doubt, however, their Coach has work to do to eliminate them entirely.
As for the Viola, they have clearly acquired a taste for winning matches from a losing position. In the opening weeks of the season they threw away a number of matches they were leading, but on Sunday they came from one goal behind to see off Chievo. It was the Juan Cuadrado show with the Colombian netting a double to turn the game around. Little wonder the flying wide-man has half of Europe tracking him now.
There was a morale-boosting win for Lazio who were jeered off at half-time during their Sunday night clash with Cagliari before Miro Klose helped bring them to life. After last week’s rumours that Vlad Petkovic might be on his way out, it was a vital three points. The feel-good factor from the Coppa Italia win over Roma has vanished quicker than the snacks at Antonio Cassano’s birthday party.
Talking of FantAntonio, he had a part to play in plunging Milan’s Serie A season into further misery. He scored one of the goals in a 3-2 Parma triumph over Massimiliano Allegri’s side. If you wanted an emblem of their campaign thus far it was the way a defensive wall fell apart to allow Marco Parolo to thump home the winner after the Rossoneri had fought back from two goals down.
Elsewhere, Sampdoria and Bologna both got wins which gave their League position a more healthy look, but there would be no such tonic for Catania at home to Sassuolo. Despite dumping boss Rolando Maran last weekend, the Sicilians could do no better than a goalless draw. Only time will tell whether appointing Gigi De Canio was really the answer to the problems at the Massimino but it looked like a typically Italian panic measure at the time and that impression remains. Hats off to the likes of Chievo, Bologna and Sassuolo who have – at the time of writing at least – resisted the temptation to follow a similar course of action.