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Monday December 9 2013
Roma’s wolves stay in the hunt

With Juventus setting a tough tempo at the top of the table it was up to Roma to respond. Giancarlo Rinaldi looks at how Rudi Garcia’s side fared and rounds up the rest of the action.

Sitting on the sidelines must be torture for a professional footballer. Unable to do the job you are paid for, you have to watch your colleagues in action like any other spectator. But if Roma’s Mattia Destro had been bottling up his frustration for six months or so, it exploded like Spumante on Sunday lunchtime.

It was a curious comeback for the Giallorosso hitman who feels effectively like a new signing for the capital club. He was a much-heralded signing the summer before last but had yet to deliver the return which was hoped for. A match-winning goal to decide a thoroughly entertaining clash in the Stadio Olimpico with Fiorentina was - the club will hope - a small down-payment on future success.

Destro did not start the match but his team were in thumping form in its opening exchanges. Brazilian wing back Maicon opened the scoring after a typically searing burst from Gervinho and, soon after, Daniele De Rossi could have doubled their advantage. But the Viola hung in there tenaciously and the Juan Manuel Vargas revival tour continued when he hammered home an equaliser before half time.

But that was the catalyst for Destro’s crucial cameo appearance. He came on at about the hour mark, smacked home another delightful Gervinho cutback and was then substituted after Miralem Pjanic picked up a late red card. His contribution lasted about half an hour but was enough to give Roma the win which allowed them to stay within three points of a Juve side which had clinically put away Bologna 2-0 on Friday night. The young striker could not contain his delight.

“It was important to get back on to the pitch after such a long time,” he said. “I scored a goal too, which is tremendous. I have had a hard time but that is all behind me now. We played a great game. Our message to Juve? We will go about our business and continue to fight.”

Before kick-off Rudi Garcia had said his side would have to play like 11 wolves to get back to winning ways after a run of drawn matches. He certainly got a hungry display from his troops which will have boosted hopes of keeping up pressure on the Bianconeri. And all of this was achieved with Francesco Totti sitting on the bench giving out instructions.

By that stage, Napoli had already blown their chance to keep within reach of Antonio Conte’s men after an incredible 3-3 draw with Udinese on Saturday night. The game was not the best preparation for a make or break Champions League clash with Arsenal as Rafa Benitez’s outfit lost a two-goal lead, reclaimed the advantage and then let it slip once more. It was not the kind of display to have the Gunners fearing they will miss their qualification target.

There were similar frustrations for Milan on their travels to Livorno as they threatened to lose a game where they took the lead through Mario Balotelli. It needed a wonderful free-kick from the Italy international - who appears to have rediscovered his goalscoring touch - to ensure a share of the spoils. A top three finish, however, looks about as likely as Adriano Galliani starting his own line of hair care products.

City cousins Inter, of course, are much closer to the top but they too fluffed their lines. Presented with a chance to get closer to third-placed Napoli they could only match the Partenopei’s result in a madcap 3-3 draw with Parma. The game contained doubles from Rodrigo Palacio and Nicola Sansone, a howler from Samir Handanovic and the kind of defensive distraction which neutrals love but infuriates Coaches. These sort of goal-crazy affairs are becoming a hallmark of Italian football nowadays.

Elsewhere, there was a revival tonic for Verona who came from behind to beat Atalanta and confirm their amazing form at the Stadio Bentegodi. If Serie A was decided on home results alone, Hellas would currently be locked with Juventus at the top of the table. Just six of their points this season have come when they have left the safety of their own ground behind.

Meanwhile, in the lower reaches, a dogfight to avoid relegation is becoming more of a reality every passing week. By the end of the weekend’s matches there were 13 sides covered by just a seven-point gap stretching from Torino in seventh spot down to Bologna in second bottom. Only Catania, who allowed Sinisa Mihajlovic to get his first win in charge at Sampdoria, look cut adrift in last place.

Another new manager enjoying an impressive impact is Eugenio Corini at Chievo and his team secured a vital win - at least we think they did - in foggy Reggio Emilia against Sassuolo. The Gian Piero Gasperini effect also looked to be working for Genoa when Alberto Gilardino gave them the lead against Cagliari only to be overhauled. It was a case of Sau far, Sau good for the Sardinians as the inspired Marco bagged a brace.

One club meditating its manager’s fate is Lazio and Vlad Petkovic’s situation got no easier when his team went down to defeat against Torino. In truth, they could easily have got something out of the game, particularly on their second half display, but it almost feels as if winning the Coppa Italia over Roma was part of a pact with the devil which has seen their fortunes fall apart ever since. They have the quality to turn things around, there is little doubt about that, but whether they will be willing to wait much longer for the man currently in charge to steady the ship is getting more doubtful by the day.

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Have your say...
@ Boss ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
on the 11th December, 2013 at 3:02pm
@ Zoli just saw your question. Yeah as I might see from other posts I'm not that impressed with Honda. At best he's a decent, creative midfielder. He's not world class and the only reason we've signed him is because he's free. This is our transfer policy. He'll also push younger players who have potential to be at least the same level if not better. I'll be interested to see if Rami can do anything about our defence.
on the 11th December, 2013 at 2:05pm
According to Wikipedia Honda will be the 19th player Milan have signed this season at a cost of 24m. That's a whole squad of new players. We needed 2 players. 2 centre backs. That was it. We signed 19 average players. Money is simply not an excuse. It comes down to incompetence.
on the 11th December, 2013 at 12:45pm
So Honda is going to be officially signed on 3 Jan. I can hardly contain my excitement. Meanwhile Niang, Cristante and Saponara might be loaned out joining the other 34 players on loan from Milan. Perhaps we might see them again in Milan shirts in their late 20s. Abate was loaned out an incredible 5 times and finally converted into a right back even though he cannot defend. At least Abate was kept out of the side by world class players. These players are being crowded out by average players.
on the 11th December, 2013 at 12:40pm
Zoli, you're right about Roma. It's such a pity that Totti got injured, as they were a delight to watch. It's almost impossible, but Roma need to find cover for Totti, a creative forward/false no 9 who can drop deep & play in the wide forwards. Can anyone think of an option for Roma? Ibra would be ideal, but is an unrealistic target. Berardi looks promising, but Juve have already snapped him up. Saponara could be an option, but would Milan loan him to Roma?
on the 11th December, 2013 at 12:26pm
Zoli, Honda can be amazing at times. It's a great piece of business getting him on a free transfer. Not only is he a very good player, he will also generate a lot of revenue via merchandise sales. Still, I am disappointed that the likes of Cristante & Saponara look to be on the way out. I like what I have seen of them & feel that deserve more of a chance. It doesn't surprise me though as Italy are terrible at managing youth players. Milan's supposed focus on youth has been very short-lived,
on the 11th December, 2013 at 12:16pm
Maldini's Heir, you make some good points re SES. Personally though, I would like to see him take some risks, as I feel that defenders have sussed his game out. There are so many times where I see him cut in only to find his path blocked. Allegri should give him more license to roam. He has a fantastic right foot & I imagine that he could whip in some dangerous balls from the right. In fact I think that De Sciglio & SES could be even better together playing down the right.
on the 11th December, 2013 at 9:53am
The Roma fans have every bragging right and I hope they will continue to have a reason because their team did something incredible. Well done, best of luck till the end!

DG/MH

What do you guys think, to what extent is Honda going to make an impact? Noted he's a good midfielder but not at the heights the whole potential transfer of him was hyped up to.
Or am I missing something?
on the 11th December, 2013 at 5:23am
In the beginning all roma fans were like #17 in a row ... yada yada yada ... leading 5 points to juve ... talk big ... with no CL game ... now Juve leading 3 points...

What's your next excuse roma?

LOL
on the 10th December, 2013 at 8:41pm
I think it's a case of being human. If you look at Man U Beckhem was most effective when he took one touch and crossed it. But unsurprisingly he got bored doing that so Ferguson sold him. For SES we just need repetition. Quick ball out left. Let him cut inside when he's one on one and so the same thing until he's bored. Balo and Kaka have potential to have greater variety and it could be a great mix. I'd like Saponara to be given more than 5 mins. His career will downhill when we sign Honda....
on the 10th December, 2013 at 1:40pm
De Scilgio linked up so well with Niang on the right doing the same thing. Monty is killing the ball in the middle by taking too many touches. Balo does occasionally and when Kaka is on song he can move the ball quickly. That for me is the key. And I think Allegri wants to do this which is one of the reasons he got rid of Pirlo. But the players are not following his instructions and are not showing any hunger or speed of thought. It's not uncommon for younger players to show more simplicity.
on the 10th December, 2013 at 1:36pm
@ Daniel Giambrone I completely agree with you about Cristante however I disagree about SES. SES does exactly what I would want him to do. He doesn't try stupid dribbling and instead moves the ball quickly. He needs to work on his movement off the ball which is still not too bad since he's been getting in scoring positions. The main thing though is the players around him need to get the ball to him quickly and in space. It works really well when De Sciglio is behind him. It's all 1 and 2 touch
on the 10th December, 2013 at 1:34pm
I know that he's just come back from injury, but I didn't like what I saw from SES. Once again it was all sideways & backwards passes. It's like he doesn't want to take responsibility & take the game to opposing defenders. Is it confidence or a lack of depth to his game. There are similarities with Marchisio here: lots of running, but little impact. He cannot live off his Autumn 2012 form forever! I sincerely want him to prove me wrong. De Sciglio was superb & looks even better at RB.
on the 10th December, 2013 at 10:53am
So Cristante is good enough for Atletico Madrid, but not this shambolic Milan side?! Nice one Allegri! It could be a great move for the player though & would aid his development-just like Verratti at PSG. Juve look very solid & machine like: I cannot see them faltering. Still, I hope Roma can do it. You have to give them credit as they are playing twice a week, whereas Roma play once every 7 days. Benitez's rotation continues to harm Napoli's chances & is anyone else sick of his 70-75% nonsense?
on the 10th December, 2013 at 10:45am
@ Marc F it always seems to be thigh injuries as well. Pato always had the same problem. The injurious situation is a farce and it glaringly obvious that something needs to be changed since you can't keep putting that many injuries down to bad luck.
on the 10th December, 2013 at 10:07am
I feel the need to gloat.

At the start of the season when Roma were winning everyone, except me, believed the hype that Roma might win the league.

I laughed at those idiots and made it clear Roma are a Christmas break team. And guess what, here we are approaching the Xmas break and which team is now on top of the league.

Don't all applaud me at once.
on the 9th December, 2013 at 10:44pm
Seriously, someone needs to get fired for all these Milan injuries. Now Birsa is gone for a month due to a thigh strain. WTF are they doing in Milan that these players drop like flies due to thigh strains?
on the 9th December, 2013 at 10:03pm
i don't understand why people come on footballitalia and talk bad about roma and it's players. roma has been doing some extraordinary things this season. give credit where credit is due. i do think juventus does have the edge and has a squad built to win the scudetto and CL. but don't count roma out! roma will push juventus to the last sunday.
on the 9th December, 2013 at 6:24pm
@Di Rocco


You probably been watching the wrong team. Kaka been doing great, in fact last few games all been doing well except for center backs.

Balo is been pure class. SES is back and de scgilio aswell. soon abate.

We should be able to wrap up CL qualification on wednesday. Nowhere near what we wanted to be in the league but saying its terrible is just plain wrong.

I smell Inter fan long away.
on the 9th December, 2013 at 6:20pm
@Maldini's Heir

Mate, its JUST the central defense that awful. Except for that were playing better by every game. Both Zapata and Mexes are an incredible liability.

Hopefully SES, Kaka and Balo can be field together as they looked very promising together.

Use de jong, monti, poli, ses then kaka and balo.

De scgilio, xx xx,abate.

We been a bit unlucky last 2-3 games too. We've been denied a couple of clear penalties, I guess people moaning of us getting cheap free pent finally payed off
on the 9th December, 2013 at 6:16pm
That Juve fan is a bit of a plum. Juve are great, but so are Roma for the moment. I think Roma need a better left back (Dodo and Balza don't cut it) and a replacement for Pjanic when he gets booked too much... there is a distinct lack of creativity in the middle when he's out... apart from that a 20 goal striker and they would look better than Juve. also because I think Garcia is more creative/adaptive than Conte. juve are sometime too physicaly and lack finesse. just my opinion, of course
on the 9th December, 2013 at 5:23pm
Pfft, says Juve are gonna win with ease.
"old totti up front, gervinho the arsenal flop who only plays cause he's fast and maicon...who last was good when inter was good"
Totti's been performing great this season.
Gervinho is not just fast... Are you saying this having watched him play, or are you a fan of saying stupid stuff?
Again, are you saying these things about Maicon having seen him perform with Roma, or are you a fan of saying stupid things?
Let's see how far Juve go without Pirlo..
on the 9th December, 2013 at 4:28pm
Milan have no structure or team play. You have CBs and fullbacks playing wasteful long balls when the pivot de jong or monte is a simple touch away. They are the ones that should be playing passes or slowing up play, not the CBs. It appears though the team has not been given instructions and the players don't know they're jobs. Kaka is forced to drop deep because the midfeils can't string passes together quick enough. Players stepping on each others toes trying to get the ball. Just terrible.
on the 9th December, 2013 at 4:21pm
Roma played well against a strong Viola side tthat took down Juve. Juve are playing well, but quite frankly Roma are just as good this year. The defense with castan and benatia is solid, and the mid with DDR, Strootman, Pjanic is just as good as Juves trio of pirlo, Vidal, pogba. Don't get arrogant Juve fans, the wolves won't lay down a red carpet for you and the tittle. Milan are the most disorganized italian club ive seen in quite a while. This has to be down to the coach, not players.
on the 9th December, 2013 at 4:15pm
Juve is simply without competition in serie A. roma might have a good run, but cant hold up the tempo the whole season. old totti up front, gervinho the arsenal flop who only plays cause he's fast and maicon...who last was good when inter was good...thats no material to battle juve. juve will win the championship with ease/ +9. points.
on the 9th December, 2013 at 12:43pm
Poli is obviously not a right back but could become a decent midfielder with the right manager. The only positives were the return of SES and De Sciglio. Both showed hunger and basic simplicity in their play that other's more experienced failed to achieve. Balo will continue to do what he does best. There's nothing to discuss there other than that incredible free kick.
on the 9th December, 2013 at 11:32am
The team's lack of hunger and determination on Saturday was a disgrace. And I'm not sure anybody in the press can criticise Balo's professionalism. He has in fact been one of the only players to show genuine hunger (thus his 3 match ban). The press should be focusing on why Monty's levels have dropped from last season and on players like Mexes. Allegri is playing games with players like Gabriel and Poli. Now is not the time to give Gabriel his big break when he's stuck behind that defence.
on the 9th December, 2013 at 11:29am
Mexes was an absolute disgrace. His positioning is the worst I have seen from a professional footballer. When he needs to get tight (as in the first goal) he stands off and when he needs to stand off (as in the second goal) he gets too tight. And he's one of our highest paid players. If Allegri cannot see Mexes' failings then for that reason alone he should be fired. But there's also the issue that he is incapable of motivating his team. Last season he needed the Dear Leader to step in.
on the 9th December, 2013 at 11:24am
Roma did well on Sunday. Given that obviously Milan have no chance I would like to see Roma win the league. Juve are starting to turn the screw though. What do both teams have in common? Strong defences. Not something that could be said about Milan this season. I'd say conservatively our defence has cost us maybe 10 points this season which would put us in 4th. The blame falls squarely with Galliani and Allegri for failing to see the obvious. 12m on Matri has proven to be a total waste.
on the 9th December, 2013 at 11:22am

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