There are no moral victories in football. Paulo Fonseca said as much in his post-match press conference following a 2-0 defeat to the reigning champions that will leave a bittersweet taste in Roman mouths.
Saturday’s valiant effort could be something to build on, but only if the Portuguese overcomes his own inferiority complex.
Although a loss at the Allianz Stadium continues the Giallorossi’s wretched record against the Serie A aristocracy, their spirited showing represents a marked improvement on previous performances in crunch clashes.
Fonseca deserves a large slice of credit for that, with his deployment of the tried-and-true 3-4-2-1 formation allowing La Lupa to dominate the early exchanges.
The visitors looked the more dangerous side until Cristiano Ronaldo’s clinical finish, and they never stopped trying to knit pretty patterns through the Old Lady. Their attacking ambition was commendable, and they ended the encounter with healthy advantages in corners (9-2) and shots (14-3).
Rather than turn the screw in the second half, however, the 47-year old chose to maintain the status quo.
His decision to hook Gonzalo Villar for the less adventurous Amadou Diawara was puzzling, while he kept three-center backs on the pitch for the duration of the contest against an opponent content to sit back and hit on the counterattack.
Regardless of the degree to which Roma forced their foe into a cautious setup, the salient point is that they failed to take even a point against another top four rival.
That’s now no wins, four losses, and three draws in seven clashes with fellow top seven members this season. Those struggles against the Peninsula’s premier outfits did not prevent La Lupa from traveling to Turin perched in third place, and they are still in the thick of the chase for Champions League qualification.
Nevertheless, their problems against the country’s best teams leaves zero margin for error in meetings with the division’s more modest foes.
Archnemesis Lazio are in hot pursuit, while Napoli and Atalanta sit only three points back in the race for fourth spot. Missing out on a ticket to Europe’s elite club competition would surely spell the end of Fonseca’s time in charge.
As the recent Deloitte Money League rankingsaffirm, Roma are far from the richest club in Italy. The absence of a major title since the Coppa Italia in 2008 demonstrates that the Giallorossi are not accustomed to lifting silverware. However, those realities do not mean that there shouldn’t be a commitment to catapulting the capital city slickers to those heights.
Some of that work must be done off the pitch, namely with the construction of a new stadium. That long-awaited development would dramatically strengthen La Lupa’s financial position, but it must be accompanied by a raising of standards on the field.
Having your head coach leave satisfied after defeat to a Juve side on track for their worst points haul in a decade, no matter how well you may have performed, cannot be tolerated if the Giallorossi want to start filling a dusty trophy cabinet.
Fonseca could yet help Roma progress towards that goal, but he is not the man to take them over the finish line.