What a game. What a glorious, glorious game.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was Roma. The initial lead, the following possession that led to nothing, the awful defense on the goal conceded, and dramatic finishes at the end. It was a stereotypical Roma win, and it was a stereotypical Roma win over Udinese thanks to Totti’s late strike that took Roma into the lead.
It all started early on. Pablo Osvaldo took advantage of slack defending to run through Udinese’s central defense and fire on goal. Samir Handanovic saved his initial effort but was powerless to stop the rebound, which Osvaldo lifted over the goalie: Roma were ahead 1-0 in the 8th minute. The goal underlined just how important the striker is to the side. Derided by many for his high price tag and previous “failure” in Serie A, Roma’s new number nine has been nothing if not a goal scorer since his arrival from Espanyol. In 21 matches he now has 11 goals for the season and is Roma’s leading top-scorer despite missing about two months through injury. Seven of those strikes have been the opening goals of the matches; he’s not simply scoring the final goal in a three or four goal routes; with him up top, Roma have a focal point for their attack.
In short, he may be the best poacher since the days of Vincenzo Montella (who, by the way, also lost to Lecce this week).
Possession and Heartbreak
As too often occurs with the capital side, following the opening goal, a second strike simply could not be found. Roma dominated possession without shooting much on target, and though Udinese definitely threatened on the counter, the first half was definitely there for the side to capitalize on. As too often occurs, what happened instead was the opposite. Toto Di Natale played a perfectly weighted through ball to find Gelson Fernandes alone in the box. The midfielder poked it on the fly over Maarten Stekelenburg, and just like that, the two sides went into the half level.
What happened? A mixture of two factors- Roma’s profligacy and woeful defending. Jose Angel was nowhere to be found marking the player, but Erik Lamela was to blame as well, not tracking the player as he had been until the moment he began the run.
Eventually, A Winner (Or Two!)
The second half was absolutely nail biting. Both sides threw everything they had at the net, and it was looking like it would end as a draw, until Osvaldo once again proved to be the difference maker. Taking advantage of Fernando Gago’s through ball and the Udinese defense’s inability to properly clear it, Osvaldo left Handanovic for dead twice, before squaring it to Totti who slotted home the ball from close range in the 86th minute.
Sounds familiar? Totti did it last year too:
Bojan Krkic, once again excelling in a super-sub role, put the result beyond doubt in extra time. Streaking down the left, the young Barcelona striker crossed the ball perfectly to the onrushing Marquinho, who powered the ball past Handanovic and into the net. 3-1 to Roma and all three points taken from Udinese at home.
Roma are now in 5th place, four points off 3rd place Lazio and a mere point behind Udinese. The race for the Champions’ League is well and truly on.