The Curva Sud back in the stands. Opposite is the Curva Nord in full swing. The elements of a great derby were all there, in theory. In practice, the stadium wasn’t full with only 44,000 fans attending last night. Both Curvas were full but what about the rest of the stadium? It was a Derby semifinal, second-leg; you wonder why many did not go.
Perhaps, some Roma fans did not believe in a stunning comeback? Perhaps the outrageous ticket prices, the usual security restrictions, checkpoint hassle, parking miles away and so forth. Reality is many out there lost the unconditional, eternal passion for Roma that our fans were renowned for. Going to the stadium is no fun anymore. Some people go to watch the rugby instead, 6-Nations games has had an average of more than 60,000 attendances in recent years. It says it all. Whichever way, we cannot hail last that Rome City has returned to football splendour. It will be some time before that will happen gain. Perhaps with the new Stadium things will change for the better.
Now, the painful part. Back to the match last night: Roma were to climb a mountain beginning from 0-2 deficits. Lazio had won the first match on the break, outpacing a sloppy Roma defense. Roma attacking force was confusing and predictable leaving the giallorossi trailing with zero goals scored. Last night we all knew Lazio would be waiting for the cat to play the mouse again on the counter, from their comfort zone area. Roma fell in the trap again, attacking with intensity but not defending well. When Dzeko missed an easy goal only after a couple of minutes we thought it would be another of those games. And when they eventually conceded on the break, it was the usual headache again. The rest of the match is not that exciting, despite Roma equalize, Lazio took the lead gain and it was game over, even with Roma scoring two more to finish winning the game 3-2.
Highs and lows: Spalletti made mistakes with the initial lineup and by not “reading” the game. We all knew how Lazio would be playing, pity the coach didn’t or did not know how to handle it. Despite scoring two goals we think Salah was one of the worst on the pitch. Strootman failed to shine, Nainggolan looked deflated and no wonder, we add. He did not rest even against Empoli. Paredes is young but too shy, not able to take the team under his wing. Finally, Manolas had one of his worst games ever at Roma. Dzeko scored 32 goals but keeps missing the crucial ones. He was very nervous last night. Credit to Juan Jesus instead, the only one who kept composure at the back.
Subs: Diego Perotti came on too late. Bruno Peres had better stayed on the bench. Terrible, terrible. Once again. Why Spalletti insist on him is a mystery.
Last and final: Francesco Totti. He’s old, yes. He’s slower, yes. But look when he came on, in only 10 minutes he created what nobody else created in 80 mins, the only one capable to serve deep passes with one touch. He came on late as sub just in time to receive boos from the away fans. It’s not the first time. We cannot believe Spalletti is doing this on purpose; we want to refuse this theory. We know they don’t love each other but this is not fair to a player who is the history of this club. We have seen that Totti can still help the team in situations like last night. He should have been play for longer, Dzeko did not get a single ball passed upfront, and Totti would have been helpful that way.
Next: Europa League gone; Coppa Italia gone; Serie A still second 6 points behind Juve. In theory we can still chase them, but the players look tired, deflated, it will be a very hard task. Second place also not so sure, Napoli still there threatening. The future of Roma is near, Spalletti, the stadium and the Sporting Director Monchi. Time is running out”.
Stefano Sale @asroma.ie