Roma 1-4 Juventus: Bianconeri Triumph in ‘Battle of the Hospital Wards’ (Serie A Matchday 29)

Juventus Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved (C) celebrates with team mate forward Vincenzo Iaquinta (L) after scoring against AS Roma during their Italian Serie A football match on March 21, 2009 at Olympic stadium in Rome. (Getty Images)

In this long, tough battle for Serie A supremacy, few teams can make the claim to have been decimated by injuries, at least not like those entering the Stadio Olimpico of Rome Saturday. I won’t bother to go over Juventus for fear of redundancy; Roma, just for this match alone, stepped onto the grass with five bench Primaveras and a big book of prayers in Spalletti’s hands. It is a sad tale of missed potential and full of “what if” hypotheses: what if these teams could have counted on their full roster this season; what if Legrottaglie and Juan had been there to stop the Chelsea and Arsenal strikers; what if Inter was having the same injury troubles as these two… what if.

Thus, it is in this surreal “red cross” atmosphere that Giallorossi and Bianconeri set to face each other Saturday, with the home team, it must be said, in slightly more dire straits than their colleagues. A youth presence on a team is always refreshing, but for Roma that’s about just what it was: refreshing and cold, just like the goal shower Juventus onloaded on them. Iaquinta drew first blood, Loria (yes, you have read correctly) momentarily tied, before big Vincenzo, Mellberg, and Nedved wrapped things up for the visitors. It was a clear message to league leaders Inter, as this never-ending Saturday/Sunday “long distance” battle continues, one team losing ground one day only to see it restored the very next day. In the words of Gazzetta, “Those expecting an early wrap for the Serie A title will be disappointed”.

Serie A 2008-09 - Roma vs. Juventus

Serie A 2008-09 - Day 29 - Roma 1-4 Juventus

As mentioned, Roma’s list of unavailables was longer than the Canadian Winter (trust me, that’s long), with Spalletti having to make do without his “core” (Juan, De Rossi, Pizarro, and Perrotta, other than the irreplaceable captain Francesco Totti) and their “support” (Cicinho, Cassetti, Motta, Aquilani, Taddei, Diamoutene). Brighi was thus given the keys of midfield alongside young Brazilian Filipe (age 21), who may have talent in his DNA but is still very much in the “unripe” category. Behind Vucinic “played” Menez (intermittently, unlike Baptista who never played at all), with Tonetto supporting the left side of midfield. On the other end Juve, who listed Amauri, Sissoko, Camoranesi and Legrottaglie as unavailables (just to name the most important ones), weren’t in tip-top shape either. The small (but resolved) spat with Trezeguet and the scintillating physical form of Iaquinta prompted Ranieri to give big Vincenzo the start, in addition to “left-mid” Giovinco in a classic 4-4-2 Juve formation.

Roma’s strategy was clear: despite the injuries this was still Stadio Olimpico territory, and they had to dictate the play. The Giallorossi’s aggressive initial spurt from midfield wasn’t successful in creating anything of note in Buffon’s area, except for one defensive slip-up when Grygera allowed Riise to get free, and forced Chiellini (slightly injured but still tackling fiercely) into earning his fat paycheck. Just like Roma however, Juve weren’t feeling particularly inspired either and the match struggled to get going. Tiago was unconvincing and Poulsen, despite the obvious interdiction and tactical qualities, never lit up the stadium; the only light shining through, on top of Giovinco, was Del Piero, with the Juve captain finding space and picking up momentum when the Giallorossi allowed him to.

Juventus' Vincenzo Iaquinta celebrates after scoring against AS Roma during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the Olympic stadium in Rome March 21, 2009. (REUTERS)

The minutes passed without anything happening. That is until 10 minutes from the break, when Giovinco exchanged passes with Poulsen and then found a penetrating pass for Iaquinta: Vincenzo controlled the ball and then let a right-footed effort rip into the bottom right corner, where Doni had no chance of reaching. 1-0 Juventus and Roma’s hearts in the tank.

Spalletti knew that the only way to peg back Juve was to raise the tempo: Roma started the beginning of the second half aggressively and Juve were forced back into their defensive area. Leading to the unthinkable: one the most feared Serie A teams on dead-ball situations (both offensively and defensively) left a Roma player alone, free to sneak the ball past Buffon. It was also unthinkable because of who that player was: Simone Loria, the most contested of the Giallorossi side, partially redeemed himself for his past defensive mistakes and tied things up for the home team. 1-1.

AS Roma's Simone Loria celebrates after scoring against Juventus during their Serie A soccer match at the Olympic stadium in Rome March 21, 2009. (REUTERS)

Roma didn’t even have time to celebrate however because five minutes later, a deflection off Riise from a a right-wing cross allowed Iaquinta to shake loose of Mexès, and head the ball past Doni into the net. 2-1 Juventus and goal nº6 in Serie A for the ex-Udinese striker, who was having one of those great “success nights” and almost set up Del Piero for the 3-1 (with Doni on the ground, a certain goal was saved by Riise’s foot right on the goal line). Roma keeping into the game, if only momentarily.

Spalletti tried substituting Montella in place of Loria, but the Giallorossi still lacked considerably firepower. And so Juve were able to seal the victory, first with a Mellberg-headed corner-kick (boy was this a valuable free-transfer from Villa, huh?), and then with a wonder-volley by Pavel Nedved, just like in the good old days. 3-1 and 4-1 Juventus, game over.

Although there was a little over ten minutes to go, these were primarily useful to mark the Serie A debut of Roma’s Marco D’Alessandro (age 18), a youngster with interesting abilities and even able to force Buffon into a parrying save. Juve were content to ease the pressure off their Roma opponents, waiting for the full-time whistle and Inter-Reggina on Sunday.

Juventus Swedish defender Olof Mellberg (L) celebrates with team mates scoring against AS Roma during their Italian Serie A football match on March 21, 2009 at Olympic stadium in Rome. (Getty Images)


A.S. Roma
[Match Highlights]
Juventus F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 34′, 55’ Iaquinta (J), 48′ Loria (R), 68′ Mellberg (J), 74′ st Nedved (J).
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni – Panucci, Mexes, Loria (62’ Montella), Riise – Brighi, Filipe – Tonetto, J.Baptista, Menez (82’ M.D’Alessandro) – Vucinic (92’ Stojan). (bench: Artur, Crescenzi, Malomo, Brosco). Coach: Spalletti.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera, Mellberg, Chiellini, Molinaro – Salihamidzic, Tiago (70’ Nedved), Poulsen, Giovinco (72’ Marchionni) – Del Piero, Iaquinta. (bench: Chimenti, Zebina, Knezevic, Castiglia, Trezeguet). Coach: Ranieri.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Juventus, Roma, Serie A |

Related Posts:

  • Could Zlatan Ibrahimovic leave the Nerazzurri?
  • Serie A Matchday 29 – Week-End Review + GOALS of the Week (2008-09)
  • Inter 3-0 Reggina: Easy Peasy… Zlatanesey (Serie A Matchday 29)
  • Serie A: The Battle for Champions League Qualification
  • Serie A: T Minus 180 Minutes – Scudetto, CL, UEFA, and Relegation Battles Are On
  • Comments are closed.