Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride? Having lost in the final of the Coppa Italia and come second in Serie A, Sunday’s defeat in the Super Cup did not come as a huge surprise for Roma. I Giallorossi are almost used to losing to Italy’s top dogs Inter when it really matters.
What will disappoint Claudio Ranieri the most about his side’s performance on Sunday is that had it not been for a few defensive errors, the outcome of the game could have been completely different.
The display was typical of Roma in recent times. Free flowing and brilliant in attack but profligate in front of goal, able to cope with most of what the opposition had to offer but always with their finger hovering over the self-destruct button.
In defence, Roma were without injured first choice goalkeeper Julio Sergio and last season’s defensive rock Nicolas Burdisso and in came Bogdan Lobont and Philippe Mexes. While Mexes was solid throughout, Lobont simply proved that he should not be allowed near the first team again. The Romanian was at fault for all three Inter goals and looked slow, lumbering and immobile throughout. With Doni on the bench, questions must be asked as to why Ranieri saw fit to select the obviously incapable Lobont over the agile Brazilian.
After the game Ranieri reflected: “It was a shame because at 1-0 we looked in control. We gifted them an equaliser and they found their way into the game.”
The errors made by the Roma defence were so bad that they bordered on hilarious. First, rather than clear the ball under no pressure, Mirko Vucinic saw fit to play a pass back into his six-yard box which Juan made a hash of to allow Goran Pandev in to equalise. Samuel Eto’o then escaped the attentions of Marco Cassetti in the penalty area and the Cameroonian got on the end of Diego Milito’s cross to score before adding the third when Rodrigo Taddei gifted him possession just outside the Roma box. While these mistakes could all be attributed to rustiness, Ranieri will be keen to eradicate them as soon as possible as the season looms.
Despite being beaten, it seems that the Roma players remain upbeat for the season ahead. Captain Francesco Totti admitted: “It is true certain mistakes were made, but nobody can deny the fact that we played well and maybe deserved a little more from the game.”
Er Pupone was excellent throughout the game, providing the assist for John Arne Riise’s goal and generally appearing back to full fitness. As well the performance of Totti, Roma fans will also be pleased that David Pizarro came through the first half unscathed. The Chilean midfielder was one of the players of the season for i Lupi last campaign and has recently overcome a knee injury. Pizarro revealed that he was pleased with the way his knee had recovered as well as saying: “Now we must put this defeat behind us and focus all attentions on the start of the Serie A season.”
Indeed, despite ending in defeat, the game provided much to suggest that Roma are ready for the season ahead. Alongside il Capitano in attack, Mirko Vucinic looked sharp and Jeremy Menez showed enough to suggest that he could have an excellent season. At the back Riise took his goal brilliantly and continues to display the drive and power that made him a fan favourite last season, while Philippe Mexes performed well and will hope for an extended run in the side once Serie A gets underway.
Even the poor performance of Adriano prompted an optimistic response from Claudio Ranieri who defended his man claiming: “Adriano is working hard but it isn’t easy for him adapting to the new squad and style of play,” adding: “It is still early days and I am partly satisfied with what I witnessed this evening.”
However, one man less sure of the support of his Coach is Bogdan Lobont who, after his appalling display, looks likely to lose his place to either the returning Julio Sergio or Doni. With youngster Guillermo Burdisso and Fabio Simplicio yet to make their debuts and the club reportedly still on the hunt for another defender, the starting eleven against Cesena could yet be very different from Sunday’s.
So despite again suffering the pain of coming second to Inter, Roma’s fans remain enthusiastic ahead of the new season and will be looking for improvement against Cesena next Saturday. A good performance against their newly promoted opponents would be the ideal start to what is sure to be a long and challenging Serie A season.