‘In the beginning, there was Chaos’, or so the story goes according to roman mythology. Unfortunately for Roma, their current predicament is not one of myth but something very real indeed. The Giallorossi’s second defeat, only four games into the new season, has thrown the team into massive instability. They next face Serie A champions and league leaders Inter and will do so after collecting another injury and red card to add to the current list of infirm and unavailable, as discussed in our previous Club Focus. They are in a desperate situation and it seems as though only divine intervention can drag them out of it now.
The team played very well on Wednesday, as they did in parts against Bayern Munich and for much of the Bologna game. They controlled the vast majority of the match, and pinned Brescia in their own half for most of the game. However, the Rondinelle proved that catenaccio is far from dead, especially in the second half as a blue and white human wall stopped I Lupi on all but one occasion. They counter attacked twice, on the first winning a non existent penalty and reducing their opponents to 10 men, and on the second forcing keeper Julio Sergio to dash from his line, seriously hurting his ankle. Abudantia, the roman goddess of luck, was quite obviously otherwise engaged midweek and at such a crucial time too, when the Coach really needed her approving smile from upon high.
The post match interviews were dominated by complaints of bad refereeing. Ranieri and various club dignitaries were outraged with the comportment of match official Carmine Russo and his assistants. Television replays showed how Marco Borriello was wrestled to the ground during a first half corner, in direct eye line of Russo with no intervention and a further penalty appeal was denied to the away team as a Brescia arm clearly blocked a Roma cross inside the 18 yard area. Philippe Mexes received a second yellow card for a phantom trip, this time awarded by one of the assistant referees in the second period of play. Not only was Mexes sent off but a penalty was awarded for this presumed foul which was outside the penalty area to begin with. To make matters worse, the French international in typical Mexes fashion, spectacularly lost his cool on the pitch and had to be physically restrained before finally leaving the field of play in tears. He has been hit with a three match ban and a fine for his actions. If their is a god of video technology up their on Mount Olympus, every Roma fan should surely be on their knees praying for him this morning.
The injury to Julio Sergio could potentially be the biggest blow of all. Diagnosed as a micro-fracture, he will miss at least a month of football. The damage occurred in injury time as the Brazilian’s boot and ankle was heavily strapped so that he could see out the dying moments of the game. Images of the Roma keeper in floods of agonising tears, as he tried to stay on his feet for the final minutes, were quite upsetting. But, these moments underline that despite the results and the lack of interest from the deities, the spirit of the players has not been broken. Devoid of Francesco Totti and future captain Daniele De Rossi, Claudio Ranieri’s team showed fight and commitment to the bitterest of bitter ends on Wednesday night.
The Gods will need to be draped in red and yellow at the weekend, as the visit of the Nerazzurri who look unstoppable at the moment, could be a pivotal point so early on in the season. Mexes misses out but Totti and Nicolas Burdisso will return. Mirko Vucinic and Adriano are making progress and although clearly not in top form, should both be at the disposition of the team. Norwegian full-back John Arne Riise may also be available. Bogdan Lobont will probably be deputising in the Roma goal in place of Julio Sergio. This could concern the Roma faithful, as he looked far from assured in the recent Super Cup match against Rafa Benitez’s men.
One thing that does not appear to worry the supporters, however, is the coach and that loveable Gallic rogue, Philippe Mexes. Despite the league position and the Frenchman’s sending off, fans turned out to vocally support both men at training on Thursday. It is said that in moments of adversity hope springs eternal. Roma will need optimism and a little overdue help from their Olympian friends to stem this tidal wave of bad fortune, if their season is to turn in their favour.