A Roma side missing key players Francesco Totti, Philippe Mexes, Julio Sergio and Luca Toni overcame Catania, on a run of five games unbeaten in the league at the Stadio Olimpico yesterday.
Any evidence that the Giallorossi were still reeling from their mid-week Europa League exploits after two late Panathinaikos goals abruptly end their 20-match unbeaten run was well hidden as they quickly stamped their authority on the relegation candidates. Despite an early chance for the visitors, with a cross from a corner falling to defender Matias Silvestre who tamely scuffed his volley, it was Roma who opened the scoring. Mirko Vucinic easily shook his marker placing a powerful side-footed volley past Mariano Andujar. The goal capped an exceptional performance by the Montenegrin who orchestrated much of Roma’s best forward play with a display that showcased his trademark pace and ability with back to goal.
Daniele De Rossi and Matteo Brighi ran the show in midfield, breaking up the Rossazzurri and preventing the ball from getting up to Catania forwards Maxi Lopez and later Jorge Martinez. Lopez in particular failed to impress himself courtesy of a commanding performance by Juan, the Brazilian gave the 25-year old no breathing space with a series of well-timed interceptions and challenges.
Claudio Ranieri will have been disappointed to see his side run in at half time only one goal up. A scramble in the box on 40 minutes should have yielded a goal for the home side after a miss-hit John Arne Riise shot fell to De Rossi who hit the ball too near to Andujar who produced arguably the finest save of the match. Clearly missing Totti in the front-line and without the option of Luca Toni, Roma lacked the clinical finishing required to put the result beyond doubt. This was clearly evident as the Giallorossi’s creative midfield play and neat exchanges of passing gave chances to De Rossi and Jeremy Menez who both failed to capitalise.
In a bid to remedy Catania’s lacklustre forward play Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic put on strikers Martinez and Takayuki Morimoto in the latter stages of the game. The changes had an effect with Martinez finding himself in a good position in the area before Roma scrambled the ball away to deny him a free header. The introduction of Morimoto coincided with the visitor’s best period of the game as they tried to take advantage of a Roma side content with sitting back and seeing out the last 10 minutes. The resolute Roma defence was too much though for a Catania front-line clearly lacking the quality to break down a top opposition.
Maxi Lopez’s performance will be a worry for Mihajlovic, the January signing did little to shake his markers, was often caught offside and when he did break through did not ask enough questions of Alexander Doni.
Despite his team failing to produce a vintage performance Ranieri will be delighted. The continuation of title-rivals Inter’s mini-blip and an efficient win today has given his side a vital foothold in their pursuit of their fourth Serie A title. Catania, sitting one point from the bottom-three will need to put this defeat behind them and regain their impressive recent form if they are to climb away from their perilous position.