Totti pen 45+4
Juventus and Roma played out a thoroughly entertaining and eventful draw at the Stadio Olimpico di Torino on Saturday evening. Although the result did not help either team, it was probably a fair outcome and certainly further confirmed why Serie A remains too close to call at this stage.
Roma took control early on and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession as they dictated the game’s tempo. The Bianconeri seemed content to soak up the pressure and did so comfortably, with Giorgio Chiellini in particular outstanding again. The visitors did come close to breaking the deadlock when Jeremy Menez combined well with Mirko Vucinic before unleashing a powerful curling shot which produced a world class save by an outstretched Marco Storari.
One aspect of Storari’s game highlighted in recent times is his ability to be relied upon when suddenly called into action after periods of inactivity. He is as good as a back-up keeper can get, and Giuseppe Marotta certainly did a shrewd piece of business by snapping him up from Milan in the summer.
All eyes were on Alberto Aquilani, who started against his former club. The on-loan Liverpool midfielder seemed to want to prove something to Roma as he put in an absolutely masterful performance in the centre of the park.
Aquilani’s precision passing proved to be a headache for Roma all night, and he collected loose balls and covered enough ground to complement the hardworking Felipe Melo. It seems Aquilani’s best position is as a regista in Serie A, and he should stay in Italy in order to achieve maximum potential. Decisively, it was his dribble and accurate cross from the right that led to Vincenzo Iaquinta’s splendid opener on 35 minutes, a spectacular scissored volley from the edge of the area.
Referee Nicola Rizzoli was the subject of controversy for both sides just before the break. First, he denied Roma’s Philippe Mexes a penalty when Chiellini appeared to bring the Frenchman down inside the box, and then it was Juve’s turned to feel aggrieved when he did point to the spot after Simone Pepe was adjudged to have handled Francesco Totti’s free-kick in the wall. It was a tough call but it arguably shouldn’t have happened at all as the incident took place in the 48th minute despite only one minute of added time being signalled. Totti converted the penalty without fuss to bring the scores level.
It was clear Luigi Delneri had devised an intriguing game plan designed to wear out Roma as, unlike in the first half when the vistors dominated possession, Juventus squeezed higher up the pitch after the break and were much keener to put their opponents under pressure. Pepe and Fabio Quagliarella in particular worked terrifically hard and covered plenty of ground. However, the Bianoneri couldn’t find a winner despite enjoying more of the play than their tiring visitors.
Delneri seemed happy enough in his post-match interview, citing how possession means little in football, and that he was pleased to restrict Roma to very few chances. Nevertheless, in a league as tight as this one, the Coach is probably secretly bemoaning a missed opportunity for his team to get within striking distance of the leaders.
43 Sorenson – 19 Bonucci – 3 Chiellini – 6 Grosso
23 Pepe – 4 Felipe Melo – 14 Aquilani – 8 Marchisio
9 Iaquinta, 18 Quagliarella
45 – 17 Traore on for 6 Grosso
54 – 10 Del Piero on for 9 Iaquinta
76 – 11 Amauri on for 8 Marchisio