Del Piero 50
Totti (pen) 67, Riise 93
Juventus and Roma went into battle at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night, with the away side looking to avenge their defeat in August, added with the extra spice of ex-Juve Coach Claudio Ranieri’s return to Turin for the first time since his unceremonious sacking by the Bianconeri towards the end of last season.
A laboured and uninspiring game was all set to end in a 1-1 draw when deep into injury time, Giallorossi left-back John Arne Riise found himself unmarked inside the Juventus penalty area and calmly headed the ball into the net to stun the beleaguered Bianconeri Coach Ciro Ferrara and send the Juve tifosi home twice as angry as when they arrived. The result for the Giallorossi was no more than what they deserved, as while they remained resolute in defence, they looked to hit Juventus on the counter at every opportunity, even without the on-loan Luca Toni who limped off after only three minutes. Had it not been for some dubious offside decisions by the assistant referees, the Romans might have walked away with a more convincing score-line.
However, this does not tell half the story. The home side enjoyed most of the possession, and started to control the game after Alessandro Del Piero’s sublime volley put them ahead five minutes after the restart. But for all their endeavour in going forward to seal the win, the defence had to be resolute to repel any attacking threat from the Roman outfit. Unfortunately, the Bianconeri rearguard was left wanting, as Fabio Grosso brought down Rodrigo Taddei inside the box to give away a needless penalty which Francesco Totti coolly converted, while Riise beat the offside trap only to be brought down by Gianluigi Buffon, earning the custodian a red card. Riise’s late goal came after some outstanding work by David Pizarro to win the ball in the Juve half and supplied the cross for the Norwegian to head past substitute goalkeeper Alex Manninger. Hasan Salihamidzic slotted into the right-back position vacated by Zdeněk Grygera after the Czech international was replaced by on-loan debutant Antonio Candreva on 75 minutes, and had the former Bayern Munich midfielder tracked back, he could have intercepted the ball before it reached Riise at the far post.
While Ferrara’s tactics have been called into question, the fact that he was unable to organise his defence is of serious concern, given the fact that he was a world-class defender himself. The Old Lady offered very little as an attacking threat, but the task was made harder by the simple fact that the defence did not carry out its remit, which the Neapolitan will need to address immediately. Roma, on the other hand, played with the kind of pragmatism required for this type of match – a speciality of Ranieri’s style of play – which keeps them in third place and firmly in the frame to enter next season’s Champions League. The night belonged to the Giallorossi, but the story was about one man: I, Claudio.