Two giants of Italian football go head to head in the Stadio Olimpico this weekend and if recent encounters are anything to go by we are in for a captivating clash. Past meetings between the capital side and Italy’s most successful club have produced some extraordinary matches, but two of the most recent encounters have been as scintillating as any.
In the corresponding fixture last season the sides produced an enthralling 2-2 draw, and the goal count could have been higher. The home side threatened first with Marco Cassetti breaking into the box and hitting a fierce drive towards goal, but Gianluigi Buffon, who was immense all afternoon, was equal to it.
Then the Bianconeri struck with a decisive counter. Alessandro Del Piero released Vincenzo Iaquinta down the right and the Juventus no.9 whipped in a superb cross to the near post for David Trezeguet to direct a powerful header past the despairing dive of Alexander Doni – registering his 100th Serie A goal in the process.
Roma hit back and was soon on level terms. Brazilian winger, Mancini clipped the ball forward for Franscesco Totti, who brilliantly turned his marker and broke into the area. One on one with Buffon, the iconic forward exquisitely despatched the equaliser from 12 yards – calmly slotting the ball past Buffon with such panache that the best keeper in the world was rooted to the spot.
Six minutes later Totti bagged his second. Mancini was again involved, chinking into the area and sliding a cross through for Alberto Aquilani to strike at goal from close range. Buffon saved superbly with his feet, but the rebound fell to the Giallorossi captain to slot home with a simple side foot. The Old Lady was not to be outdone and could have drawn level when Del Piero forced a fine save from Doni. Trezeguet nodded the ball into the path of his captain to strike a sweet half volley, but the Roma keeper was equal to it and turned it round the post.
The second half started at the same frantic tempo as the first, and within four minutes of the restart Juve was awarded a penalty when Cicinho brought down Pavel Nedved amidst a bursting run. Del Piero was handed the responsibility to put his side back on level terms and as he stepped up with that calm, reliable demeanour – only to casually blaze his spot kick over the bar.
The Giallorossi then went on an attacking spree, which could have laid the game to rest. Simone Perrotta broke into the box with a powerful run, but after his shot was blocked, the deflection flighted the ball back across the goal, but it was too awkward for Perotta to control and his volley sailed over the bar. Buffon then made a tremendous double save to keep his side in the game – first from a thunderous Daniele De Rossi free-kick and again from the rebound that had fallen to the onrushing Mancini who drilled a shot in from a tight angle.
The home side were made to rue their missed chances. With three minutes of normal time remaining, a long throw from Giorgio Chiellini was met by Iaquinta’s darting run to the near post. With a flick of his head the ball sailed into the far corner to rescue a point.
November 2005 saw one of the most unusual encounters between these Serie A heavyweights with the Bianconeri running out 4-1 victors, although the score line seriously flattered the visitors. It was another case of i Lupi’s failure to take opportunities with Vincenzo Montella the main culprit. His first effort came after brilliantly skipping past two defenders to weave his way into the box and from a difficult angle he whipped in a fierce shot, but it was straight at Christian Abbiati in the Juve goal and he saved comfortably. Another chance went begging when Totti found Montella then on the edge of the area, only to see his left foot shot rifled down the throat of the keeper for a second time.
Rodriguez Taddei was next to test Abbiati when he unleashed an angled shot from just inside the area, but once again The Old Lady stopper was equal to it and saved down low to his right. Montella then wasted another golden opportunity – perhaps the best chance of the half. With their woeful offside trap broken, the Juve defence were stretched leaving the i Lupi striker bearing down on goal. All he had to do was slide the ball around the back of a retreating Juve back-line for Totti to slot home, but his tame cross gave Fabio Cannavaro the opportunity to stretch out a leg and clear the danger.
After being on the back foot for the most of the early exchanges, Juve suitably punished the home side. A speculative Mauro Camoranesi cross to the back post was met by the head of Nedved whose leap had taken him above Cristian Panucci, leaving the diminutive Czech the simple task of nodding his side in front. If there is any truth in the cliché that conceding just before half time is critical, it was epitomised in this game. Ten minutes after the restart a manic five minute spell effectively ended the game.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced a moment of sheer individual brilliance when he flicked Emerson’s pass over Samuel Kuffour’s head with the outside of the boot. That sublime touch sent him clear of the Roma back line and he raced into the box to emphatically unleash an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net with the outside of his right foot. Two minutes later and the home side’s misery was compounded as David Trezeguet got between the two centre-halves and steered his header past the helpless Doni from Gianluca Zambrotta’s measured cross.
Three minutes later and the rout was complete. Nedved won the ball just inside the Roma half and sprayed a pass out to Ibrahimovic – the big Swede sidled into the box and slid a ball through a crowd of players to where Trezeguet was await to poke home his second of the match from six yards.
The home side were given a brief glimmer of hope four minutes later when Lillian Thuram was dismissed for tripping Montella in the box. The Giallorossi striker was fortuitously put through on goal and with the Frenchman breathing down his neck stole into the Bianconeri penalty area. The veteran striker went down and the referee blew for a penalty – showing last man Thuram a red card in the process. Replays however showed that no contact had been made by the Juve defender, however this was no concern of Totti’s who promptly stepped up to lash home the spot-kick. With half an hour of the game left to play, Juve soaked up everything the home side threw at them and left the capital with an emphatic win.