Rome discovered the weakness behind the greatness of Turin. And I say this literally because what I saw this Sunday was awesome: with two days to go before the end of the Italian championship, Italy’s most powerful team came to the Olympic stadium one centimeter closer to their sixth consecutive scudetto. One point was enough to turn the lead into a trophy. When a breakthrough goal came in the first 20 minutes, it felt like glory. It was a momentary illusion because then came a really long hour and exposed problems that Juve’s excellent results have hidden.
Juve had so many things on their favor that they ended up leaving the match down the road. Just a tie was enough to lift the league title, but the team ended up becoming an unknown shadow of itself. This 3-1 loss delays the attainment of the Scudetto for at least one more week. Juve had saved some of their best players on the bench, and the midfield with Lemina and Sturaro didn’t work. In the formidable tactical duel between Allegri and Spalletti was emphasized something that the season insinuated bit by bit: Juventus have a less opulent squad than it seems, with a short bench of real resources when it comes to introducing creative elements in the attack. Without Dybala, without Marchisio, and without Alves, the game seems to happen in a single dimension: mechanical movements, order without shine, a strong but insufficient defense.
The 0-1 was a consequence of one of those synchronized movements. It was led by the two midfielders, Sturaro making a pass from the left and Lemina entering from the right. Higuaín passed the ball (albeit quite sumptuously) and the French midfielder scored. That was the only good thing that the Italian team did throughout the game; within four minutes came the Roma equalizer. Roma’s reaction was fast: Manolas shooting, Buffon saving, and De Rossi hitting the ball in his second attempt and scoring.
Roma didn’t only prevail in the attacking areas. Captain Daniele de Rossi and the superb Argentinian midfielder Leandro Paredes dominated the situation from the midfield with little opposition. Upon returning from the break, Spalletti made decisive moves to transform control into definition. The most important decision was to put Nainggolan in the attacking midfield role, who got separated from De Rossi and Paredes and stood behind Salah. Dzeko wasn’t able to play, so Roma didn’t have a lot of high balls played in the box; this match gave them life in their race to secure a second place and gain direct access to the Champions League.
Roma played a lot and Juve had too much to play. In three days they will have to compete in the same location—Olympic Stadium—for the Cup final against Lazio. A test with no more blank bullets in their dream to win the Treble. Because the League, after all, can wait for the next week in Turin, where they will face Crotone, even though this Sunday about 10,000 Juve fans will populate the stands of the Roman stadium.
Not even Buffon could save his team.
Real Madrid’s rival in the Champions League final went to the field without hunger. Even Buffon left the savior’s uniform at home. Within 10 minutes of the second half, in a slow game, the ball came too easily from the corner of his area and ended up sneaking into the goal of the captain (even more easily). The shot from El Shaarawy touched a defender and put the match uphill for the bianconeri. And without giving them ample time to recover, 10 minutes later Nainggolan gave the last punch.
Only at that moment the pride came to those who dream of achieving the sixth consecutive Scudetto. Dani Alves and Dybala jumped into the pitch, but it was too late to get something positive in the 75th minute.
With all this happening, we needed the presence of Totti for least a few seconds. Although the penultimate game of the captain with the Roma shirt didn’t finish in the best way for the experienced midfielder. The coach of Roma made Francesco Totti warm up for the entire second half—and played him in during injury time. The fans couldn’t believe it because they were waiting for their idol to play a little more than that.
Roma’s strategist decided that the historic player would step on the grass at 91′ to replace Mohamed Salah. The coach gave him exactly three minutes. The fans asked for him from the first minutes of the second half, when El Shaarawy scored the second goal for the local team. Roma’s captain didn’t reproach anything, nor did he put on a sad face. The entire Olympic stadium stood and applauded the historic Italian no. 10.
However, after the final whistle and without sweating, the discomfort of Francesco Totti was obvious. The forward left the field and gently said “Hi” to all the people who crossed him. He never touched the ball.
With two games left and four points of difference between both, Roma still have a mathematical possibility of lifting the league trophy. Napoli too, although the real chances are rather small. Let’s wait for the last round of matches and see what happens.