Roma came into today’s game with a seven-match Serie A winless streak, but when the final whistle blew at the Stadio Olimpico, the only thing that separated the struggling Giallorossi from Italy’s leaders was a piece of magic from one of the league’s legends, the type of strike that makes you realize we haven’t developed enough ways to describe everything that can happen on a soccer field.
If we had, the sport would already have some shorthand for the move Francesco Totti put on that shot – the type of strike that shocks a ball, leaving it to buckle in mid-air as it gravitates into the back of goal. Totti’s shot came from 24 yards out on a ball rolling out of Juve’s area, the game’s only goal still rising as it found to top of Gianluigi Button’s goal.
Under normal circumstances, it would be one of the week’s best goals. That it decided a Roma-Juventus match makes it unforgettable. Here’s the goal:[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzUbRCtk5jU]
Before the opener, Juventus had slow escalated their control of the match. Afterward, the game became one-sided, Juventus desperate to get some kind of result in the capital. But the league’s leaders rarely threatened Maarten Stekelenburg, who had three saves while keeping Roma’s fourth clean sheet of the season. Handing Juventus loss number four, Roma got their first much needed win under Aurelio Andreazzoli.
The loss pulls Juve deeper into much more contested title defense. Only five points up on surging Napoli, the Old Lady will likely see their lead shrink on Sunday when the Azzurri welcome Sampdoria to the San Paolo. Likely to advance in Champions League, Juve faces a two-front fight while they try to retain their scudetto.
Of greater concern to Antonio Conte should be his team’s inability to break down their opponent. Roma came into the game with the second worst defense in the league but were able to keep a relatively comfortable clean sheet. Lacking a world class goal scorer as well as a true final-third creator, Juventus is susceptible to this kind of approach. If teams aren’t going to gift Juve chances, can the Old Lady create them on their own?
It’s the missing piece in the larger Bianconeri puzzle. Whether you see the absence is a major issue likely informs whether you think Juventus can compete for Europe or will be limited to trying to defend their Serie A title.