Fiorentina 0-1 Roma

This is something new, this is something very different. Quickly, when was the last time Roma played a game like this - inviting the pressure for 90 minutes, giving away the initiative and still coming away with an away win? And against a team as good as this Fiorentina? We're standing on the brink of the unknown, but I do not fear as long as Ranieri stands beside me holding my hand.

Let's make some things clear immediately: Fiorentina were very, very good. But they didn't deserve to win. You only deserve to win when you score more goals than the opponent, and for all of their advantage, they could not do that. It's not that I'm not ever so slightly sympathetic towards their plight yesterday, it's just that I'm overcome by the sensations only a triumph away in a hostile host city can create. If that means creating fewer chances and still coming away with every single point on the table, it's even sweeter.

I've already stated Fiorentina were very good, but the statement requires further qualifying. Even though good, even though perhaps better than Roma, Viola failed in the most important phase and for that there can be no mercy. Their first half was impressive, a statement of intent lasting 45 minutes, in which they loaded their left flank and ran circles around a largely helpless Motta. Even if it was not by own fault, Motta was the defensive flaw last night as he was overwhelmed by Viola's runs at and behind him. He should have gotten more help, he should have had more neutralizing cover - whatever, I'm not looking to hang him, merely point out a weakness of the team, and it isn't meant to single him out. Because of the success Fiorentina had in attacking him, it was strange to see that strategy largely abandoned in the second half. That was spent mostly hitting a couple of hundred crosses aimed for Gilardino, but intercepted without worry by Juan and Mexès. Every. Single. Time. God knows, as does every romanista, that Juan and - in particular - Mexès aren't perfect, but if there's one scenario in which I have blind faith in them is when the opponents' game plan consists of trying to beat them in the air. And for the times they weren't enough, Julio Sergio again, as per his custom, played a spectacular game, saving anything and everything that came near the goal line.

Totti's substitution is both appealing and discouraging at the same time. The appealing aspect of it is the nth confirmation that Ranieri genuinely adheres to the Italian idiom of not looking anyone in the face, meaning not to treat anyone differently based on who they are. I have problems imagining many other Roma coaches doing what Ranieri did last night, to pull Totti after only 45. But it was the right thing to do, because the captain was clearly out of it. That is, in turn, the discouraging aspect of the call - that Totti looked worse for wear, and visibly unfit. I'm sure being out for weeks and playing random games - Juve, Udinese - intermittently doesn't help, and it will most probably improve drastically with more match fitness.

This win completes a sweep of Fiorentina this season, and all but puts them out of contention with Roma for a CL spot come May. I still expect them to mount one of the strongest challenges to fourth place, but as we note Roma's 19th straight undefeated game, it is becoming ever more clear that the teams have different objectives, unlike last year. Viola might still make it, but that will probably be at the expense of Juventus or Napoli, and I welcome either scenario, with the warm embrace of a big brother condescendingly congratulating a little kid. Exactly like the embrace I want to give De Silvestri today, after his open goal miss yesterday. I want to hug him and pat him on the head, and thank him for doing something so phenomenally stupid as opening his mouth a day before the game to channel all Lazio icons before him by saying he wants to score against Roma. For his new team. I'd put that auto-jinx down to 70% of why he missed a clear goal scoring oppurtinity, the remaining 30% traceable to sub standard technique. And this on a day when Lazio slipped into the relegation zone, which DDR commented on after his game as such: "I cried this afternoon". Sweet, sweet tears of joy.