Intrinsic Risk Behavior: Apparently Hard to Get Rid of

This is an attempt to write something meaningful about Roma-Panathinaikos. This is an attempt to come up with anything of interest about the game I one week ago claimed to have such hope for. But I don't know if I can. The game was coming along nicely when a setback (the penalty) hit Roma, and from that point onwards, it was a disaster in the making. I am not interested in singling out any one player (although if I were, Mexès would feature heavily), and the tactics were a non-factor; both as a way to explain why Roma didn't score more, as well as a way to explain the eight minutes from hell. This is what it is for me: the latest reminder that instincts don't erase easily. Those instincts, the same that led to Manchester scoring seven in a little game you may recall, are all that properly explains this to me. But it's not about anything as simplistic as Roma not having the mentality to cope with pressure in Europe, plenty of famous victories over very good teams should remind us of that. But what many of these high profile failures have in common (and I would include some of the domestic 4-1 scorelines at the hands of Juve and Inter in this) is the reaction the team has to setbacks, which is to attack more in order to nullify the damage of a goal just conceded. Doing so, of course, exposes the team whose mindset is to attack and finding openings forward.

That is what's happened many times before, and that was what happened again last night. The early setback this time was the penalty so unnecessarily given away by DDR. I don't particularly care about the penalty's merit, or whether or not Ninis was already falling down (my instinct was that it was crystal, for what it's worth), because the future captain, who was also the captain on the night, should know better than to lash out his leg like that in the penalty area. Especially when he knows it's easy for things to go wrong there, especially when he has Juan there to help him cover. And from there on, Roma's fate was sealed. I got the sense Ranieri knew it, his head shaking and wearing a dejected face was more than a reaction to Panathinaikos scoring one single goal. The game was still open, there was everything to play for. But then they were set to attack and skipped on closing down Ninis, and there was the second. And then they were even more eager to attack so they Cerci ran the ball right into the feet of a green shirt, and from that point all it took was for Mexès to blank on the fundamentals of an offside trap. Curtains.

There was a bit of a reaction early in the second half, and within four minutes Roma had forced Panathinaikos to two great saves, but. But it wasn't enough. The momentum died off, and Europe ended prematurely once again. I'm still feeling dejected over it, because I really wanted to win the trophy, and I thought Roma were good enough to do it. They're not, however, good enough to win it with four of the more important players on the team missing through injury and another (DDR) missing despite being there. And I find it really unfortunate, because no matter how proud and ecstatic I am and have been over Roma's domestic form, there's nothing about finishing second or third that can make me celebrate. Winning an actual trophy is the end game for me, no matter how many others look down on it--give me the Italian cup, let alone an actual European trophy, and I would make love to it all night long and then whisper sweet little nothings into its ear afterwards.

But...next year? Maybe? Probably not.