Panathinaikos 3-2 Roma

The run of consecutive results came to an unlikely end in Greece, and yet I struggle to think of things that concern me less than this. The run itself is, was, a useless statistic which was of no actual help. A curiosity, and little else. The loss itself is a more worthy catalyst for our despair and wailing, because it's never fun to lose. Especially not like that - dare I say alla Romana. Because for the last ten minutes, I was sitting there waiting for Roma to have the sort of reaction that Panathinaikos did. Turn around a deficit by whichever means? That's become our thing, so to see it re-appropriated like that and turned against ourselves was unsettling.

And we've seen it before, of course, against Cagliari. That time the team reacted favorably to the shock of conceding two late goals, and has since went on to brush off three pretenders to the Champions League spot Roma is trying to claim. The best we can hope for now is a similar reaction, to have the sloppiness of yesterday act as an alarm clock from hell. That's not to say that yesterday was a good thing per se - no one wants to lose, ever. But it is about being pragmatic; now that the loss has, de facto, occurred, the best outcome is to shape up and fall in line. Learn from the mistakes, and so on. Watching the reaction will be fascinating, if also a complete disaster for the overall status of my stress levels.

But to the point that matters - this result is still not terrible. As far as losses go, obviously. Maybe it's hubris, maybe it's the two first Greek goals yesterday which shocked me with the manner in which they were scored, but I do believe Roma is a better team than Panathinaikos and thus able to pass this playoff round. It will take considerably better defending on set pieces, and not much room for indefensible lapses of concentration, but it's doable. That's the good, comforting news.

The disconcerting news is that Doni looks to be playing at a capacity approximately a third that of Julio Sergio. None of the goals conceded were mistakes of the kind that made you wish for the good old days of Pelizzoli, but his entire aura projected a sense of uncertainty and failing confidence that a goalkeeper does not need, nor have time for. But I do not wish to leave Doni out to dry - before his injury last season he was a very good goalkeeper, who fell into a funk because of the whole playing six months with a hip injury. That kind of thing will limit a goalkeeper. He's the same player, essentially, today that he was then. The only difference is continuity, timing and confidence. All three are things anyone would inevitably lose to some degree, especially when it's been well over a year since full fitness last blessed him with its presence. There's no easy fix here, there's no guilty party we can blame for all that is wrong with the world, and more importantly, AS Roma. Doni needed to play to get back to previous levels, but couldn't since Julio Sergio was performing the finest goalkeeping the land has seen this season. When the latter goes down injured, Doni who's been out of focus for so long has to step up even if he's not anywhere near his own best. These are the breaks, and there's nothing to do about it. Save pray for the quick recovery of Julio Sergio. (Who, by the by, performed two new saves last night that can only be described with mostly religious terms.)

The above are all more questions pertaining to mentality, while there are things to talk about regarding actual, measurable performances too. Except I don't really know what to say - Roma played fine. They did. The brain freeze that occurred (albeit twice) when the Greeks scored their first two goals were more isolated to those set pieces, and not a reflection of allround bad play by Roma. The defense was fine, solid. (Except for Motta who got torched by the nth long haired Argentinean with good technique.) Pizarro was his usual magnificent self, the rest of the midfield were perfectly acceptable, if unusually quiet offensively. Which of course led to the isolation of Julio Baptista and Vucinic in attack. That Vucinic is special enough to invent that sort of goal is another thing, and Roma's blessing. Cerci, when he came on, was a real spark which resulted in a penalty and a couple of more good runs, but the momentum was killed off when Panathinaikos scored again. The only thing I'd have wished for was better midfield support, which would have lended an enormous hand to the entire offense as well. Julio Baptista, even if it's not entirely his fault, is not a player whom it suits to be playing a game like last night's; isolated, expected to do too much. I still believe he can function in the proper system, but that is nothing like last night's, so it seems futile to keep putting him in one expecting it to work.

In summation:

Good: Two goals scored; Pizarro

Bad: Three goals conceded; Julio Sergio injured

Balancing a pretty fine line so far, which means it should be a completely open game next week. Should be.