Roma 1-0 Catania

At precisely 3pm on Sunday, I wasn't exactly mouthing off. Roma were, again, without the world's most fearsome duo ever (which we have to assume they are, since they're never been available at the same time) of Totti and Toni. Mexès sat the game out since his house had been burgled during the night. Julio Sergio missed his first of hopefully few games out injured. And to top it off, Pizarro wasn't playing. I have learned, the hard way, to handle Totti missing. Toni disappeared as soon as he came in so the transition there isn't great. But to have Pek missing is new territory, this is traveling far into the unknown with a cyanide capsule under the tongue in case something horrible goes down that we don't want to see.

Somewhere between five and ten minutes later, that nervousness had morphed into an overwhelming desire to get on my knees and kiss the ground Ranieri walks on. In light of all of the absentees and the importance they each have to this team's identity, Ranieri erased the board and put forth a perfectly balanced creation. It was beautiful, even if it wasn't actually beautiful. By that I refer to the beauty found in the degree of difficulty that throwing together a new look and mentality for a one off game connotes, even if the actual game left something to be desired in the second half.

The front three consisted of a remarkable Vucinic, an energetic Cerci and a dutiful Ménez, all bopping and weaving from their respective vantage point. The midfield behind them was industrious, in light of the absence Pek's conducting abilities, but solid and workmanlike. The defense was, again superb, and balanced perfectly by Motta's omittance and Cassetti's insertion. Doni was seldom forced to take action, but did so calmly and collected whenever he was. For a mundane February Sunday against serie B-destined opposition, it was enchanting. Just consider the back heel tackle by Juan in the first half (seeing is believing, no description could do it justice), which was possibly the most spectacular thing I have ever seen anyone do with a football. Or consider the faith awarded to Cerci and Ménez, after weeks of me fearing that Ranieri would smash their heads together in a post game locker room, and how disciplined they were in managing that trust. Or Baptista, who entered the game under a wave of whistles, but dutifully as always, did whatever he could, with what he has. The four minutes in overtime spent wrestling by the corner flag were hilarious and, I believe, symbolic of the player's as well as the team's dedication to winning.

As an afterthought, how funny was it to see the player that Lazio fought for, lost, and then scored the only goal in Catania's relegation battle extraordinaire be so...horrible? He spent so much time in the offside zone, he made Pippo Inzaghi look like an infrequent weekend visitor. Oh the life of a laziale, how gruesome it must be. In Roma's attack there's something different, there's Mirko Vucinic. If I posted a poem a day about how important and wonderful he is, it would still fall sadly short of reflecting his true value and beauty. He has carried this team in the absence of Totti and Toni, and we can only hope he carries it with him to Thursday.