Roma 3-3 Livorno (Pek non aver paura di sbagliare un calcio di rigore, non è mica da questi particolari che si giudica un giocatore)

When Mirko Vucinic was confirmed injured and out of contention for the Livorno game, I hoped that Roma would be fine even in his absence. The return of Luca Toni could perhaps work to scrap together a goal for Roma, which would take us a long way towards victory. I was right in part, but more importantly and noteworthy I was very, very wrong.

Roma managed to score goals even while missing Mirko, and instead the defense failed the team immensely. Okay, that isn't a novelty any longer considering  their recent humbling exploits (Panathinaikos x2, Napoli), but their supreme form is still so fresh in my mind that it does feel weird. Like a mini betrayal from someone you thought you could trust. The only one completely exempt from blame in defense today is Riise, who had nothing to do with anything in the negative column. The rest, however? The rest:
  • Julio Sergio didn't mess up on any of the goals, and it's a hard sell to to try to push any of the Lucarelli goals as mistakes or errors on his part. He was just an ordinary goalkeeper out there today, and while that isn't a huge problem in and of itself, he's only on this list because his own insane ceiling betrays him today and makes him look ordinary. Basically only compared to himself this season could he look not so great today. It's like criticism dipped in two layers of compliments, at least in my mind.
  • Mexès continues to live a less than brilliant period of his life, off and on the field. First his house was burgled with his wife, children and family inside; then the earthquake in Chile no doubt caused stress since his wife is from that country; then the handball penalty away to Napoli; today he was an accomplice to the bigger offender. That means he gets off more lightly, but it's also a reminder that he needs to step it up. All the talk about him being sold is complete nonsense however, and I refuse to entertain the idea.
  • Juan is the man, but the penalty for his handball was clear, and it was just. No complaints about the decision, only about his action.
  • Motta: jokes about players needing to learn the rules and offside trap are as common as disappointing days in the life of a laziale, and I want to at least try not to appeal to the lowest common denominators. But shitdamnmotherfucker, the amount of problems he created for Roma today is hard to achieve usually. On the first goal he's too lazy/too slow of the mind to realize that he should take two steps forward to spring an offside trap on Lucarelli. On the second...well, just read the previous sentence once again. It was the exact same thing, only even worse. Again, I don't want to make low brow jokes about this, but the offside rule is a fairly basic concept most defenders should have mastered by now. One defensive screw up is fine (see Juan, whom I forgive easily in the big picture), two of them that look like photo copies of each other? That's a hard pill to swallow.
But perhaps the blame should be applied collectively for the strangest fact of them all: they allowed a player who looks like he's pregnant score three goals.

Some will no doubt also want to blame Pizarro for the missed penalty, but I stand by him. A penalty miss can happen to any player in the world, and this type of detail isn't what defines a player (as De Gregori sang). His goal scored and general play in the game makes it a positive balance for him in my book, and if anyone is not yet convinced: go back and look at what happened to Roma's game after he went off.

The fact that Livorno, even suckier than Lazio, managed to score three and keep a point is, of course, frustrating. And while it meant a spoiled opportunity to gain ground on Inter, I still am of the belief that the four point gap that would have been would be nothing more than a mirage. I'm looking back, downwards, to make sure at least the third spot is Roma's, and to hell with what that says of my level of ambition. What's disappointing is the old buckling under pressure / ruining good opportunities when they present themselves on a silver platter. We could go back to every spring of the past five or fifty springs to recall similar games where we unnecessarily drop points to an objectively much worse opponent. It gets old. Which is more than I can say about Luca Toni.

I don't remember the last time I took a new player to heart as quickly as I have Luca Toni. I do find him endearing with his strange goofy charm, but it can almost exclusively be written down as admiration for him as a footballer and what he does for Roma. Today was the first game back since the injury against Juve roughly six weeks ago, but he still scored a goal and showed why having a an apex predator in attack helps out in more ways than the goals he scores himself.



See that? I've re-watched that goal more than I have Toni's own, just because I get weak in the knees when something so simple is executed to perfection, and it reaps such rewards. The way Toni pulls the defender out of the zone by faking an attack to the first post is surely not as refined as the numbers that younger, more agile attackers are doing nowadays, but it is no less valuable. It's simple, but effective. We've missed that.

To close on a sunny note, I say it could be worse. Incidentally, how did Juve and Lazio do today? I haven't checked yet.