Roma 4-2 Udinese

If it weren't for the fact that Roma is in the wake of not one but two teams in serie A, both infinitely richer and stronger, and that I not one hour ago said I would refuse to discuss any potential situation pertaining to Roma's title hopes - if it weren't for those (rather strong) reasons I would probably echo Burdisso's comment and call this the kind of game that wins titles. Yes, it was that special.

With half the starting eleven (almost) suspended in unison, a makeshift midfield even laziali would scoff at and the capocannoniere extraordinaire Di Natale taking his show on the road, Roma still managed three points. Yes, it was slightly overdue, as we note the first victory in March. Yes, it was against a Udinese team that have been struggling to collect points this year. But they're still a quality team, and whatever happened in the games preceding this one, it was three valuable and heavy points. 

With a starting midfield of Faty, Brighi and Perrotta, the key was for them to cope with Udinese's counterparts. That counterpart contains - for the sake of perspective - one ultra dynamic stud who recently lit up the African Cup of Nations and will wreak havoc on the private life of Udinese's DS this summer with half of Europe looking to get him; one defensive midfielder who's as tough as nails and yields ground to no one in serie A, he too being predicted a very bright future with many zeros on his coming paychecks. But the rag-tag home midfield did their part (no less impressive just because that is the basic formula for every sports movie ever made), and at least contained the midfield and made sure the team didn't get overwhelmed from there onwards which allowed the defense to play with more calm, and more serenity. Even if Udinese did attack well at times, they handled it very well for the most part. The penalty and pinball-esque set up for the second goal notwithstanding, they played them well and allowed little to slip through the cracks. Julio Sergio's most active involvement in the game was probably on handling, with ease, a Pasquale long shot in the seventh minute, which says something for the defense's work.

On the other side of the halfway line, the offensive forces of Toni, Vucinic and Ménez destroyed Udinese. 

This time around he took the backseat to others in the offense, but no sooner than he had scored a goal that likely could only have been scored by him. Certainly only him in Roma, likely by few if any others in the entire league. Like I wrote last week about something he had done then that he wasn't as aesthetically pleasing as younger, more limber attackers not yet the made to feel the cumulative pain of ten years worth of late tackles from behind, knees in the back and studs on the calf, but he is no less effective for it. I'm admittedly fawning over Toni consistently, but watching him play is so entertaining, ever since he came to Rome. It's like a nature documentary, in which I marvel at his size, rationality and sheer brute force.

I don't know what to say that his three goals haven't already. Mirko's skill set is a rare mix between supreme technical skills and a willingness to run and sacrifice himself for the team like an unskilled worker of football who relies only on stamina and that self sacrifice to get by in professional football. The fact that he's streaky and moody must be the a safety measure thrown in by the footballing gods in order to ensure he doesn't take over completely and rule the world, because it's one of the few flaws he has. But even that hasn't been visible of late, and Mirko's gone on an unlikely streak. He's scored against good teams and worse, in impossible situations and in improbable situations. The first goal is testimony to that characteristic, and it is a perfect testimony to one of his specialties; running at the goal, pinning the hapless defender back and finishing exquisitely. 

- Ode to Ménez
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Vucinic scored three goals, and as such it's hard to take away from him the nomination of being the best most dominant player in the game. It would probably take the kind of performance Jérémy Ménez put in, because even if Vucinic was immense, Ménez takes my highly fictional and proverbial prize. It topped his previous peak, where he crashed and stole Maldini's farewell party. He dribbled, he worked, he assisted and he laid the plans to Roma's victory. I don't remember-and Il Corriere dello Sport backs me up-a single time when he gave the ball away after a dribbling attempt, which given the frequency with which he does dribble is scary good. But most importantly it was the shouldering of responsibility that Ranieri has been trying to provoke in him for the past four or five months. Too many times he's been defiant and opted not to play along as Ranieri would have him do, but against Udinese he stepped it up and was all that he can be. The effect was a powerful weapon to add to Roma's arsenal as the race to finish at some place in the serie A table enters its final stretch. And for everyone who enjoys seeing footballers who make the ticket price worthwhile, Ménez is a revelation.

- Ode to mental fortitude
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When Udinese scored the 2-2 goal it was an unwelcome reminder of the many times in the month of March where a lead has been dropped and points lost. When it happened yesterday it would have been easy, and understandable (if not good or impressive) if the fear of it happening again would have played out as a self fulfilling prophecy, and block Roma for the rest of the game. Instead they continued to play like the team had before this month, and attacked with poise and determination. The end result is...well, the end result. 
I include in this ode a mini ode to Pettinari, yesterday showing just such mental fortitude. In his serie A debut he played few minutes, but acted as if it didn't phase him in the slightest. And he hit a great corner kick which Burdisso nearly scored on, which knowing Roma's lack of success with corner kicks going past the first possible hurdle in the form of an opposition shirt, is impressive and encouraging.