Champagne Wishes Pt. 2

Maybe it was the trend he started when he won Roma's first game against Milan away in twenty years, maybe it was seeing Doni between the sticks, but this game made me think of Luciano Spalletti. When he quit Roma, it felt bad that it had to end, but not that it did. Does that make sense to anyone but me? He had to go, and probably should have gone three months earlier. Not by his own fault only, but when it's time it's time. When I say that this game made me think of him, it's not so much him in flesh, blood and shining head that I miss, as much as it is the imprint he gave this team. Ranieri continued the tradition he began by winning at San Siro, but couldn't have done it in a more different way.

Where Spalletti's Roma looked like they needed a carrot and stick in order to reign themselves in and not attack relentlessly every single time the ball was won, Ranieri's Roma looks as if it needs the carrot and stick in order to start attacking in the first place. If you counted a chance for Roma during tonight's opening 45 minutes, it must have come about when I dozed off. That's not to say Roma played bad. Quite the contrary, actually, as long as you don't feel an unbearable desire to factor in the attacking part of football. Save an energetic start to the game by Milan, the hosts mostly came through on goal when Roma's defenders were standing tidily in line ten meters back, and the poor assistant referee waving his little flag so frenetically for offside that he was in clear and present danger of tearing shoulder ligaments. DDR was great, and how come I've watched him for scores of thousands of hours during his career but only saw his resemblance to Russell Crowe's Gladiator tonight? Has this been an ongoing, inside thing I was the only one in the world not let in on? Now that I see it, it feels impossible to have missed it before, and I figure only I could be that oblivious for so long. But if I don't move on now, you'll be stuck with a 700 word piece on my ambivalence to the film Gladiator, so new topic as quickly as possible: Brighi! Sure, but it's not the most exciting topic to talk about. He wasn't very good, although the good news is all of Milan's midfield players were down in the same cellar as he searching for some semblance of game. Simplicio had it in spades, and Ménez's came and went. Luckily he hung onto it long enough for it to matter, as he set up the only goal of the game. There's something about Ménez and Milan that just clicks. (I would be lying through my teeth if I said I didn't think of that game and post the second I saw Maldini in the stands tonight).

But for the most part, Roma's offense was utilitarian rather than inspiring. Adriano, resembling an ox both figuratively and literally, had his best game as a Roma player as his effort (in the truest sense of the word) gave Roma respite during the second half. Borriello huffed and he puffed, and eventually he managed to blow the house in. There's a lot to say still, and there's a dead horse beside me as I type this which I could keep on beating, but perhaps this isn't the time to obsess about Roma playing such an economical brand of football. The champagne wishes of three points did, after all, come true. Roma close the year seven points off the pace set by tonight's opponent. Seven isn't the same as resounding job approval, but it's better than ten, let alone the potential 13. And Roma closed that gap with an away win, implausibly the first one of its kind this serie A season. Roma has traveled to Brescia, Parma and Verona this season, but only break the taboo when faced with the league leaders, a curiosity that goes hand in hand with that of Roma playing worse against bottom team Bari than this Milan. It is a strange team, which in that sense manages to entertain even when the on pitch performances does little to.