The Ghost of Luciano Spalletti

When Taddei crossed the ball across the Shakthar penalty area, Perrotta turning up at the far post, it was as if we'd hit a snag on the timeline and looped into some Spalletti-ball of previous years. Those two players were symbolic of that Roma, albeit in a different way than Totti. They represented the sudden jolt forward the team made in early 2006, a leap of quality possibly only matched by the sort of sudden acceleration The Millennium Falcon would be capable of. Their contributions helped Roma to legendary European nights in Lyon and Madrid.

On the other side of a three goal deluge, the mirage was gone. Taddei and Perrotta were still there, and while not culpable for the goals allowed, symbolic of this Roma as well. They used to be the perfect, eclectic pieces to Spalletti's puzzle, both adding a vital and needed skill set while always playing with their heart on their sleeve; now they just play with their heart on their sleeve. Gone is the magic, gone is them both fitting in to be a part of a sum far greater than its parts. Today's Roma is a black hole in contrast, the grand sum of all eleven players much inferior to what the parts suggests it could be.

Shakhtar's goals were, it could be argued, incidental. An own goal deflected the ball over a hapless Doni, midfield being a step slow to close down gave way to a very good goal, and Riise fell and couldn't get up. But there's nothing incidental about the way this Roma team loses games any longer. The individual errors can't keep happening and still be freak accidents, they betray something more disturbing. Having been the better team before this game's three errors had been made—and duly capitalized on—Roma again played better during the second half. But apart from Ménez's goal (for which I have no words, and even if I did I wouldn't want to taint its magnificence by connecting it to this night too much), Roma could do nothing. Roma did nothing. There was no plan, seemingly no previously discussed way of creating more chances. Ranieri has stripped down Spalletti's Roma to nothing but nuts and bolts. Ironically, it's a yellow-red wreckage with the same mental frailties that he inherited and has tried hard to wipe out. Left are none of the redeeming qualities.