Straight from the dark heart of Italy
The lights have gone out on AS Roma’s Champions League campaign and the way things are going back on the home front the off-switch will be flicked for some time to come.
The statistics and the frigid weather – Shakhtar Donetsk’s 53 undefeated home games, -7C and dropping – were already stacked up as handy reasons why the Giallorossi would leave the Ukraine with nothing more than mild frostbite.
Then why not make the task even more unfeasible by missing a penalty, having a man sent off and going a goal down, all in the first half?
The tie was lost in Rome in the dog days of Claudio Ranieri’s reign in the 3-2 first-leg defeat, and you could see from the players' demeanour and body language when they got off the bus in the belly of the Donbass Arena that they would love to be anywhere other than their current location – a Sardinian beach for example.
Francesco Totti was grim-faced in the knowledge that he would be on the bench for the duration – a clear sign that Vincenzo Montella had more or less given up the ghost and was already thinking ahead to the derby with Lazio at the weekend.
The only respite for the away players came when the game was temporarily paused after a section of the floodlighting failed or when a home player was receiving treatment following another scything foul. The usual suspects were playing on the edge of legality – Philippe Mexes and Daniele de Rossi in particular are combustible characters at the best of times so it was no surprise that they would soon get on the wrong side of referee Howard Webb.
The English official demanded respect for his authority Cartman-style early on by flashing a yellow card at Mexes, who is too flashy for his own good when he commits a foul. So when the French fancy was caught out of position before dragging back an opponent it was no shock that he was flicking his ponytail on the way to the dressing room.
Another player too much in love with his own reflection is Marco Borriello – the culprit who could have brought his side back into the contest before Mexes was sent off but instead of which hit a poor penalty which goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov saved in routine fashion. The playboy striker, whom Claudio Ranieri claimed was the first to complain whenever he wasn’t picked, is never far from the limelight; such is his enormous ego honed from being a bit-player at AC Milan that the world must revolve around his amazing being.
He had attempted to take the spot-kick at Lecce last Friday but was forced to bow to Davide Pizarro’s seniority; unfortunately that wasn't the case last night, although Montella revealed that the Chilean was on spot-kick duties and at the same time gave an insight into a leaderless club.
However, it was De Rossi’s reaction that could have the greatest repercussions. Home captain Darijo Srna did all he could to inflame Roman wrath with some verbal sparring and his Giallorossi counterpart unleashed one of his trademark elbows on the Croatian in retaliation – the sword being much more painful than the word.
De Rossi had escaped with a short-arm hook to Dymtro Chygrynskiy in the first leg and it will be major surprise if he does not receive a severe sanction when the video evidence is viewed once again, proving that the heir-apparent to Totti has learnt little since the Brian McBride incident at the 2006 World Cup and will now join fellow miscreant Rino Gattuso in UEFA’s rogues gallery.
The climatic conditions may have been well below freezing but the temperature on the pitch was kept at boiling point, with Borriello and then John Arne Riise attempting to take a chunk out of Srna’s leg while Pizarro became more and more annoyed to the point where he just decided to belt the ball at the third goalscorer Eduardo.
The final 6-2 aggregate scoreline can be set alongside the 8-3 humiliation at Manchester United, but at least a good omen ahead of the derby is that generally the side coming into the encounter in worse form come out winners – cold comfort at this point in what was another embarrassing outing for an Italian club in Europe.
Desperate exit, alright. I don't think one player played well. Rosi at least tried when he came on. Roma were okay at the start and tried to make a game of it but gave up after Mexes went off. Thought his second yellow was a bit harsh. It was a challenge we see all the time in football that doesn't get punished.
As for De Rossi, I think, at his age Roma might be better off selling him. He has faded in the last few seasons but still has a big reputation. If they can get 20m for him then they should sell. Or, ring Mancini and those idiots might pay 30.
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