TOTTI SAVES ROMA IN COPPA CLASH
When AS Roma were drawn to play mid-table Serie B side Padova, almost everybody expected the top division leaders to bounce back from their recent poor form and grab a strong win. While on paper it may seem as though they did so, in truth the match was anything but easy, and the only performance that one could call strong was that of Francesco Totti himself.
Totti made a couple of changes to his usual XI for the Coppa Italia encounter, starting Tin Jedvaj, Gervinho, Mattia Destro, and giving new signing Antonio Adan his first start. However, his team, which lined up in a new 4-3-3 formation, struggled to keep the ball or have a major impact on the game for much of the match.
Despite their inability to keep much possession, many of the game’s early chances fell to Roma mainly due to the dribbling endeavors of Adem Ljajic down the left flank. Just five minutes in the wily Serb drifted past two Padova defenders before slipping Mattia Destro through on goal, only for Colombi to make a top class save to prevent an early disaster for his club.
The Giallorossi otherwise struggled and debutant Antonio Adan was called into action almost on the stroke of halftime when he made a spectacular diving save to deny Maneiro’s long range effort. The ex-Real Madrid goalkeeper hardly put a foot wrong all game, and, judging from his performance in this match, may just stake a claim in De Sanctis’ spot in the XI.
Then, controversy struck. Croatian starlet Tin Jedvaj was adjudged to have been pushed by Padova striker Maneiro in the box as he rose for a corner kick and a very soft penalty was given to Roma. Adem Ljajic stepped up, and, despite looking confident, rifled the spot kick well wide of the target. He tried to make up for the miss a minute later with a cracking long range effort that struck the crossbar, and thus what looked like would be Roma’s only true chance of the game went unfinished.
Then il Gladiatore di Roma struck.
Sensing that his side was in need of a goal, player-manager Francesco Totti subbed himself on and switched the tactics back to a 4-3-1-2 as he informed his side to look for a late winner. As the legendary captain so often he does, Totti came up absolutely huge.
First he played provider. The Giallorossi were swarming forward, probing and passing around the Padova penalty area, seeking the goal to spare their blushes and project them into the next round of fixtures, and it came in the unlikely form of left back Dodo. The Brazilian defender pinged the ball into Totti who laid it back perfectly for a first time shot, and Dodo made no mistake, burying it in the top corner.
In injury time, Totti sealed the deal after he was unceremoniously hacked down by Padova defender Legati. Totti stepped up to take the penalty he had earned and made absolutely no mistake, hammering the ball past Colombi for his eighth goal of the season to double his side’s slender advantage and secure passage to the next round.
“We were very poor today,” said Totti after the match. “Padova gave us a very good match, and we were not up to scratch until the final ten minutes. However, we got the win in the end, and now we have to improve on this performance in a few days against Napoli.”
Later this month, coincidentally enough, Roma will travel to the Stadio San Paolo to take on Napoli in the next round of the Coppa Italia.