Two sides who had had completely opposite starts to the season marked the beginning of the Saturday schedule Serie A. After topping the table Chievo now lie 10th and Roma have long since overtaken them into 7th place and are looking to push on and trouble the sides at the top. The pitch at Bentegodi was in an awful condition, a huge bare strip down the centre left it looking somewhat reminiscent of the DW stadium in Wigan – the DW would’ve been embarrassed of this pitch though. The conditions meant that we were to see more than a few stray challenges flying in throughout the course of the game.
We saw a rare start for Brazilian Adriano alongside Vucinic, and Roma decided to play their usual narrow 4-3-1-2 with Simplicio behind the two strikers. Chievo 4-3-3/4-5-1 asking the wide players to do lots of tracking back and very often leaving Sergio Pellissier all alone up front to try and get the better of Mexes and Burdisso. Long hopeful balls were a big feature in Chievo’s early play, sadly so was the offside flag with Pellissier often finding himself in an offside position.
Roma’s first goal came from a set piece, with a high ball delivered into the box and none of the Chievo players willing to put their head on it. Fabio Simplicio gambled at the back post, a bit of gangly juggling to get the ball under some control before lifting it over onrushing Sorrentino in the Chievo goal. Simplicio got a second goal by prodding at a ball across the face of the goal, it ballooned up of his foot and went into the net off the far post – Roma were leading 2-0 at the break.
Pioli made a positive change for Chievo on the hour mark bringing on forward Granoche for Marcolini in midfield and pushed 3 men up front, but they were allowed back into the game by way of a goalkeeping blunder. Moscardelli aimed a weak shot at Julio Sergio in goal and the keeper went down far too early, allowing the ball to bounce over his hands and into the net – at this point it seemed as though Chievo were going to have a go and were having a short spell in the ascendency. At least Pellissier had some company up front now though.
Lack of width
Paolo Castellini was in for the injured John Arne Riise and provided some attacking width from left back, this proved to be very important with the absence of any real threat on the wings from any of the attacking players. This meant Chievo had little work to do in order to defend their goal, they were able to stay within the lines of the 18 yard box and clear up any flicks that may have evaded the first man. When Roma did go wide they struck their second goal after movement on the right hand flank, but they failed to learn any lessons from this. As well as stretching the defence it was a matter of practicality, the pitch was bare and appeared water logged in the centre and playing the ball on the flanks would have been much easier for the players.
The width that Castellini provided was not reciprocated on the opposite flank, Cassetti is very reluctant to go forward and prefers to tuck in and help his centre backs instead. This gives the side a very lopsided formation and we see much of the attack going through the centre and left – accentuated when Vucinic plays because the Montenegrin perennially enjoys drifting into the inside left channel and causes lots of problems from this position.
Ranieri’s first change was to remove Leandro Greco for right winger Rodrigo Taddei, the formation did not change though and Taddei simply played out on the left and came inside. There were few wide options open to Ranieri, his squad is very much set up to play 4-3-1-2 and not a lot else which does raise worries about their adaptability to situations.
Roma spent most of the 90 minutes dominating territory and possession, they failed to make many real guilt edged chances though. The goals they conceded were born of very poor lapses of concentration, a real shame to see after going in 2-0 up at half time. As the game wore on they stopped trying to play the sort of football that had given them the lead and kept looking for the long ball option. As the game progressed the Roma back line became deeper and deeper and left the Roma looking particularly disjointed.
The Roma back line had looked very organised for the majority of the game, but when Chievo pumped a ball forward once more looking for the flick on Burdisso tried to step up but 3 other players played Granoche onside. Granoche was clear through on goal and on the edge of the 18 yard box, he didn’t have far to go before sliding the ball underneath Julio Sergio. It has to be handed to Stefano Pioli for throwing men forward, but Roma should not have conceded this goal and indeed they probably would not have if complacency hadn’t crept in.
It might be that they were told not to have the ball on the ground because of the conditions but that would be contradicted by the introduction of Jeremy Menez for Simplicio. Menez is known for his great dribbling rather than his passing and thus not the ideal solution, perhaps the introduction of David Pizarro would have made more sense. Pizarro may have been able to spray some passes to the Roma forwards to collect from a deeper position.
In the end it wasn’t any sort of tactical master stroke that proved the deciding factor. Chievo continued to play long balls up to Pellissier, something that they had been doing for the duration of the game. The Roma back line allowed this to prove successful by withdrawing from their original high line and losing concentration as well as organisation. By the time Roma had resorted to this tactic themselves in a state of panic, Adriano had left the field – he had previously been their best player in the air. A win would have taken the side from the capital into 3rd position and put pressure on Juventus and Napoli to match their accomplishment – the recovery will have to wait a little while longer.