Roma 1-2 Sampdoria: awful second half display may cost Roma the title

April 26, 2010

A shock result if you didn’t see the game – and even more of a shock result if you did. Roma were magnificent in the first half, but somehow let their lead slip, as Giampaolo Pazzini converted two left-wing crosses to hand Roma their first defeat in 26 league games.

After last weekend’s failed experiment with a 4-3-3 shape, Claudio Ranieri reverted to his customary lopsided 4-2-3-1 shape, with Luca Toni dropped at the expense of Jeremy Menez, who played on the right. Mirko Vucinic stayed wide-left, with Francesco Totti as a false nine.

Sampdoria also played their usual shape – a 4-4-2, 4-2-2-2 or even 4-2-3-1 if you like – Cassano played as a second striker rather than a trequartista, the two central midfielders sat very deep in front of the back four, and two out-and-out wingers tried to get crosses in for Pazzini.

Roma were superb in the first half – their passing was immaculate, their movement off-the-ball confused Sampdoria’s backline, Vucinic was a constant threat cutting in from the left, and David Pizarro had another excellent game in the centre of midfield. They went ahead inside the opening quarter of an hour – Vucinic cutting the ball back for Totti to sweep into the far post.

Roma’s attacks almost always came down their left-hand side. John Arne Riise was typically charging up and down the left flank, forcing Franco Semioli into a purely defensive role for most of the first half. It is vital that Riise gets forward for Roma’s formation to work properly – with Vucinic, the closest thing to an out-and-out striker in this XI, on the left, Riise moving forward on the overlap give Vucinic license to cut inside, as he did on numerous times to great effect – although his final ball was often poor, and he became involved in a confrtontation with Simone Perrotta following one instance of him wasting a good chance. The Roma full-backs have a good understanding, however – wary of leaving 2 v v 2 at the back, only one of Riise and Marco Cassetti got forward at any one moment.

Sampdoria struggled for possession because there was simply no pressure upon Roma’s two central midfielders. Cassano was playing alongside Pazzini rather than dropping into a deeper role, and Angelo Palombo and Andrea Poli sat deep in front of their own defence, and so both Daniele de Rossi and David Pizarro had all the time in the world to knock passes towards the attacking players, and Sampdoria struggled with Perrotta and de Rossi’s late runs into the box.

Samp also played a surprisingly high offside line – this played into the hands of Vucinic, as Roma continually knocked the ball in behind Luciano Zauri for him to chase – against teams playing without a traditional striker, playing a deep line is often more effective, to prevent midfield runners exploiting the space left when the centre-backs follow the false nine.

The away side tended to play on the counter, getting the ball quickly to Franco Semioli and Stefano Guberti and trying to get crosses in, and in fairness to Sampdoria, they often got five players in and around the box on their rare forays forward.

In the second half, Roma suddenly looked out-of-sorts. Their quick passing had been replaced by a more sluggish, direct approach which handed possession back to Sampdoria quickly. Pizarro continued playing an intelligent game, but Perrotta kept giving the ball away, and the defenders’ passing was too long.

Sampdoria equalised when Pazzini headed home an Antonio Cassano cross from the left, and Roma took off Perrotta for Luca Toni. Unfortunately this merely seemed to increase their passing problems – there was more of an incentive to hit the ball long, and although Toni was a nuisance, Samp coped reasonably well with his aerial threat, especially when compared with Roma’s slick passing in the first half.

Ranieri went for broke, taking off Cassetti, the right-back, and replacing him with Rodrigo Taddei, a right-winger by trade. They had to go for the win, and the change was both logical and understandable – but ultimately it cost Roma the second Sampdoria goal. Taddei was far too forward and left Daniele Mannini unmarked, who crossed for Pazzini’s second. This shows show how high up the pitch Taddei was, leaving the eventual assister free:

It’s tough on Ranieri, but the substitution at right-back was the reason they eventually lost the game, although it was a gamble he had to take.

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