Udinese 1-2 Roma: quiet first half followed by exciting second, and frantic finish
Francesco Totti was the hero again, scoring a chipped penalty and a 94th minute winner.
Gokhan Inler was suspended for Udinese, so fellow Swiss international Almen Abdi took his place. Alexis Sanchez was initially named in the starting XI, but a late injury meant he dropped out of the side, with German Denis coming in.
Vincenzo Montella was without Philippe Mexes, Jeremy Menez and Julio Sergio. Aleandro Rosi started on the right, with Matteo Brighi ahead of David Pizarro and Daniele De Rossi in the midfield trio.
The first half was slightly subdued, with neither side putting together many good attacks, and each slightly waiting for the other to make the first move. The game opened out in the second period, as both sides went for the victory.
Udinese were playing their usual shape, a broad 3-5-2 system that could also be defined as a 3-1-4-2. The late change had a significant impact on the way the team played, however. Denis is no Sanchez – certainly not in terms of ability, and not in terms of style either. Whilst Sanchez drops deep to pick up the ball and comes to the flanks, Denis is more of a classic central striker, and Udinese hit long balls towards him early on. This hampered their build-up play, usually based around slick, short passing.
Roma’s problem was not dissimilar, in that they tried to play their usual system with a functional player where they could have done with a skilful one. Brighi is not really a central attacking midfielder – he’s more of a defensive, energetic battler, and he played quite deep, making Roma look more like a 4-3-3 than the 4-2-3-1 Montella might have intended. Mirko Vucinic played his usual role high on the left, but Rosi was much deeper on the right.
Rosi was Roma’s most promising player in the early stages, given a decent amount of space because of how the two formations matched up. Marking Vucinic was Mehdi Benatia’s man – Vucinic played high up against him, and Benatia was happy to move to the touchline with two covering defenders in the middle, especially as Roma lacked pace in attacking zones aside from Vucinic. Down that side, Mauricio Isla’s defensive job usually involved keeping an eye on John Arne Riise, rather than Vucinic, until Roma’s attacks developed further.
It was more complicated on the other side, however, where Udinese had to pass Rosi between Maurizio Domizzi and Pablo Armero. Rosi couldn’t be picked up solely by Domizzi – that would have left Udinese 3 v 3 at the back, with the three spread across the width of the pitch with huge gaps inbetween, and so Armero had to be more defensive-minded than Isla. Whilst Kwadwo Asamoah tended to make runs towards the left when attacking to provide width on the left, Armero still got forward. Rosi often tracked him, but Armero’s advanced position meant that Rosi was sometimes able to scamper into space down that side. Indeed, Pizarro found him free on that flank with a wonderful pass after just 45 seconds, and although Rosi’s end product was disappointing, he was a threat.
Udinese didn’t play well with the ball, and clearly missed Sanchez. Antonio Di Natale had to play deeper and perform some of the tasks the Chilean would usually do – which made him less of a goal threat. Denis battled hard but had little effect on the game.
The main feature of Udinese’s attacks was simply a tendency to switch play from one side to the other. They played much wider than Roma, and usually one of the two wing-backs was spare on the flank. A quick crossfield ball changed the angle of the attack (Isla was often free as Riise tucked in), and Udinese probably should have made more of these opportunities.
The second half picked up broadly where the first left off, though both sides played higher up the pitch and were more attacking. The higher defensive lines meant both attempted longer passes over each other’s defence, with a few offside decisions just after half time.
There were no major tactical shifts before the first goal, scored by Totti from the penalty spot. Some neat passing down Roma’s right resulted in Pizarro being tripped in the area – cleverly winning fouls is another of his specialities – and Roma had a lead that, on the balance of play, they just about deserved.
Udinese aren’t particularly used to being behind in matches at home, and that was obvious after going 1-0 down, as their response was very poor. Part of the problem, of course, is their natural strategy – they get bodies back into position, particularly the two wing-backs, then look to win the ball deep and break quickly at pace.
That strategy isn’t very useful when behind, though – you need to press higher up, pressure the opposition into a mistake and force the issue. With Udinese sitting deep, Roma simply passed the ball across midfield, retaining possession and seeing the game out. It seemed they’d done a very professional job, and Montella switched to a 4-4-1-1 with Totti just off substitute Marco Borriello.
Franceco Guidolin made his substitutions relatively late on – 69, 72 and 86 minutes. He used them intelligently, however, and got Udinese back in the game. His first change was of little consequence, but his second – Bernardo Corradi on for Denis – made Udinese more dangerous with longer balls, as the former Lazio man competed much better against Roma’s centre-backs.
The third change, the young Czech Matej Vydra on for Domizzi, was simply a ’striker on for a defender with five minutes to go’ gamble, but it did cause confusion in the Roma penalty area, and provided extra energy upfront. He wasn’t directly involved in the equalising goal, but Corradi was – he won a header and knocked it down for Di Natale, who finished.
It looked like the game was over, but Udinese were suddenly very disorganised without Domizzi at the back, and were in a rough makeshift back four that looked vulnerable to Roma attacks. Totti found space in the hole, and with the last kick of the game, settled the match by poking in at the near post.
The first half was interesting rather than entertaining, with both sides trying to work the ball down the flanks. Neither side had anything like a trequartista and there was a lack of creativity from that kind of position (Pizarro was clearly the most intelligent passer on the pitch against his old side) which meant relatively few goalscoring chances.
Both tried to win the game, and Roma were the better team – they kept possession well and largely defended solidly.Udinese 1-2 Roma: quiet first half followed by exciting second, and frantic finish