By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
They were supposed to make it a really rough ride. In the middle of a period during which Juventus have looked unconvincing in their ability to come to terms with a new heavier workload, Roma were meant to ensure the Bianconeri were put through the ringer.
Instead, a shambolic first 20 minutes at Juventus Stadium on Saturday night practically handed Juve three points and gave Antonio Conte’s men an easy ride ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk. If the draw with Fiorentina in midweek was their toughest test in recent memory, this was their biggest cakewalk in years. The Giallorossi were simply awful.
From the first minute, Juve attacked and Roma stood and watched. Paolo De Ceglie was allowed to get three crosses in even before the first goal, as the gameplan of getting at Rodrigo Taddei worked a treat. The Brazilian then brought down Claudio Marchisio as the last man, and Nicola Rizzoli decided that the contact warranted a free-kick but, somehow, not a red card. Still, the punishment was dealt by Andrea Pirlo anyway, firing low and hard into the far corner.
|MATCH FACTS | Juventus 4-1 Roma
There was no let-up, as Maarten Stekelenburg and Leandro Castan both failed to clear the ball sufficiently, and the big defender conceded a clear penalty for handball. Arturo Vidal dispatched the penalty, and two minutes later Alessandro Matri found himself in acres of space from which to slot home his first goal in seven months. Not 19 minutes had gone, and Roma were deservedly three down.
The onslaught continued, and could have got worse had efforts from Marchisio and Vucinic found the net rather than Stekelenburg’s crossbar. It was just the response that Juve fans were hoping for after Roma coach Zdenek Zeman added to his long rap sheet of anti-Bianconeri statements by claiming that Conte should step down last month, before stating that Massimo Carrera should have faced the media instead of Claudio Filippi for this week’s pre-match press conference. It was the Czech making all the bold statements in the build-up, but Juventus saved their talking for game time.
Understandably, the Old Lady’s foot came off the accelerator pedal a touch after the break, even if the frenzied Leonardo Bonucci was taking the game more seriously than perhaps any other he’d played in his life, even picking a fight at one point with team-mate Vucinic. Roma pulled one back from the spot thanks to Pablo Osvaldo after Bonucci brought down substitute Mattia Destro, but there was never a comeback on the cards.
Sebastian Giovinco tied up the result in the dying moments after Andrea Barzagli had steamed past Taddei down the wing. That Barzagli was made to look like Alexis Sanchez by the immobile full-back told many a story about the game as a whole. Juve were too good, and Roma were oh so bad. The visitors’ midfield got nowhere near their counterparts, while their back four and goalkeeper looked like a group of players dragged off the nearest public park five minutes before kick-off.
A much-closer affair had taken place at the Ennio Tardini earlier in the evening as AC Milan again failed to spark into life against Parma, being forced to settle for a 1-1 draw in torrential rain.
Once more it was Stephan El Shaarawy who looked the most likely to get the Rossoneri going, and he grabbed his fourth goal in under a week to put his side ahead early in the second half. But as soon as Parma showed the hunger to really get at Milan they succeeded, and Daniele Galloppa lashed home a low free-kick which deflected off the visitors’ wall on its way past Christian Abbiati.
The goalkeeper was then forced the make an awkward save after another shot from distance, as the Ducali played the conditions better than Massimiliano Allegri’s men had at any stage in the game. Once more, they were ill at ease on or off the ball, once more Kevin-Prince Boateng looked a shadow of the man who pulled up trees in his first two years in Italy, and once more there was a lack of dynamism at key moments.
Allegri’s job still hangs in the balance, but the fact that the points column ticked over again, coupled with the proximity of Wednesday’s trip to St Petersburg and next Sunday’s Milan derby, will probably combine to keep him in work for now. However, there was little about his team’s performance to suggest the pressure is even close to being released just yet, and it will be a surprise to many if he remains in charge beyond the international break should they head into the interval with just seven points from seven games.
Going into the midweek Champions League games, there must be confidence among Italian fans regarding the form of Juventus, but they will surely be concerned for Milan. Still, the Rossoneri can’t possibly perform as badly as Roma did last night.