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Udinese rains on Roma's parade

Posted by Matt Pepin, Staff  October 30, 2012 07:52 AM

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ROME -- In the end, AS Roma has no one to blame but itself. Up 2-0 courtesy of goals by Erik Lamela, Roma still found a way to blow another lead and sustain a 3-2 loss to Udinese on Sunday evening. Despite the morning forecasts saying Rome would be hit hard by rain all day long, 36,470 braved the elements to make it to the game -- though they ended up watching Udinese rain over their parade.

In fact, Roma started out well. Pablo Osvaldo had a point blank header parried away by a reaction save from Udinese goalkeeper Zelijko Brkic in the fourth minute. Next, Lamela peppered the goal with three chances from in close, all of which came inches from going in. But in the 21st minute, Lamela made his mark by dribbling down the end line, faking a shot with his right foot, and then burying a left-footer from in an almost-impossible angle about two feet from goal.

Lamela’s next goal came 60 seconds later. Francesco Totti picked out Osvaldo making a run down the left flank, Osvaldo then crossed Totti’s pass into the path of Lamela, who buried the chance with a diving header for his fifth goal of the season.

Roma has been ahead, 2-0, before this season. Sometimes, Roma close it out to win. On Sept. 16, it let Bologna climb back and lost, 3-2.

Playing in coach Zdnek Zeman’s preferred 4-3-3 formation, the Roma midfield shut down and left too many gaps to exploit. Forwards stopped getting chances and defenders faced added pressure. It didn’t take long for the mental lapses to start to set in, either.

In the 31st minute, Osvaldo miscleared a freekick into the path of Maurizio Domizzi, who collected the ball alone in the penalty area and fired past Maarten Stekelenburg to cut the lead in half. Udinese controlled possession for the remainder of the half, though Roma managed to slip into halftime with the lead.

But Roma had nowhere to hide in the second half. The rain came down harder and Udinese attacked more frequently. In the 58th minute, Antonio DiNatale collected a cross from Pablo Armero and had plenty of time and space in the penalty area to swing his right foot onto the ball and power it past Stekelenburg for the game tying goal. Jose Dodo, who made his first start with Roma, lost track of DiNatale, who slipped through unmarked.

Zeman switched out Dodo for Marquinho, though the move did little to fix Roma’s missteps on the ball. Totti, Lamela, and Osvaldo all tried to reawaken the attack and re-take the lead. Roma’s second half was a sequence of bad passes, blocked shots, and spats with referee Davide Massa.

Both fans and players lost patience with Massa. First, he stopped the game to re-clip the earpiece of an assistant referee. Next, he failed to quell an argument between Daniele De Rossi and Armero about stalling. After that, he awarded Udinese a penalty kick for a push by Leandro Castan on Reginaldo in the 87th minute.

DiNatale converted the penalty by chipping past Stekelenburg for his fourth goal of the season. The fans' groans doubled when assistant referee announced that there would only be three minutes of stoppage time -- despite Massa’s stops and interferences.

Though Massa’s calls influenced the game, Roma needs to be aware of a recurring theme. No matter what group of players Zeman sends out, there often seems be mental errors that cost the team. Growing pains are part of any team, but Roma will need to stop blaming officials and protesting the offside flags if it hopes to make a return to Champions League next year.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Corner Kicks: Julian Cardillo offers insight and analysis about the New England Revolution as well as European and international soccer.

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