It’s been a long time coming. The Ranieri era ended for Roma with another shambolic defeat. Having lost their previous three games, including the crucial home leg of their Champions League tie with Shakhtar Donetsk, Roma appeared to have recovered when they took a three goal lead at Genoa.
It all appeared to be coming together again. Francesco Totti, so often the weak link for Roma this season, was imperious.
Then, rather appropriately given their profligacy this season, Roma threw their lead away. Genoa, led by the scintillating talents of Alberto Paloschi, tore the Giallorossi’s three goal advantage away bit by bit. A dysfunctional team, low on confidence, were at Genoa’s mercy from the second the Rossoblu scored their first goal.
The prospect of new owners made Ranieri’s eventual departure something of a foregone conclusion. That it would come so soon was surprising.
Ranieri’s resignation came just hours after the defeat, which has effectively ended any lingering Scudetto ambitions and, more importantly, has cast doubt on Roma’s quest for Champions League qualification.
Ranieri had grown unpopular with the fans at the Stadio Olimpico. His lack of authority, baffling selections and poorly timed substitutions have infuriated pundits and fans alike.
Despite the disappointment that was his tenure, Ranieri’s commitment to the club can never be doubted. A Roman by birth, Ranieri’s resignation statement was gracious and genuine. His sign off of “Grazie Roma” spoke volumes of his devotion to his hometown club.
And so responsibility falls on Vicenzo Montella, l’Aeroplanino (the little Aeroplane), to guide Roma back towards the top four. Montella, a fan favourite at the club for much of the last decade, has only previously coached at youth level. Having, more often that not, fielded teams with three strikers, there is little danger of him being criticised, a charge often levelled at his predecessor.
Roma’s predicament of potential failure to qualify for Champions League football is shared with rivals Juventus.
The Bianconeri were stunned by lowly Lecce at the Stadio Via del Mare on Sunday. Gigi Buffon’s dismissal in the opening fifteen minutes was an omen of the dismay that was to come. The home side took the lead just after the half hour. Slack defending in the penalty area allowed Djamel Mesbah to get on the end of Gianni Munari’s chipped pass. Mesbah, under no pressure, controlled and slotted past Marco Storari.
Any hopes of a turnaround were dashed just after half-time. Another high pass was not deal with by the Juventus defence. Juve’s new signing, Andrea Barzagli, was beaten to the ball by Di Michele who nodded down for Andrea Bertolacci to finish.
After the game, Juventus manager Luigi Del Neri was rightly appalled, branding his side’s performance as “arrogant”. The club’s president perhaps said it best when he said that the players may not have needed a shower after the lack effort displayed on Sunday.
While Roma and Juventus languished, Lazio and Napoli shone. The two blues scraped valuable wins at the weekend, with Lazio overcoming a stubborn challenge from Bari and Juan Zuniga giving Napoli a 1-0 win over Catania.
Lazio’s victory was particularly resonant given the Aguile’s previous inability to notch back to back victories in the league. They did so this time. Lazio were without a number of key players including Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fernando Muslera. As has been the case so many times this season, they could rely on Hernanes for inspiration.
The Brazilian midfielder has, on occasions, been heralded as the new Kaká. These comparisons may be premature, but his influence on Sunday was reminiscent of his compatriot’s best days at Milan.
From an advanced position Hernanes peppered the Bari goal with shots, arrowed pass after perfect pass to his teammates and darted past opponents with intent. If Lazio manage to reach their goal of a top four finish, their monumental achievement will have been borne on the efforts of this maestro.
Further up the table, AC Milan needed intervention from an equally impressive Brazilian to secure three points on Sunday. Pato, sprung from the bench with the scores level at 1-1, ran onto the pass of Rino Gattuso and carried the ball forward into the Chievo penalty area. Milan’s number 7 cut inside sharply before firing low to the near post.
The result keeps Milan clear at the top, with their rivals Inter now in relentless pursuit. New Nerazzurri teammates Houssine Kharja and Andrea Ranocchia will have certainly shared a few words over ownership of Inter’s sole goal on Saturday. Having capitalised on a quickly taken free kick, Kharja, the Moroccan international, fired towards goal. His shot was deflected off the back of Ranocchia and subsequently awarded to the Azzurri defender.
Both will surely be pleased to have played a part in a very useful victory for Inter. The result keeps Leonardo’s side in third, lurking menacingly should Milan or Napoli drop points when the top two face each other next weekend.