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May 4, 2014

Roma's humiliation gives Juventus the Scudetto

Life doesn't make any sense.

Before Roma went away to Catania on Matchday 36, the visitors had only conceded two or more goals twice all season in the league, and that was to typical Serie A giants in Milan and Juventus; after the match, Catania became the team to score the most against Roma in any competition, putting four past Rudi Garcia's men to gift the Scudetto to Juventus.

In few words, it was an utter failure of execution.

The result was not inevitable. There has been relatively little doubt that Juventus would win the league this season, being the deepest and meanest team in Serie A despite Roma's historic start to the season and points tally. The fact is, after finishing seventh last season and even without European competition to distract them, Roma were simply not good enough and injuries forced the side to rotate too often.

None of that is an excuse for what is certainly the poorest performance of the campaign.

On Saturday before the match, Rudi Garcia rued that the season was over. It is doubtful that he knew the impact of his words, for nearly every player sleepwalked through the match. The lowlight should certainly go to the midfield, where Daniele De Rossi, Miralem Pjanic and Rodrigo Taddei somehow combined for the worst opening spell Roma has seen in quite some time. Catania were ruthless, pouncing upon error after error to give themselves some hope of salvation. Twentieth entering the match, the home side ended the day 19th and within three points of salvation.

Maybe Roma knew nothing was really left to play for; that would certainly explain a total lack of trying by nearly everyone. Pick any play, from Morgan De Sanctis grasping at air to Alessandro Florenzi, who was nearly completely ineffective; on the back to the front, Roma were left with no answers. As Catania scored, the side did nothing. It was the worst of the Zdenek Zeman era and it was embarrassing.

The loss, saved from total humiliation by only Francesco Totti, was truly awful. Of all the teams to breach Roma's defense, no one did it more than Catania did on Sunday. Not league winners Juventus, not third-placed Napoli; no one more than the team that entered the match in last place.

Injuries and absences may be blamed for the loss, and indeed Roma were missing Kevin Strootman, Radja Nainggolan, Mehdi Benatia, Mattia Destro, and Gervinho from the kick-off. Nevertheless, the team on the field should have been able to beat Catania. Instead, they were humiliated.

This should not detract from a truly fantastic season, but this performance gave Juventus the Scudetto. It stings and it should; Rudi Garcia noted as much after the match. The best thing for Roma would be to focus on the season as a whole, to pretend it never happened, but can they?

That may be one of Garcia's biggest tests.