AS Roma's second-half capitulation vs. Milan indicative of poor season so far
Both Roma and AC Milan came into Saturday night's clash in Rome with their managers under reported threat of the sack, but on the basis of the resulting 1-1 draw, it's Roma coach Rudi Garcia who has more to worry about than Sinisa Mihajlovic.
His side were superb in the first half and took a deserved fourth-minute lead through Antonio Rudiger, but they collapsed after the break and in the end were lucky to escape with a draw that Juraj Kucka grabbed for Milan with a looping 50th-minute header, with Carlos Bacca thumping the bar and Kucka stumbling over his shot when presented with a golden chance to double his tally on the hour.
Garcia's side stay fifth Serie A, five points behind leaders Inter Milan, and were submerged with boos and whistles by a sparsely populated Stadio Olimpico at full time, with the few fans that bothered to turn up in open revolt against both team and manager.
Supporters who were already angry at having only won once since early November were bemused at how a simple substitution and small tactical change from Milan could throw their team into such confusion, with midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng replacing striker Luiz Adriano and helping to drag Milan up from a first half beating to grab a deserved point.
Italian media reports that Garcia will stay in his post despite the cries for him to be binned, but the Frenchman needs to find solutions to a crushingly bad run of form that has turned Scudetto hopefuls into also-rans. Roma might be five points ahead of mediocre Milan but on the evidence of Saturday they're a worse team -- and that's not good enough for a club aiming to win titles.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Wojciech Szczesny, 4 -- Couldn't be blamed for Milan's goal, and made a couple of sound interventions when needed, but he doesn't generate confidence in an already shaky backline.
DF Alessandro Florenzi, 5 -- Got caught under Keisuke Honda's looping cross for Juraj Kucka's equaliser, and did not look comfortable when Milan got their act together in the second half. But then again, he is a (very good) midfielder, not a full-back, and he can't be blamed for being played out of position.
DF Kostas Manolas 7 -- Excellent alongside Rudiger until being substituted at half time with a muscle injury. Undoubtedly benefitted from not being on the pitch for the second half meltdown, but nonetheless much improved from his disastrous display at Chievo on Wednesday.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 6 -- Scored Roma's opening goal by volleying home Miralem Pjanic's superb free kick and was unlucky not to have a second when Gianluigi Donnarumma brilliantly tipped his diving header onto the bar. The German was better than he has been in the first half slipped into the same funk as the rest of his team in the second.
DF Lucas Digne, 6 -- Should have got closer to Honda before he crossed in for Kucka's leveller. Otherwise perfectly solid in his individual battles, but often out of sync with the rest of his defence.
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MF Miralem Pjanic, 6 -- As usual his set-piece deliveries were utterly sublime, and it's not surprising that it was his free-kick that set up Rudiger's opening goal. The Bosnian now has six assists this season, the most of any player in Serie A, but he was overrun by Andrea Bertolacci and Kucka in the second half.
MF Daniele De Rossi, 5 -- If Daniele De Rossi is Serie A's highest paid player, then Roma should be asking for their money back. The Italy international is supposed to be team captain in Francesco Totti's absence, but does not lead his team when things get tough.
MF Radja Nianggolan, 6 -- The Belgian always gives his best but spent more time arguing with officials than trying to dig his team out of a mess they got themselves into by starting the second half so badly.
FW Iago Falque, 6 -- Had a good chance to double Roma's lead on the stroke of half-time when fed well by Gervinho, but duffed his side-footed shot straight at Donnarumma. Other than that a decent if unspectacular display until subbed for Mohamed Salah.
FW Umar Sadiq, 6 -- The promising 18-year-old Nigerian was excellent as the central attacker in Garcia's 4-3-3 formation until he was replaced by Totti in the 70th minute. He would have had his third goal in as many games had Donnarumma not pulled off a magnificent save to deny his stinging left foot shot.
FW Gervinho, 5 -- Typically tricky, dribbly, unpredictable and lacking any end product. The Ivorian was below par, and when he's not on song Roma lose half of their goal threat.
DF Leandro Castan, 4 -- Has only played a handful of times since in September 2014, and his ring rustiness showed. Couldn't get a handle on Bacca at all and seemed confused by Boateng's movement in the gap between midfield and attack.
FW Francesco Totti, 4 -- Drew level with Gianluca Pagliuca on 592 Serie A appearances, the joint third highest in Serie A history, when he replaced Sadiq. But his 39 years showed on his return after three months out.
FW Mohamed Salah, 5 -- Brought on for Iago Falque to inject some extra pace 11 minutes after the break, he got into good positions and broke past the Milan defence well enough, but failed to provide anything concrete.
Terry Daley is based in Rome and has covered Italian football for both Reuters and AFP. He has written for Vice Sports and Mirror Football. Twitter: @T_Daley