Hellas Verona Club Focus: A troubled trip to Rome
Hellas Verona were brought back down to earth following the euphoria of the AC Milan victory by a 3-0 defeat away to Roma on Sunday September 1. Whilst the result was obviously disappointing, it was not unexpected and the performance was not entirely negative.
The Gialloblu had been set up to defend doggedly in the hope that they could frustrate the Giallorossi, hang on to a clean sheet and perhaps come away with a draw or even sneak a 1-0 win. The strategy succeeded in the first half as the Verona defence held firm with Rafael making several crucial saves and the game was goalless at half-time.
However, the Mastini’s resistance crumbled in just 10 second-half minutes as they conceded three with Roma finding space amongst the Verona defence who tired after all their determined defending in the first half.
However, the first goal was an own goal and the subsequent two were wonderful strikes from outside the box so, in many respects, the Gialloblu made it difficult for the Lupi to score. In the end one slightly lucky goal and two displays of individual brilliance from Miralem Pjanic and Adem Ljajic were required to defeat the Scaligeri.
One lesson that coach Andrea Mandorlini will have learned from the performance is that such a deep defensive line in a 4-3-3 formation sees his side offer the opposition too much space outside the box to fire in long-range shots and this will presumably be tweaked ahead of other fixtures against the big teams. Ultimately, in the Roma game Verona faced a superior and impressive opposition who were simply the better team although the Gialloblu keep the fixture competitive for most of the match.
Mandorlini was gracious in defeat and praised Roma for their performance and singled out Pjanic for chipping the keeper from the edge of the box.
“Football is an art and that was a great thing from him.”
The coach was realistic after the game and suggested that he will not change his overall strategy as a result of the defeat
“We were good for an hour and then the superior quality of Roma became evident.
“We could have been a bit more dangerous in the first part of the game but we are talking about ifs and buts. The reality is that we lost to a team with greater quality.”
Overall, three points from the two games against Milan and Roma before the international break will be seen by Mandorlini as a reasonable outcome given the quality of the opposition.
Now the real challenge comes as the Mastini prepare to face fellow relegation candidates Sassuolo on September 15. That will be marked down as a key fixture and they must maintain the enthusiasm shown in the first two games whilst looking to bolster the defence if they are to pick up a vital three points.
Unfortunately last Sunday’s trip to Rome was marred by serious events off the pitch. The Verona players and staff had to experience what it means to be the subject of hostility from rival supporters as the team bus was attacked by Roma fans after the game. The fixture was considered to be high risk by the authorities and they were proved right when a group of people waited for the bus and threw a barrage of missiles at it, breaking windows and forcing the squad to stay in the capital overnight and take the train back up north.
“It was a miracle nobody was hurt,” said club president Maurizio Setti.
Later one Roma fan was arrested and gave up the names of three other people involved in the unpleasant incident whilst one Verona fan was arrested for attacking a steward when entering the stadium before the match. The attack on the bus was universally condemned but luckily none of the players or staff were injured. Nevertheless, Mandorlini said that it could have had serious consequences and club president Setti has stressed the need for remedies to stop such hooligan behaviour.
The transfer window closed on Monday and overall most commentators believe that the Gialloblu have done well in the Mercato. Massimo Donati, Bosko Jankovic and Luca Toni made an immediate impact in the Milan game. Samuele Longo and Ezequiel Cirigliano are two young loanees who can seize the opportunity and display their talents at the Bentegodi as they look to impress their parent clubs.
The loan signing of defender Matteo Rubin from Siena on deadline day shows an effort to add more cover at the back after the Mastini looked shaky in the second half in Rome. Marco Donadel also came in on loan from Napoli on the last day of the window, and although not necessarily the most exciting signing he should add some experience to midfield.
Another last-minute signing is perhaps the most exciting. Juan Manuel Iturbe, the 20-year-old Argentine winger who has joined from Porto, has already been labelled as the ‘new Messi’. Whilst such a tag will undoubtedly be hard to live up to, he should be add some flair to the Verona squad with his pace and skill and could provide the service that Luca Toni and Daniele Cacia will need.
The Gialloblu’s greatest success in the transfer market may have been to hang on to Jorginho who has attracted the interest of clubs both in Italy and overseas. The 21-year-old midfielder has been one of Verona’s best players as he plays in Serie A for the first time and he could be a key man if Hellas are to meet this season’s key objective: survival in Serie A.