Good lord -- can I have the first 80 minutes of Udinese - Roma back, please? It may have been labeled "An Italian match of chess" again and again by obnoxious Fox commentator Christian Miles, but it was more akin to watching paint dry or grass grow. It wasn't so much a battle of strategy between Francesco Guidolin and Luis Enrique as much as a cautionary tale of sloppy versus sloppier. In fact, it was the zebrette that were the most wasteful, misplacing passes and meeting the ball with too-heavy touches. But with Roma unable to answer two late goals with more than a few sky-high shots, the Friuli remains a fortress, and Udinese await the results of Saturday's Lazio - Juventus match.
One of the reasons this match was incredibly frustrating to watch was Luca Banti's over-reliance on the little whistle hanging 'round his neck. Greco kicks out at bianconeri ankles? Whistle. Toto trips over a blade of grass? Whistle. Ball comes too near goal? Whistle. If it hadn't been for an impressive Udinese display in the final ten minutes, I would have attempted to go back in time and re-obtain all the minutes wasted watching this pitiful play.
But in the 80th minute, Antonio Di Natale scored and all was well with the world. Udinese had a bit of luck on their side, however, as Simon Kjaer pulled up with a hamstring injury, allowing Toto to get behind the defense to grab the pass from Giampiero Pinzi. With the speed of Di Natale, though, and Roma's mistake in keeping him onside, it seemed nearly inevitable that once he started running, a goal would be his.
The second goal came in the 90th minute through the work of Pablo Armero. The Colombian was immense for Udinese tonight, charging up the left flank and muscling Roma off the ball. His speedy run allowed him to shake off Rodrigo Taddei, slotting the ball across the face of goal for an onrushing Mauricio Isla to knock in.