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Roma 0-Cagliari 0: An offensive draw

November 26, 2013

Goalless draws are typically cagey, dull affairs. Monday, though, Cagliari and Roma played a game to a 0-0 tie that could have just as easily ended 3-3.

Roma entered Monday’s home game in second place in the table, having just fallen behind Juventus. Since a sparkling start to the campaign, Roma had dropped points in two consecutive draws against lesser competition. While Roma as been suffering a slight wobble recently, Cagliari was trying to avoid falling closer to the table’s relegation spots. With a win Monday, they could have pulled ahead of the under performing AC Milan in the table.

Furthermore, Cagliari came into Monday’s game sporting one of the league’s worst road records but having won three of their last four contests against Roma. For much of the contest it seemed like one of those trends would have to break, likely their success against Roma, until, thanks to keeper Vlada Avramov, it didn’t. Here’s the other things worth knowing:

1. Dodo could be very, very good: The 20-year-old Brazilian deputized at left back for Federico Balzaretti and proved to be one of the match’s premier performers. Heading into Monday night, the knock against Dodo had been he was a premier attacker from the left back position, but that often came at the expense of his defensive duties. Against Cagliari, there was more impressive dribbling and movement up the left flank, but the Brazilian had very little to handle defensively and proved capable of taking what came.

Particularly impressive was a moment in the 56th minute where Maicon, another Brazilian fullback who is more than capable of getting stuck in the attacking end, got lost in the shuffle and Cagliari were attacking down their left wing. Dodo, sensing the danger, scooted over to the right side of the field and was able to take some of the air out of Cagliari’s attack.

In the attacking end, one of Dodo’s best moments came just after the half, in the 47th minute, when he floated a cross from the left wing into the box for Alessandro Florenzi. The Italian tried to volley the ball, but it headed straight at Avramov who parried it away. The Brazilian also sent in a cross to Gervinho in the 37th minute that was headed off the post.

2. And the other fullback isn’t too shabby, either: Maicon came off of the international break and played an excellent attacking game Monday. As pointed out above, that led to him getting caught out once on defense, but Roma’s ability to cover meant that no harm came of that.

The most eye-opening moment came in the 56th minute when the Brazilian picked the ball up in his own half, ran at a poor Cagliari defender, beat him and then rifled a shot from the right wing at the upper left corner of the net. Avramov punched the shot away, but almost had to go horizontal to do it. After that run, Ray Hudson said on the game’s broadcast, ““I don’t know where he’s going to take his talents to after this, Maicon. It’s not South Beach, maybe Mount Olympus.”

3. Cagliari didn’t really have any standout players, with the possible exception of Segundo Ibarbo and Avramov: While they managed to keep Roma from scoring for the whole game, it wasn’t like Cagliari had a dominant center-back or were able to break up Roma’s possessions in the midfield. It was more Roma building up attacks either using their fullbacks, both of whom were constantly willing to get forward, or by bringing the ball forward through the midfield with Adem Llajic or MIralem Pjanic (both of whom are incredible and who played an almost-interchangeable role Monday).

Then, more often than not, Roma would either take an excellent chance and Avramov would have to make a strong save to keep them out. On the occasions when Cagliari were able to nick the ball back, it seemed like Ibarbo was involved in the brief counter-attacks.

Cagliari’s best opportunities came toward the end of the first half, and the Colombian played a major role in both. In the 32nd minute, he headed a ball into the lower left corner of the net only to see Morgan De Sanctis dive over and, with his head poking out of the side netting, tip the ball wide. Then, in the 43rd minute, Ibarbo made an excellent run and was just about to glide behind Roma’s central defenders only to see Mehdi Benatia rise up and just get to the attempted through-ball from Marco Sau.

4. If Cagliari want to improve on the road, they need to figure out a way to maintain possession and to disrupt the opponent’s possession: Ultimately, Monday’s game was almost entirely about Avramov keeping Roma from scoring by making at least four excellent saves, including one in the 91st minute as he dove into the net to just tip the ball out of the bottom left corner. At the same time, if your keeper is the man of the match, it points to a fundamental issue with being outclassed somehow. For Cagliari on Monday, the flaw came in the midfield, where Roma were able to continuously earn the ball back and Cagliari consistently failed to do so.

Looking at the Squawka stats for the match, 12.49% of the activity took place in the central areas on Roma’s defensive side of the field. Meanwhile, 12.43% took place in and around Cagliari’s box and another 13.52% in the area just behind it. So basically, Roma had all day to probe Cagliari’s defense and try to force a goal and, really, would have had three or four if Avramov hadn’t been playing out of his mind.

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