Serie A: Paolo Bandini: Daniele De Rossi leads Roma's demolition job of Genoa

The Serie A title may be out of reach, but the Giallorossi are playing the best football in Italy right now

On Saturday the champions put on a show of force. On Sunday last year's runners-up put on one of their own. Roma may have long since surrendered any hopes of catching Internazionale at the top of Serie A this season, but after their 3–0 demolition of Genoa yesterday they are more than just closing in rapidly on a top-four finish that once looked beyond them. They are playing the best football of any team in the division.

"We dominated the game for 90 minutes playing our football. When we're in form there's nothing anybody can do about it," glowed the Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi afterwards and while such an analysis may have been unfair on a Genoa team who, despite the scoreline, were competitive throughout, it was certainly understandable. In the space of little over a fortnight Roma have played two opponents with serious Champions League ambitions – Genoa and Napoli – and demolished both by the same scoreline.

Between those two wins came a 2–2 draw away to lowly Reggina, but while that result cannot be dismissed altogether, there were certainly mitigating factors. With just about every attack-minded player in his squad absent that day through injury or illness, the manager, Luciano Spalletti, was forced to start Stefano Okaka, whom he would loan to Brescia a day later, up front. Even then his side looked to have tied up all three points before Simone Loria gifted Reggina's Ciccio Cozza the ball on the edge of the six-yard box with his first touch after coming on as a late substitute.

In all Roma have dropped just seven points since 8 November, one fewer than they had earned in 10 games to that point. Only Inter can match that figure and they had one game fewer to play. Although the Nerazzurri themselves won 3–0 away to Lecce this weekend, they have won just three of six since the beginning of January.

Indeed, the one team who might have challenged Roma's status as Serie A's form team before this weekend was Genoa. Coming into Sunday's match the Grifone were fourth, two points clear of Roma and hadn't lost since a 4–1 drubbing at the hands of Juventus on 13 November. Despite that result they had also proved more than once that they were capable of mixing it with the bigger sides, beating Roma and Milan on their own turf, as well as drawing away to Milan and Inter.

But Cicinho opened the scoring for Roma after 26 minutes, slotting the ball home from six yards out to cap a wonderful, sweeping, team move which he had started moments earlier in midfield. Not long after he was carried off with a knee injury, but Marco Motta, the Italy Under-21 captain who arrived from Udinese on 1 February, filled in more than capably.

Genoa continued to work tirelessly and at times controlled possession more than Roma would have liked but, despite boasting one of Serie A's most prolific strikers in Diego Milito, rarely looked like scoring. Roma, by contrast, may line up in a different formation these days, but look more and more like the rapid counter-attacking sides Spalletti has produced in recent years. Mirko Vucinic extended their lead early in the second half with a stunning first-time volley on his weaker left foot, and, after each team had a man sent off, Julio Baptista added gloss to the scoreline deep in second-half stoppage time.

The return of Francesco Totti hasn't hurt, of course, but he was far from the most effective player on display, showing his class only in the occasional neat touch or precise pass. De Rossi, by contrast was relentless and it was his angled ball forward that Vucinic dispatched for the second. His presence in the starting line-up is at least as crucial these days as that of his captain.

But the defence, too, should be commended. This was their fourth clean sheet in six games, no mean feat for a side who shipped 18 goals in their first 10 matches, and will have represented a particularly satisfactory end to the week for Philippe Mexès, who had started it with a lash to the face from the belt of a Lazio fan outside the Rome nightclub Gilda.

"It was a fair old whack, but it could've gone worse, as he hit me right near the eye," Mexès had acknowledged earlier in the week, reliving an incident which took place shortly after 4am on Monday morning. "I was waiting outside for my friends to bring the car round and I heard someone congratulate me. He was a Roma fan. Others were Lazio supporters and they were saying things that weren't quite so nice. Then someone showed a lack of respect in the middle of the street and I reacted. I know I was wrong to do so, but I couldn't take it any more. There were a few shoves but no consequences, apart from these two little marks on my face."

Mexès, who had been out with team-mates Okaka and Jeremy Menez, was also quick to make clear he had done nothing wrong by staying out so late, as there was no training the next day, and he "had permission" from his wife. As long as he and Roma keep playing as well as they are, nobody else involved with the club should mind too much either.

Round 23 talking points

• Despite leapfrogging Genoa, Roma remain outside the top four after Fiorentina beat Lazio 1–0 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Adrian Mutu's parried shot in the 89th minute was powered home by his team-mate Alberto Gilardino for the winner, but this win owed far more to the goalkeeper, Sébastien Frey, who made a string of stunning saves to keep his side in the game. As a result the Viola remain one point clear of Roma in fourth, but it is hard to envisage them staying there until they start performing more consistently.

• Milan are expected to make an improved offer to LA Galaxy for David Beckham in the next few days after an initial offer, variously cited as anything from £4.3m to £6.75m was rejected. What fee they will settle on is anyone's guess, but it is plain that Milan not only value him, but may have to rely on him heavily during next week's Milan derby after Kaka was ruled out for a minimum of two weeks with a foot injury suffered during Saturday's 1–1 draw with Reggina. Now eight points behind Inter, Milan were far too profligate this weekend and need to take advantage of Becks's increasingly consistent crosses from the right.

• Jose Mourinho was less than impressed with the refereeing once again during his side's win over Lecce, taking umbrage in particular at Paolo Tagliavento's decision to book Zlatan Ibrahimovic for diving in the area when replays showed he had clearly been caught by Guglielmo Stendardo. "A few weeks ago I was sent off for asking a referee if he was 'afraid'," said Mourinho on Sky Italia afterwards. "So this time I will just use the word 'strange'. It is strange that Ibra is brought down like that when the scoreline is still 1–0 at a delicate point in the match and the referee goes for the yellow card. It is strange that, when leading at San Siro against Torino, the referee does not see a penalty in our favour. All of this is strange and what is even stranger is that throughout the week nobody in the media talked about this incident. There's nothing I can do about it. I just have to continue my work."

• Juventus are second once again after Christian Poulsen came off the bench to snatch an injury-time winner against Catania, and Claudio Ranieri was quick to share his own thoughts on Mourinho's recent complaints. "After a game each manager gives his own spin on what happened, compiling their own list of refereeing mistakes," noted Ranieri. "I don't, but is that to my credit? At times I feel like a mug for not doing so. Among my colleagues I seem to be the only one. But do we really want to throw fuel on the fire?"

• Atalanta put an end to Cagliari's run of four wins on the trot with a 1–0 win at the Stadio Sant'Elia. They were helped by both a sending-off for Diego López and a hefty deflection that took Luca Cigarini's somewhat speculative effort past Federico Marchetti, but after a run of just one win in 14 away games, were happy to take this win however they could get it. "We deserved more luck in our last two away games, so it evened out here," said the manager, Gigi Del Neri.

Results: Cagliari 0–1 Atalanta, Catania 1–2 Juventus, Fiorentina 1–0 Lazio, Lecce 0–3 Inter, Milan 1–1 Reggina, Palermo 2–1 Napoli, Roma 3–0 Genoa, Sampdoria 2–2 Siena, Torino 1–1 Chievo, Udinese 1–0 Bologna


Nicky Bandini

The GuardianTramp

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