Rome Sweet Rome: Could Roma Mount an Unlikely Serie A Title Challenge?
It is on such minor details that football's most dramatic moments are made. One decision often has far reaching consequences in the "Beautiful Game."
Earlier in the month, Roma forward Stefano Okaka was poised to make a loan move to Fulham, where manager Roy Hodgson hoped he would help the Cottagers rediscover their form of last season.
Had the deal gone through (which it since has done), Okaka would not have been on the pitch for Roma in yesterday's tie against Siena, much less scored a last minute winner in majestic style to ensure the Giallorossi remained holders of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC).
The significance of the three points instead of one goes even further than that, however. Okaka's goal means that Roma are now level on points with second place AC Milan.
Could a title chase really be on the cards?
Manager Claudio Ranieri will be keen to dismiss such talk, but the form Roma are in makes the eight point gap between them and leaders Inter look breachable.
The win against bottom-of-the-table Siena was Roma's 17th match without defeat, the past six of which have all been wins.
This run is impressive enough without the fact that talismanic skipper Francesco Totti had only started six of those matches.
He was missing yesterday too, but still Roma controlled the opening exchanges.
They soon had chances against a Siena back-line that had leaked goals at an alarming rate in recent matches, but initially they found the away side's last line of defence, goalkeeper Gianluca Curci, in inspired form.
After 12 minutes, a vicious half-volley from Marco Motta forced a stunning save from Curci, who was quick to deny Juan's follow up from point blank range with an equally impressive stop.
That wasn't the end of the goalmouth scramble, however, as Juan managed to finally squeeze the ball past the Siena keeper, only to see his shot cleared off the line and away to safety.
Roma were relentless and, just seconds later, they came within inches of grabbing the lead again, this time courtesy of John Arne Riise.
The former Liverpool man connected with Daniele De Rossi's lofted through ball in emphatic style, hammering a first time volley narrowly past Curci's far post.
The charmed life Siena's goal was living had to end sooner or later, and it was another stunning John Arne Riise volley on the half hour mark that did it.
A long ball from the right hand side was nodded on by Simone Perrotta. It eventually found Riise who hit it first time into the bottom corner with the outside of his boot as it fell from the Rome sky.
It is always interesting to see how a team reacts to conceding a goal. Some double their efforts to ensure they get back on level terms, while others never fully recover.
The latter is more synonymous with clubs in Siena's position, but they showed great heart and determination to ensure the former applied on this occasion.
And that will to win, or at least draw, was rewarded just before half-time as they got the equaliser.
A Siena corner found it's way through everyone to the edge of the box where it was met by Mato Jajalo.
The Croatian under-21 international swung his boot at it, forcing a fine save from Julio Sergio, but Simone Vergassola reacted quickest and put the rebound into the net from an acute angle.
The goal inspired the away side to push even harder after the break, and it was they who had the better of possession and territory in the opening stages.
Yet despite this, they just didn't have the quality to create clear goal-scoring opportunities.
Roma, on the other hand, did. They should have retaken the lead just before the hour mark, but once again they found Curci impossible to get past.
A poor shot was controlled by Nicolas Burdisso inside the box before it had the chance to trickle harmlessly out of play, and the Argentine defender quickly fired the ball goalwards. Only a breathtaking stop by the Siena keeper denied the home side another goal.
Burdisso had another chance to get the lead back for his side, but his effort, this time with his head, was once again kept out by Curci.
And the Siena shot-stopper came to the away side's rescue yet again ten minutes from time when Julio Baptista looked certain to score.
The Brazilian found the ball at his feet just eight yards out thanks to a mix-up in the Siena defence, but his powerful strike was parried out for a corner.
Siena's focus was now on defending the 1-1 scoreline, but they still managed to create a chance to steal all three points late on.
Former Middlesbrough striker Massimo Maccarone received the ball inside the box, and his deflected effort had Julio Sergio at full stretch, but the Roma keeper just managed to claw the ball away.
Then came the stunning finale.
A low ball into the Siena penalty area found Okaka with his back to goal, but what he did next took everyone by surprise.
A sublime first time back heel flashed past the brilliant Curci before he could do anything about it, and young Okaka raced off to celebrate his dramatic winner with the Roma fans.
The win is Roma's sixth in a row, which is the second best winning streak in UWCC history, behind Chelsea's eight.
92.3 percent of voters in the poll were right in predicting Siena wouldn't be able to beat Roma, so well done to the majority!
Barney's prediction: Roma win (4-1) Actual result: Roma win (2-1)
Correct prediction streak: Two matches in a row!
Roma 2-1 Fulham (Roma become new champions)
Roma 2-1 Siena
(Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Roma's next title defence comes on Thursday as they face Udinese in the Coppa Italia semi-final first leg at the Stadio Olimpico.
Form Book (last five matches): Roma - WWWWW; Udinese - WDLWD
Barney's prediction: Roma 2-1 Udinese
What are your predictions for this upcoming fixture? Will Udinese be able to end Roma's magnificent 17-match unbeaten streak, or will Claudio Ranieri's men make it 18 on their way to gaining advantage in the race for a spot in the Coppa Italia final?
Voice your opinions in the comments section!
Video highlights for Roma 2-1 Siena can be seen here.
Where would it be now?
This week, "Where would it be now?" begins tracking the alternative route of the UWCC title all the way from the beginning of the season.
So, where would it be if Manchester United had beaten Chelsea in the Community Shield final on Aug. 9, 2009?
Manchester United would have lost the title to Burnley on Aug. 19, 2009.
Burnley would have lost the title to Chelsea on Aug. 29, 2009.
Chelsea would have lost the title to Wigan on Sept. 26, 2009.
Wigan would have lost the title to Hull on Oct. 3, 2009.
Hull would have lost the title to Fulham on Oct. 19, 2009.
Fulham would have lost the title to Roma on Nov. 5, 2009.
Roma would still have the title!
On this day:
Introducing yet another new feature to the UWCC! Every UWCC report will now have information on who was the champions a yer previously!
On this day (Jan. 31) in 2009: West Ham drew 0-0 with Arsenal to retain the UWCC title!
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