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My Group Stage Scouting Report featured on UEFA.COM

Hi Guys,

Just a quick update, you can find my scouting report on this season’s UEFA Champions League Group Stage available online at UEFA.com as well as in the print copy of Champions Matchday for January 2015.

Here is the link- http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/news/newsid=2202605.html , any feedback would be more than welcome.

Chris

Scout Report-Alberto Moreno, 21, Left-Back, Sevilla

Alberto Moreno making a hugely important challenge on Benfica's Lima during the Europa League final.

Alberto Moreno making a hugely important challenge on Benfica’s Lima during the Europa League final.

Written by Chris Winterburn

If way back in August Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno would have dreamt of how he wanted his upcoming season to play out then I doubt it would have differed too much to what reality had in store for the Seville born full-back.

Making twenty eight La Liga starts, playing a key role in winning the Europa League and to top it all off being named in Vicente del Bosque’s provisional 30-man Spain squad for the upcoming World Cup finals in Brazil were just three of the main positives to come out of Alberto Moreno’s twenty first year.

Moreno’s outstanding performances over the last eighteen months have not gone unnoticed further afield that Spain however with Premier League giants Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all harbouring an interest in prising the young full-back away from his childhood club.

Alberto Moreno Perez as he is known officially will not be an easy transfer target for a whole host of England’s top flight due to the fact the full-back signed a significant new contract as recently as October 2013 which was set to keep him at the club until at least 2018. However as we have seen with even more regularity over recent seasons signing a new contract often just means your transfer fee will be a few million higher.

Moreno has caught the eye through his enthusiastic way of playing the full-back position. All the instances of marauding forward and impressive technical ability that saw the continent stand up and take notice of Jordi Alba not too long ago are prominent in Moreno’s game too. Moreno is perhaps more suited to playing a defensive position than Alba and his crossing is a lot better too however he lacks the explosiveness which made Alba Barcelona’s main transfer target when it became apparent Eric Abidal’s career with the Catalan giants was coming to an end.

In order to evaluate just how far Alberto Moreno has progressed this past season we must go back to last summer when Moreno first caught the wider European eye. Whilst the Spanish national team were away in Brazil competing for the Confederations Cup the Under-21 team were in Israel competing for the European Championship.

Much of the press attention was on Thiago Alcantara who captained the side. It was widely expected at that time that Thiago was going to the first of many new signings of the post Alex Ferguson era at Manchester United, this was not to be the case. As a result Moreno escaped attention, Alvaro Morata took the majority of the headlines with his goals whilst David de Gea was outstanding in goal.

What did become clear however is that Alberto Moreno missed just one game throughout the entire tournament. Spain won every match they played and Moreno was a sizable part of that success.

His marauding forward runs ably supported the likes of Isco, Morata and Thiago in attack, he often beat the right sided full-back for pure speed and was able to produce a quality delivery into the penalty area when asked.

He may not have been the media’s star of the tournament but the people that mattered could see his progress.

Although he had been fully promoted to the Sevilla first team the previous February it was his performances in Israel which convinced the Sevilla management to utilise him as first choice at left-back for the 2013-2014 campaign. Moreno went onto impress during Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial at Old Trafford with a confident defensive display down the left.

Fast forward nine months and we see a completely different Sevilla and completely different Alberto Moreno.

After a summer of financial woes placated only by the sale of the club’s two prized assets, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, Sevilla looked set for a season in the wilderness. Then came the reprieve. Due to financial issues at Malaga resulting in a UEFA suspension, Sevilla qualified for the Europa League. Unai Emery’s side had a challenge to aim for as well as a much needed financial boost to get the necessary talent in to move forward.

Moreno despite being just twenty one, has had to mature quickly. The pressures of regular first-team football are huge and Moreno has dealt with them very well indeed. The full-back has handled the press attention which comes with being the next star in the Seville crown whilst maintaining the levels of performance which earned him recognition in the first place.

From a footballing perspective Moreno is everything you would want in a full-back. He is quick, although not blisteringly so like a Gael Clichy or a Jordi Alba but quick enough to ghost past an opponent nonetheless however he is also strong.

On countless occasions this term Moreno has been forced to cut infield whilst in possession in order to play a clever slide rule pass in behind to either Bacca or Gameiro. When doing this Moreno has been faced with physically stronger central midfielders and defenders but he has an uncanny ability of being able to shake them off.

The styles of Moreno and Luke Shaw are eerily similar in that regard. Playing regular La Liga football from such a young age like Shaw, Moreno has been able to develop physically in a way which allows him to more than match adversaries, he can keep control of the ball when dribbling forward through his ability to come out the better of shoulder to shoulder challenges and the like.

With Liverpool looking for a better quality, long-term replacement for Jose Enrique this is a trait Brendan Rodgers is bound to view as positive. Continuing along the Liverpool centric line of argument, Moreno is also a clever footballer in that he knows when to use his pace to get into position to receive the ball.

A map of Alberto Moreno's typical movements within Unai Emery's system. Moreno looks to venture down the left hand side and reach the byline before putting in a cross to Bacca however he can cut inside on an overlapping run with Reyes and then place a short pass into Bacca's feet.

A map of Alberto Moreno’s typical movements within Unai Emery’s system. Moreno looks to venture down the left hand side and reach the byline before putting in a cross to Bacca however he can cut inside on an overlapping run with Reyes and then place a short pass into Bacca’s feet.

With Liverpool’s passing game being based around short, quick tempo passes the opportunities for one two’s are significant. Moreno has shown an ability to initiate a one two pass with a teammate and then get into a position far ahead of the defender as a result of his speed before receiving the ball in a better attacking position. This would also pique the interest of Manuel Pellegrini whose Manchester City side too looks to kick start passing moves in a similar vein.

The attacking side of Moreno’s game was perfectly highlighted in Sevilla’s 2-0 victory over Real Betis in the second leg of the Europa League quarter-final in which Moreno recorded assists for both goals with exquisite, indefensible crosses into the penalty area.

Football wise Moreno is all but there, his talents are clear for all to see, as are his physical attributes and he is only going to get better. What is a worry however is whether or not a move to Liverpool or Manchester City will be a summer too soon for him.

The biggest game of Sevilla’s season was Wednesday’s Europa League final. The Andalusian club were victorious in a penalty shoot-out but rode their luck in normal time with Benfica under the spell of the Guttmann curse wasting numerous gilt-edged opportunities in front of goal.

Moreno struggled. Despite showing an innate ability to defend under pressure with a goal saving tackle on Lima early in the second-half the young full-back was in real trouble all evening long.

Admittedly he received little help from Jose Antonio Reyes just in front of him but Moreno’s positioning was inconsistent and at times wild. Early on in the second half it looked as if Moreno was trying to make too big an impact on the match and he ended up almost on the right side of midfield for one Benfica attack with the left midfield area left completely unguarded.

Several heavy touches and slips later and it looked as if the occasion was all too much for the highly rated Spaniard with it only through good fortune and the performance of Beto in goal that Moreno wasn’t punished for one of his errors.

This could very well have been a one-off but these are the slight measures upon which club’s make final decisions on purchasing a player. In Sevilla’s biggest match of the season, on the grandest stage available to the club, Moreno struggled. Of course he is young and it shouldn’t be a surprise but with both Manchester City and Liverpool looking at immediate first choice left-backs it is something to bear in mind from their perspective.

With the hype around Luke Shaw due to both his nationality and the price tag Manchester United appear willing to pay for him it is likely Alberto Moreno will not be the standout transfer of the summer should a move to England materialise however you would expect clubs to see the outstanding footballing ability Moreno possesses and how he has managed to hone his craft in such a short space of time.

With all this in mind it wouldn’t at all be a surprise to see Moreno move to pastures new this summer and with Liverpool and Manchester City believed to be assessing other targets it would take a brave individual to bet against Real Madrid attempting to secure solidity at left-back for the next decade with a late move for Moreno.

Scout’s Rating- 7/10

Follow Chris Winterburn on Twitter @Chriswin4

Benfica’s defence shows ‘as águias’ to be a cut above Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur had surprisingly high hopes for the remaining rounds of the UEFA Europa League this season despite just scraping past Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the first knockout round and with Tim Sherwood’s side having the perceived advantage of having the home leg first it was hoped Spurs would be able to take a lead to Lisbon in a weeks’ time.

Tempers flared on the touchline as Spurs' week got even worse.

Tempers flared on the touchline as Spurs’ week got even worse.

Tottenham ended up being completely surprised by the Portuguese giants although admittedly Tottenham carried their poor form from Stamford Bridge on Saturday straight through to yesterday evening’s fixture. Benfica’s qualities should not have been a surprise to Tottenham, this was a team who failed to qualify from their Champions League group with ten points.  To put this into context, ten points is usually the benchmark elite clubs set for qualification.

Benfica’s game plan for yesterday evening was based on being solid defensively against the home team who were expected to create much of the evening’s attacks whilst having enough quality on the counter attack to cause Spurs problems. Make no mistake however this was not a back to the wall job from Benfica, the visitors were more than adept at keeping the ball for long periods and making Tottenham do far more running than the home side were expecting.

Spurs were not just outclassed by a superior opponent but in what is becoming an increasingly worrying trend for Premier League teams in European competition, they were outthought.

Benfica’s pressing game was perfect. Like so many wonderful teams before them Benfica, after a ten minute period at the beginning of the match to take stock of the situation and team they were facing, simply gave Tottenham no time on the ball whatsoever.

The quick tempo of Benfica’s pressing game started from the front with Rodrigo and the quick Lazar Markovic giving the Spurs backline no time on the ball following a pass from Hugo Lloris. This continued right the way back to the Benfica back four who took an interesting tactic of squeezing high up the pitch when not in possession to ensure Spurs had absolute no time to work the ball Spurs’ main creative outlet Christian Eriksen.

With this tactic Spurs were encouraged to move the ball to the flanks and normally with the pace of Aaron Lennon it would be a huge advantage for Tottenham if an opposition’s defence pushes up so high, just look at the fixture against Arsenal at White Hart Lane in the 2012-2013 campaign. However Tottenham could not get Aaron Lennon in behind simply due to the speed of both Garay and Siqueira who were stationed on the left hand side and with that outlet closed and Christian Eriksen wasted on the left wing to accommodate the disappointing Harry Kane, Tottenham found themselves effectively throttled as soon as they took possession in the middle of the pitch.

Even more worryingly Tottenham looked bereft of ideas. Whether this comes from the manager or just is a reflection on the current state of the Premier League in relation to the rest of Europe, I’d point to a mixture of the two, Tottenham simply could not fathom another way of playing to the system which had failed from the beginning of the match.

At no point did Spurs think to move Christian Eriksen into his favoured number ten role where he could be more of a threat which could then see Harry Kane placed on the left where his speed could at the very least give Silvio a challenge on the flank.

Benfica on the other hand were always thinking, whether it was coming from Jorge Jesus on the sidelines or the players themselves, Benfica were always a move ahead of Spurs even if they didn’t really have to be.  A key example of this on the job thinking as it were came throughout the ninety minutes with Benfica’s reshuffling of the defensive line.

Whenever Tottenham were on the ball it was a conventional back four with both central defenders guiding the more attack minded full-backs through the defensive side of the game, however whenever Benfica won the ball back the team knew they needed to push men forward to test Spurs and grab the away goal. Guilherme Siqueira marched up the pitch and became a winger, as did Silvio on the right whilst Benfica then switched to a flat defensive three.

Luisao moved to the right whilst Garay shifted to the left and Ljubomir Fejsa filled in as an auxiliary centre-half with the holding midfielder unlikely to offer much going forward. Luisao and Garay’s ability on the ball was put to the test here however both were excellent with the pair comfortable in possession and content to manoeuvre the ball within their own zone whilst the marauding full-backs returned to recreate the initial shape after an attacking move had broken down.

This is what Benfica's defensive setup looked like when Tottenham had possession. You can see via the yellow dash line the movements of the two wing-backs when Benfica had possession whilst the black arrows indicate the change in position undertaken by Sulejmani, Amorim and Fejsa when the two wing-backs bombed forward.

This is what Benfica’s defensive setup looked like when Tottenham had possession. You can see via the yellow dash line the movements of the two wing-backs when Benfica had possession whilst the black arrows indicate the change in position undertaken by Sulejmani, Amorim and Fejsa when the two wing-backs bombed forward.

Benfica’s fluctuating defensive line was huge in the visitor’s victory, possibly not in the goals themselves but in the grander scheme of play. With Benfica retaining three at the back it meant the Portuguese team were still covered against a Tottenham counter attack however it also meant that Benfica could swarm the Tottenham half and outnumber the Spurs back four with the forward runs of Siqueira and Silvio.

Sulejmani and Amorim would move slightly closer together almost as a pushed up central midfield partnership when Benfica went to a back three and despite completely changing their shape at a moment’s notice throughout the night the team still looked competent and composed. This constant thinking was the difference maker in the match yet it is hard to see any English team possibly bar Mourinho’s Chelsea making such an on the fly change to win a match.

Benfica's 4-3-3 became a 3-4-3 whenever the visitors had a chance to attack. Siqueira and Silvio became essentially wingers whilst Fejsa dropped into the heart of a back three. This system provided defensive cover for Benfica but also allowed the visitors to truly dominate the Spurs defence with Benfica on numerous occasions eclipsing the number of players Spurs had in their own defensive zone.

Benfica’s 4-3-3 became a 3-4-3 whenever the visitors had a chance to attack. Siqueira and Silvio became essentially wingers whilst Fejsa dropped into the heart of a back three. This system provided defensive cover for Benfica but also allowed the visitors to truly dominate the Spurs defence with Benfica on numerous occasions eclipsing the number of players Spurs had in their own defensive zone.

Tottenham didn’t make it unduly difficult for Benfica don’t get me wrong but it was clear to see that Tottenham were matched against a far superior team and this is a Tottenham Hotspur team let’s not forget who saw upwards of £100million leave the club’s coffers on transfer fees last summer.

Despite words to the contrary from the Tottenham hierarchy, Tim Sherwood’s future as Tottenham Hotspur manager looks bleak with the English coach expected to be replaced with Louis van Gaal in the summer. Whilst van Gaal may not be the perfect fit for a number of teams in the Premier League, even more so when you consider his disappointing end with Bayern Munich in 2011, the Tottenham Hotspur job looks perfect for him.

There are players in that team with unbelievable quality, Sandro, Paulinho and Christian Eriksen to name but three. With van Gaal at the helm you will never, ever see Christian Eriksen forced to play in a position where he is ineffective. Louis van Gaal knows the importance of creative talents such as Eriksen and at the moment it looks as if Tim Sherwood does not.

Whilst there is still a second leg to go, a 3-1 deficit looks rather difficult to overturn in Lisbon and with Benfica seeming to be so much better than Tottenham it looks as if Spurs’ continental adventure is over for another year.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Manchester United fail to capitalise on opportunity to win in San Sebastian

Robin van Persie's missed penalty, however United were guilty of a much bigger miss throughout the match.

Robin van Persie’s missed penalty, however United were guilty of a much bigger miss throughout the match.

Manchester United earned a creditable point away in San Sebastian yesterday evening as the match with Real Sociedad ended 0-0. Many supporters and pundits alike have alluded to United being happy taking a point away from such a game but when you look at certain points within the match the visitors should be disappointed at missing an opportunity to exploit an obvious weakness in the Basque side’s defence.

Newly appointed Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill made suggested before kick-off that Sociedad were susceptible to attacks down either flank as their full-backs, Carlos Martinez and Alberto de la Bella were not great defensively. This proved out to be a valid point throughout the ninety minutes as the two Sociedad full-backs were often caught out of position and found themselves easily beaten when being directly taken on down the sideline.

However Manchester United failed to fully capitalise on this glaring window opportunity to take the game beyond Sociedad, Manchester United created three outstanding chances from open play and all three of this opportunities were created by a move directly down one of either the left or right hand side. Sociedad looked in danger when either Shinji Kagawa or Ashley Young got one on one against Martinez on the left hand side and with space so condensed in the central areas, out wide looked to be the logical place to orchestrate most of United’s attacks. For whatever reason Manchester United repeatedly chose to ignore this and seemed insistent on cutting inside whenever the ball was shifted to either side with the hope of feeding either Wayne Rooney or Javier Hernandez in through the middle.

The majority of the match was played in the midfield with Manchester United having much of the ball throughout but unable to break Sociedad down on many more than a handful of occasions. With the central areas so condensed the decision taken by United’s wide midfielders to cut inside was a strange one as they ran into one, if not two defenders looking to close down the ball every single time. This was a sharp contrast to going down the flank where it was often a direct one v one against the isolated defending full-back on either side.

Admittedly on the left hand side Shinji Kagawa was playing out of position and being the creative number ten he naturally is it seemed only natural to expect that he would cut inside more often than not however on the right hand side with Antonio Valencia it looked as if the option of taking de la Bella on was completely ignored with the Ecuadorian international repeatedly moving infield and being forced to move the ball backwards to one of Fellaini or Ryan Giggs courtesy of quick Sociedad pressure from midfield and defence.

Here we see how Valencia's cutting inside hindered United's attacking opportunities. There was a direct one vs one with de la Bella on the right hand side most times Valencia had the ball in the above position. Valencia however instead decided to cut inside and move into a more congested area, which resulted in Valencia being immediately greeted by the three man pressure movement from Gonzalez, Inigo Martinez and Bergara as indicated by the yellow dashed lines towards the ball. Rooney and Hernandez were now taken out of the game as Valencia couldn't work the ball towards them in such a tight space, the only option was to move the ball back to one of Giggs and Fellaini which took the entire sting out of the attack.

Here we see how Valencia’s cutting inside hindered United’s attacking opportunities. There was a direct one vs one with de la Bella on the right hand side most times Valencia had the ball in the above position. Valencia however instead decided to cut inside and move into a more congested area, which resulted in Valencia being immediately greeted by the three man pressure movement from Gonzalez, Inigo Martinez and Bergara as indicated by the yellow dashed lines towards the ball. Rooney and Hernandez were now taken out of the game as Valencia couldn’t work the ball towards them in such a tight space, the only option was to move the ball back to one of Giggs and Fellaini which took the entire sting out of the attack.

In contrast to the above image we can now look at the three separate attacking moves in the second half where Manchester United actually attacked Sociedad directly down either flank and looked dangerous with Robin van Persie hitting the post, Javier Hernandez missing from close range and Shinji Kagawa being just unable to get on the end of Robin van Persie square pass into the penalty area.

The move begins with Marouane Fellaini having the ball in a central position just outside the Sociedad penalty area. He chooses to work the ball to Shinji Kagawa who then takes on the full-back Martinez down the left hand side and beats him with consummate ease. Kagawa then once free of Martinez has the option of cutting the ball back to Hernandez on the six yard line and does so giving the Mexican an opportunity at a near open goal with Bravo having slipped as the ball travelled to Hernandez. In this situation Hernandez missed from close range but the evidence had now been made clear, United's best area to create chances was to go down the flanks.

The move begins with Marouane Fellaini having the ball in a central position just outside the Sociedad penalty area. He chooses to work the ball to Shinji Kagawa who then takes on the full-back Martinez down the left hand side and beats him with consummate ease. Kagawa then once free of Martinez has the option of cutting the ball back to Hernandez on the six yard line and does so giving the Mexican an opportunity at a near open goal with Bravo having slipped as the ball travelled to Hernandez. In this situation Hernandez missed from close range but the evidence had now been made clear, United’s best area to create chances was to go down the flanks.

With Ashley Young replacing Javier Hernandez midway through the second half Shinji Kagawa was allowed to move into his favoured number ten position. Ashley Young was put on the left hand side in order to give United's attacks a bit of impetus and speed. From the outset it looked as if Young would take Martinez on repeatedly however the England international only did so once as illustrated above. Young easily beats Martinez for pace and then cuts the ball back to van Persie at the back post who hit the post but yet again Sociedad's frailties in the full-back area were highlighted.

With Ashley Young replacing Javier Hernandez midway through the second half Shinji Kagawa was allowed to move into his favoured number ten position. Ashley Young was put on the left hand side in order to give United’s attacks a bit of impetus and speed. From the outset it looked as if Young would take Martinez on repeatedly however the England international only did so once as illustrated above. Young easily beats Martinez for pace and then cuts the ball back to van Persie at the back post who hit the post but yet again Sociedad’s frailties in the full-back area were highlighted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kagawa in his preferred central role can see the run van Persie is about to make down the right hand side. The Japanese international feeds the ball into his teammate who is then one against one with de la Bella. Robin van Persie then goes past a yet again isolate full-back and looks to cut the ball back into the path of Kagawa's forward run indicated by the yellow arrow. Unfortunately Kagawa slightly overruns the pass and then ball from van Persie is ever so slightly behind him but it yet again showed how space could be found inside the penalty area as a result of wingplay rather than repeated attempts to break Sociedad down through the centre.

Kagawa in his preferred central role can see the run van Persie is about to make down the right hand side. The Japanese international feeds the ball into his teammate who is then one against one with de la Bella. Robin van Persie then goes past a yet again isolate full-back and looks to cut the ball back into the path of Kagawa’s forward run indicated by the yellow arrow. Unfortunately Kagawa slightly overruns the pass and then ball from van Persie is ever so slightly behind him but it yet again showed how space could be found inside the penalty area as a result of wingplay rather than repeated attempts to break Sociedad down through the centre.

What is interesting is how these three moves all occurred within a ten minute period. It seemed as if after a difficult first half during which Sociedad had demonstrated their ability to deal with central attacks, United were now going to exploit the wings yet a consistent flow of similar attacks never came. It was these three isolated attempts which were arguably Manchester United’s best opportunities from within open play to score and that was that, Ashley Young followed the example set by Valencia in the first half and kept cutting infield and defensively speaking it was a more comfortable night for Sociedad than many would have imagined.

Let’s make no mistake however, a draw away from home in the Champions League is not to be sniffed at, especially when you consider United have only won two out of twenty two visits to Spain following yesterday evening’s clash. The fact that the other fixture in Group A between Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayer Leverkusen also finished 0-0 ensured that Manchester United won’t immediately rue missing out on three points last night but it was a glaring opportunity to put one foot in the knockout stages and whilst many will argue United could have been 3-0 up last night it is worth remembering that David Moyes men would have created a lot more scoring opportunities had they exploited the sizeable weakness on the Sociedad flanks.

Written by Chris Winterburn

You can follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

 

Roma brought back down to earth

Serie A league leaders AS Roma were brought back down to earth last night when their perfect start to the season of ten wins in a row was put to an end by a plucky Torino side who managed to hold the Giallorossi to a 1-1 draw after an impressive performance from their wide midfielder Alessio Cerci. Cerci, a boyhood Roma fan and a former member of the AS Roma Primavera was effective all night long particularly down the right hand side of midfield mainly due to the woeful defensive display from Federico Balzaretti.

Totti and Gervinho were two key men missing for Roma's visit to Torino.

Totti and Gervinho were two key men missing for Roma’s visit to Torino.

After their midweek victory of Chievo Verona took them passed the nine straight wins at the beginning of a Serie A season record formerly set by Fabio Capello’s Juventus team in 2005-2006, Roma were determined to keep their impressive run of form going as the gap between themselves and Napoli was still just four points which is a real testament to the widespread quality in the upper echelons of the Italian top flight this season. Roma headed to Torino’s Stadio Olimpico without a number of key figures who were missing through injury, the most notable of those absentees were the attacking duo of Francesco Totti and Gervinho which forced Rudi Garcia to place Marco Borriello in the starting line-up. In a very attacking 4-3-3 system Borriello looked a bit like a lost sheep with the Italian forward being unable to stay on the same wavelength as his partners Miralem Pjanic and Alessandro Florenzi.

This was one of the greatest contributing factors to Roma’s demise yesterday evening as Garcia’s men couldn’t capitalise on their opening goal through Kevin Strootman, Borriello’s limited movement made it very easy for the Torino defensive pairing of Kamil Glik and Matteo Darmian to make him out of the game and limit his link-up with Pjanic and Florenzi.

It was a difficult first half for Roma with the hosts stifling their limited creativity with a very industrious approach to the match, with ten men behind the ball and looking to hit the visitors on the counter attack through Cerci and El Kaddouri respectively. Roma had a lot of possession in the midfield as they were afforded time to think on the ball courtesy of Torino’s game plan and the Giallorossi’s patience did eventually pay off when they got their aforementioned opening goal just before the half hour. An excellent defence splitting pass from Balzaretti set the inform Pjanic free inside the penalty area and he duly cut it back into the path of Strootman who powered past Padelli in the Torino goal.

Roma should have capitalised on this and looked for a second goal but Garcia’s charges simply didn’t have the raw creativity in the forward areas to break down the Torino backline with any great consistency. Many Roma supporters bemoaned the selection of Michael Bradley in the centre of midfield alongside Strootman and club icon Daniele De Rossi citing the American’s lack of mobility and creativity as reasons for Roma’s faltering display yesterday evening.

From the moment Roma took the lead it was as if Torino had been given a second wind so to speak, the hosts began venturing forward out of their own half and were receiving a lot more of the ball than in the previous half hour. The catalyst for this was the energetic Cerci who, after switching from the left hand side of midfield to the right midway through the first period, ran Roma ragged. The former Fiorentina man put real pressure on Balzaretti who in truth isn’t the most able player defensively at the best of times and the mistakes came. Cerci dribbled past numerous Roma defenders on several occasions near the climax of the first half and won a number of free kicks which he then went close with despite not forcing a save from the experienced Morgan De Sanctis.

If Roma’s first half performance was considered a shadow of their brilliant best then their second half display defies description.  The Giallorossi couldn’t get into the game at all, it was as if the break had killed any momentum they had. Borriello became even more isolated than in the first half and through Cerci, Torino began to take the game to Roma. A smart move down the left hand side just short of the hour mark took advantage of Maicon’s poor positioning and Torino were unfortunate not to level the match when Meggiorini’s strike forced a diving save out of De Sanctis.

Alessio Cerci, the former Roma man, was in sensational form last evening and he rescued a point for Ventura's Torino side.

Alessio Cerci, the former Roma man, was in sensational form last evening and he rescued a point for Ventura’s Torino side.

Torino’s precious equaliser was to come just four minutes after, an almost identical move to the one which led to Roma’s goal in the first half saw Meggiorini outmuscle Mehdi Benatia before cutting the ball across the face of goal where Cerci applied a near post finish. With Roma now somewhat stunned into action, Rudi Garcia immediately withdrew Borriello in place of the exciting Adem Ljajic in the hope the Serbian could inject some impetus into Roma’s performance.

Roma were still struggling to build anything like the rhythm they had displayed in their previous ten Serie A matches however they may well feel aggrieved that they did not receive a penalty ten minutes from time when Maicon broke into the Torino penalty area and appeared to be tripped however replays showed the initial contact to be outside the box and once inside Maicon in actual fact, tripped over his own feet.

The game finished 1-1 and the final ten minutes were certainly not a period of football for the ages, with Roma desperately trying to continue their perfect start to the season the visitors threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Torino but due to fatigue and the personnel on the field at the time there was never really any great threat to the Torino goal. Such was the surprise at the result the Torino side lapped up the atmosphere and celebrated a 1-1 draw with their own supporters as you would after winning a domestic cup however who can blame them? They had just matched the standout side in the Italian top flight and had lifted themselves into 12th position, a full three points away from the relegation zone.

Roma on the other hand have been brought back to earth, after seven hundred and forty three, yes 743, minutes without conceding a league goal it does appear as if Rudi Garcia’s men are human after all and with Napoli and Juventus only three points behind in second and third place respectively it will be an important period for Roma to return to form when they face Sassuolo at the Olimpico next weekend, not least because Juventus and Napoli face each other on the same weekend.

Written by Chris Winterburn

You can follow and get in touch with Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4