Francesco Totti was absent from the AS Roma squad for the first time this season, but it proved to be no great disaster as the Giallorossi won 1-0 at Udinese Calcio to maintain their best ever start to a Serie A season.
Roma have managed something only Juventus, in 2005/06, have done before, coming out of the blocks with nine successive victories, with Sunday's success at the Stadio Friuli all the more impressive given that they ended the game with ten men following Maicon's dismissal. Coach Rudi Garcia got his substitutions just right, United States midfielder Michael Bradley coming on with 12 minutes to go and scoring the winner with his first touch four minutes later.
"This is the most beautiful victory for us, because we had a player sent off and Udinese have not lost at home for more than a year," said Frenchman Garcia, 49, who came to the Eternal City in the summer following a successful spell with LOSC Lille. "We believe in ourselves."
Roma are five points clear at the top of Serie A, but Bradley is not getting any big ideas just yet. "We are not thinking about the record or the statistics – we are taking it a match at a time," explained the 26-year-old. "We are very determined; we are giving all we have, we are focused and we just want to go on like that. You know what? We are already thinking about Chievo [on Thursday]."
If they were inclined to focus on statistics, Roma would doubtless be impressed; along with FC Internazionale Milano, they are Serie A's top scorers this season with 23 goals, but more impressive still, they have conceded just once in the league all season. Given that the side with the tightest defence tends to win the Italian title, it is a powerful omen.
Crucial to that rearguard rigour has been Federico Balzaretti, who also featured in the Juventus side that made that stunning Serie A start in 2005/06. "It was different then because I wasn't a regular in that team," said the 31-year-old full-back, who became a crowd favourite when he burst into tears after breaking the deadlock against SS Lazio in late September as Roma won their first capital derby in two and a half years.
"The players who were on the bench today know they could be regulars tomorrow, that's why all of my players are always ready," explained Garcia. "I don't believe things go well by accident. You make your own luck, and if you give everything on the field, if you work hard during the week, the results will come. We were reduced to ten men: that is not luck, that is football."
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