The first Serie A match to be broadcast in 3D was a curious 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico, but both Juventus and Roma will take encouragement despite a raft of missed chances
Roma v Juventus became the first ever Serie A fixture broadcast live in 3D on Monday night, but even as TV executives were toasting this bold step into the future many of the pundits they employed were coming over all nostalgic. In commentary booths and studios, on talk shows and the news, everybody seemed to agree: the best football this season had been played strictly in black and white.
Not only did Juve come into the game at the Stadio Olimpico as the division's only unbeaten side but even they began the evening behind another team of Bianconeri. Udinese had taken up sole occupancy of first place on Sunday afternoon by beating Chievo while Milan were being held in Bologna. Not bad for a club who sold a €26m (£22m) forward (Alexis Sánchez), as well as their best central midfielder (Gökhan Inler) and centre-back (Cristián Zapata) in the summer.
"You start 1-0 down against Udinese because [Antonio] Di Natale scores a goal every time," complained Chievo's on-loan striker Alberto Paloschi after seeing the pint-sized poacher set his team on the way to another victory. Di Natale, Serie A's top goalscorer in each of the past two seasons, has now struck an incredible 67 times in his last 84 league outings. Yet if his team are soaring it is as much to do with a defence who have conceded only seven times in 14 games – by some way the best record in the division.
Not that the manager, Francesco Guidolin, has been getting ahead of himself, steadfastly refusing to entertain the notion that his team might be a title contender and insisting that in the end it will be another battle between the division's richest clubs. "Speaking with Guidolin about the Scudetto has the same effect as involving a father in a conversation about the possible sex life of their 15-year-old daughter," notes Paolo Blasotti on the website of regional newspaper Il Friuli.
Yet it has been a similar story over at Juventus, too. While a club boasting Serie A's highest transfer spend over the past three years (as illustrated by the football finances blog Swiss Ramble) could hardly plead poverty, the Old Lady's manager Antonio Conte has instead used successive seventh-place finishes as justification for refusing to entertain any title talk. So frustrated did one Gazzetta dello Sport reporter become with this line that he opened his article after Juventus's win over Lazio last month by simply demanding: "So now what are we supposed to talk about?"
It was a question that seemed destined to be repeated as Juventus arrived in Rome. Victory would have moved them not only back ahead of Udinese but also four points clear of the defending champions Milan, still most bookies' favourites for the title. There was much cause for optimism: Juventus had not lost at the Stadio Olimpico since 2004 and were up against a Roma team who had won just five of their opening 13 games under Luis Enrique and were at this stage described by Tuttosport as being held together by little more than "plasters and good hearts".
Already stricken by injuries to Simon Kjaer, Nicolás Burdisso, Marco Cassetti, David Pizarro and Fabio Borini, Roma's squad had been stripped even thinner by the suspensions dished out to Bojan Krkic, Fernando Gago and Juan following their red cards against Fiorentina. With each of his top three centre-backs missing, Enrique had little choice but to plug Daniele De Rossi in at the position even though doing so deprived his midfield of its most dynamic component.
Yet if such a move appeared to risk surrendering the initiative to Juventus, fate was to intervene. Barely five minutes had elapsed when Roma won a corner on the left, Francesco Totti exchanging passes with Miralem Pjanic before flighting a beautiful ball across the area for De Rossi running into space on the far side of the penalty spot. His volley back across goal lacked venom and ought to have been cleared by Arturo Vidal on the line, but instead the Juventus midfielder sliced the ball into his own net.
Thereafter Juventus would dominate the first half yet only rarely threaten an equaliser. The two managers' shared preference for hoarding possession had been noted in the build-up to this game, with Juventus having held 61.1% of the ball and Roma 59.5% on average across their previous fixtures this season. The knock on the Giallorossi was that despite coveting the ball they typically failed to do much with it, outscored by Juventus over the opening 13 games by 24 to 15. And yet here it was Conte's team who lacked incision.
That had to do with some impressively destructive, if unrefined, work from Leandro Greco in front of the Roma back four, as well as Pjanic's intermittent success in pressuring Andrea Pirlo, but also with Juventus's own flaws. With Milos Krasic and Eljero Elia not yet reaching the levels demanded by Conte and hence struggling to break into the side this season, the one knock on this Juventus side has been a lack of creativity – a shortage of fantasia. When Pirlo is not producing, so the theory goes, Juventus lack the guile to unpick a resolute opponent.
It is an argument which might have been overplayed – the team, after all, have outscored every other side in the division besides Milan – but with Claudio Marchisio failing to match his recent excellent form and Simone Pepe putting in an unusually subdued performance an equaliser certainly did not appear a foregone conclusion. If anything, Roma had been beginning to look comfortable with their lead when Marcelo Estigarribia shanked a volley into the ground and the ball bounced up kindly for the alert Giorgio Chiellini to charge in and head home.
There was time yet for further drama, Roma immediately winning a penalty at the other end after Vidal brought down Fábio Simplicio, only for Totti – restored to the starting line-up for the first time since 1 October – to see his penalty saved by Gigi Buffon. Elia, introduced very late on, then played in Fabio Quagliarella with an impeccable through-ball only for his fellow Juventus substitute's shot to be saved by Maarten Stekelenburg. In the end, neither team could find a winner.
That made for some confusion in the press box as reporters struggled to fit the result to a narrative. Juventus could hardly be unhappy to remain unbeaten after 14 games – the first time they have managed such a feat in the era of three points for a win – but had expected more against such a depleted opponent. Roma had shown spirit to draw with the league leaders with a makeshift line-up, but would surely lament the missed penalty that could have given them the win.
Certainly Enrique seemed happy to accentuate the positives after two days in which it had been reported – and then promptly denied – that the new owner Thomas DiBenedetto was having second thoughts over his ownership of the club, and in which the manager's own "never say never" response to a question about whether he might resign sparked a flurry of speculation. "I only said that because that's how football is, you don't know what could happen," he explained at full-time. "The last two managers of Roma were two great coaches, but both [Luciano] Spalletti and [Claudio] Ranieri resigned."
Enrique has always insisted that he would walk away from the post if he felt he no longer had the club's full support, but despite being heckled by fans after last week's defeat to Fiorentina there is no question that the new owners continue to back him, as does the general director, Franco Baldini. Pablo Daniel Osvaldo might have thundered off down the tunnel in a huff after being substituted on Monday night, but the board gave Enrique their explicit support when he decided to suspend the player for hitting his team-mate Erik Lamela after the defeat to Udinese last month.
"It's normal that he wasn't happy. This is the rage I want from my players," insisted Enrique of Osvaldo of the substitution, and he was similarly dismissive of reporters' questions regarding whistles heard from one section of the home support at Stadio Olimpico. "The only angry person I heard was my wife because I hadn't cleared the table at home," he joked.
Of course there had been some jeers, and for many Roma fans the jury remains out on Enrique. There were also many more, however, who applauded at the final whistle, and this morning's edition of Il Romanista (The self-proclaimed: "Newspaper of the most fanatical fans in the world") celebrates Roma as having responded to their recent difficulties "like a great team".
The matter, in other words, is far from black and white. Unlike the top of the Serie A table.
• Udinese's impressive form this season may have surprised even Guidolin, yet at least one Friulian feline has not been surprised. Forget Paul the Octopus – FastidiousCat has now successfully predicted the result in Udinese's last four fixtures.
• It's rarely good news when referees make the front-page headlines and Gianluca Rocchi commanded them for the second time this season on Monday after a string of bad decisions during Milan's draw at Bologna. The official handed Milan a soft penalty when Zlatan Ibrahimovic went down in the second half, yet failed to award four other possible spot-kicks (two to each team) where the offences seemed more obvious.
"If I made mistakes then I am sorry," Rocchi apparently told Stefano Pioli at full-time, and both the Bologna manager and his Milan counterpart Massimiliano Allegri were forgiving in their post-match comments. But if theirs was certainly a very different reaction to that of Internazionale after Rocchi's mishandling of their game against Napoli in October, then the outcome will be an even longer suspension from duties. Rocchi is not expected to take charge of another game until mid-January at the earliest.
• Inside Naples's Galleria Umberto I, a great glass-roofed shopping arcade, stands a seven metre Christmas tree, to which the public are invited to attach their Christmas wish lists. This year, alongside the usual children's requests for toys and games, as well as some rather more poignant notes from adults – with the economy suffering, pleas for a job are common – one particular note has been garnering much attention. "Dear Father Christmas," reads Michele G's handwritten offering. "On 16/12/11, get us Apoel Nicosia in the draw." With more than two months separating them from their next Champions League appointment, though, it might be time for Napoli to start refocusing on the league. Sunday's draw at Novara left them seven points behind the top three.
•Diego Milito was named the winner of this year's Bidone d'Oro – the Golden Dustbin – award on Monday, a prize handed to the worst player in Serie A as voted by the listeners of Rai Radio 2's Catersport show. If that seems a little harsh on a player who has rarely been fit over the last 12 months, then bear in mind that Amauri came second – a player who, despite disappearing at Juventus, did play a huge role in keeping Parma while on loan there last term.
Anyway, the good news for Inter is that Milito's strike partner Giampaolo Pazzini is scoring again – beating Artur Boruc with a perfectly judged flick for Inter's opener against Fiorentina. And when Pazzini scores, the outcome is always the same. Since joining Inter last January he has found the net in 12 of their games; the Nerazzurri have won every one of them.
• So Palermo's perfect start to the season at home – a run which had seen them win six from six while scoring 16 goals – comes to an end against a Cesena team who had previously collected nine points all season. Funny old game.
• If the sight of the Italy manager, Cesare Prandelli, dressed up as Santa Claus, singing carols and giving out gifts to the children of Florence doesn't warm your heart, your first name can only be Ebenezer.
Results: Atalanta 1-1 Catania, Bologna 2-2 Milan, Cagliari 0-0 Parma, Inter 2-0 Fiorentina, Lecce 2-3 Lazio, Novara 1-1 Napoli, Palermo 0-1 Cesena, Roma 1-1 Juventus, Siena 0-2 Genoa, Udinese 2-1 Chievo.