Michael Bradley was the hero for Roma at the weekend, as they equalled Juventus’ record of nine successive wins from the start of a Serie A season.
The US international has cut a frustrating figure this term, having been out of action with an ankle injury whilst warming up for a World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica in September. He has since had to witness his club colleagues rack up a remarkable run in the race for the Scudetto, with Rudi Garcia’s side storming to the top of the table.
Bradley was on the bench for the visit to Udinese on Sunday, when they would have to become the first team to win at the Stadio Friuli since September 2012 if they were to maintain their winning start to the season. They were also without the influential Francesco Totti and former Arsenal flop Gervinho, both of whom have been instrumental in their start to the campaign having combined for six goals and seven assists.
And their job was made even more difficult on 66 minutes, when Maicon was shown a red card with the score still goalless. A little more than ten minutes later, Garcia called for Bradley to replace Marco Borriello, and this was to prove a decisive move. The 27-year-old, who was making just his third appearance of the season, collected a pass from Kevin Strootman before firing past Croatian goalkeeper Ivan Kelava.
After the match, Bradley was keen to point out that he expects to play his part as the Giallorossi push for a first Scudetto since 2001. Garcia had used just 17 players in the opening eight matches of the campaign, fewer than any other team in the division, and if they are to maintain their challenge they will need all hands to the pump.
“We still have 29 games to go, and we need everyone,” said midfielder Bradley, who had played three times for Aston Villa whilst on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2011. “You won’t win anything with 11 soloists. We all need to makes sure that we are ready at the right moment. I will give everything, just as I did when I was out injured.”
The win at Udinese means Roma have now equalled Juventus’ opening of nine straight wins under Fabio Capello in 2005-06, although some claim they have already earned the record as the Bianconeri were later stripped of all achievements from that campaign in the light of the Calciopoli scandal. Regardless, the Giallorossi should clinch another win when they take on bottom-side Chievo in the Italian capital on Thursday evening.