Without the Curva Sud choir, the Olimpico was devoid of it soul on Sunday, but that didn't stop Rudi Garcia's men from singing to heavens. What ultimately became a resounding victory was anything but in the early goings, as Roma and Sampdoria spent much of the first 25 minutes in a stilted and listless quagmire, neither side seemingly able to establish any momentum.
Roma's first sight at goal came in the 27th minute, as Gervinho found a back channel and slipped behind the Sampdoria defense, but was felled by his own heavy touch, which afforded Daniele Gastaldello the necessary time to snuff the play out. Eight minutes later, Alessandro Florenzi served up a pinpoint cross, seemingly destined for Destro's head, only to see it pushed off track with the slightest of touch by Sampdoria Defender Shkodran Mustafi.
For the first half hour of the match, it looked like Roma were destined to be done in by their poor finishing once again, as Pjanic, Destro and Gervinho all came up short in varying manners, but from half-hour mark onwards, Roma shut down the Sampdoria attack, took control of the match, and capitalized on their chances.
With this 3-0 victory, Rudi Garcia has now defeated Sampdoria three times in six months, something his predecessors couldn't manage the previous six seasons combined.
We'll have a more traditional review in the coming hours, so let's take a look at the sights and sounds of this 3-0 victory.
Mattia Destro 44th Minute Header
As we all know, before you grind a corner flag, you gotta get it a little excited first, and with this 44th minute header, Destro did just that. Starting from a Florenzi corner kick, watch as Destro holds firm and maintains separation from Vasco Regini, puts just enough behind the ball, and with the right angle and trajectory, to guide it past the outstretched hands of Angelo Da Costa. Not the most powerful or breathtaking header you'll ever see, but it was perfect for this match and this moment.
1-0, Roma. Destro partially redeemed.
Miralem Pjanic 54th Minute Free Kick
Taking a page out of Francesco Totti's book of spells, Miralem Pjanic delivered a knuckled, dipping free kick from at least 30-yards out. The real beauty of this kick, and the type we've seen Totti unfurl numerous times, is the technique; put too much top spin on it, and the trajectory is completely ruined, falling to the ground like a wounded duck, easily scooped up by the keeper. On the other hand, if you get underneath and impart too much backspin, it sails harmlessly into Da Costa's hands. Miralem did neither of these, his was the perfect attempt.
2-0 Roma, Pjanic prospers.
Mattia Destro 57th Minute Right Footed Shot
At long last, the payoff to all that titillation. Seizing on a Sampdoria turnover, Roma quickly got the ball to the feet of Gervinho, who took a somewhat subdued path towards the goal, but held up the play just long enough for Destro to get into scoring position. Watch this one again, then pause, rewind it, and watch it again. This goal was all about Destro's off-the-ball movement. First, he shadows Gervinho's movement, then he literally points out where he wants the ball played. But what came next, that was the release Destro so desperately needed.
Watch as he uses his right arm to shield himself from the Samp defender, seals him off, cradles the ball with his left foot, turns, then blasts it into the upper right hand corner. The perfect combination of technique, force, and momentum; Da Costa never stood a chance.
3-0 Roma, Destro re-born. Incidentally, I have no idea what that commentator is saying, but he's fast becoming one of my favorite announcers.
What They're Saying
Rather than rejoicing in his team's complete manhandling of Sampdoria, Garcia took a different tact, preferring to look backwards at the series of events that lead to the deafening silence on Sunday:
I think that after the Coppa Italia there was a lack of respect for my team. Today we saw the response, as the truth is always on the pitch. We saw a great Roma side, who are second in Serie A, play incredible football, are four points ahead of Napoli with a game in hand. Tonight we proved that we are strong. You all know there was a lack of respect. People need to acknowledge what this team can do and say the truth. I have total faith in this team and I think I am right to do so.
It was also a little strange to play in a stadium like this. There was nothing positive around the team beforehand, so I put forward this result, this performance, these three goals and an iron defence. When I say everything was negative around us, I include the fact we were playing against a Sampdoria side that plays good football and came out attacking us from the start.
After venting on the tumult of last week's Coppa Italia loss, Rudi spoke to the merits of his defense:
We have the best defence in Italy, one of the best attacks, so it means the whole team works well when defending. We do not leave spaces for our opponents to shoot. Morgan De Sanctis had hardly anything to do tonight. I had asked the team to continue seeking results through good football. Perhaps in recent games we forgot to play it simple, keep possession and hold out under pressure, but today we saw more of that. I am very happy with the way Alessandro Romagnoli played coming off the bench
For his part, Sampdoria manager Sinisa Mihajlovic admitted Roma was the better side, but seemed troubled by his club's complicity in Roma's easy three:
We lost deservedly, but we also helped Roma, as in the first half we kept giving the ball away and making silly mistakes. It was remarkable we only conceded one goal. Then we tried to fight back and had some chances, but we kept choosing the wrong pass. What really annoys me is that I've got two players suspended for next week. Lorenzo De Silvestri's yellow for dissent was unacceptable, while Daniele Gastaldello insisted it wasn't his foul, but he still shouldn't have gone sliding in.
Looking at the numbers, Mihajlovic's assessment was pretty astute. Samp completed only 73% of their passes this evening, while turning it over seven times. Roma simply didn't let Sampdoria get on-track, much less even see the ball, as they held an impressive 64% possession, while disrupting Samp's passing game all over the pitch.
Just a fantastic performance from a somewhat depleted Roma squad, so we'll leave you with the lasting image of this victory.