While much has changed about the Roma we know and love this season, they still have a flair for the dramatic, don't they? Never was this more apparent than this evening when Roma waited until the last gasp to secure the 2-1 win over Torino, ushered to victory thanks to a sublime stoppage time goal from Alessandro Florenzi.
This match was, in many ways, what we predicted; largely predicated upon the whims of Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile, Gervinho and Roma's central defense. And while Roma effectively removed Cerci from the conversation, the remaining components in that equation dictated the outcome of this match in large measure.
Numbers, numbers, numbers; they say so little, yet tell us so much, both revealing and masking the truth. The black and white of this match says it should have been a laugher, rather than the last minute miracle we witnessed.
Roma nearly doubled Torino's attempts on goal, 23 to 12, pushing that to a greater disparity in quality shots, 9 to 2, while holding 57% of the matches possession. Thanks in part to that possession and their 90% passing, Roma kept Torino pinned in their own end for much of the match.
Whether it was due to fatigue on the part of Miralem Pjanic or simple rust from Daniele De Rossi, Roma's midfield wasn't able to muster their usual magic this evening, accounting for only 26% of Roma's key passes; not the most prolific display from the heart of Garcia's squad, but on this day, Roma support they needed from the other factions of Garcia's formation.
In his 700th appearance for his boyhood club, and in only 70 minutes of action, Francesco Totti notched a match high four chances created. Buoyed by support from the flanks, where Maicon and Alessio Romagnoli chipped in five further chances created, Roma were able to mask the shortcomings in the midfield.
Anyway, on to the...
Mattia Destro: 41st Minute Toe Poke
On a play that started, surprise, surprise, with Gervinho dribbling in from the wing, Destro narrowly beat the outstretched hands of Torino keeper Daniele Padelli. While we've grown somewhat accustomed to griping about Gervinho's exorbitant minutes and sometimes questionable decision making, Gervinho was all aces on this play.
Watch as he dribbles in from the right flank, using Francesco Totti's defacto pick to get around the closest Torino defender. What happened next to a lot of athleticism and a little bit of luck. Thanks to his otherworldly speed and agility, Gervinho was able to split two defenders, creating just enough separation to get the final toe poke on the ball to spring Destro. The twist of fate, one from which Roma has suffered many times, was the deflection off the Torino defender that negated what may have otherwise been an offsides call; you win some, you lose some.
Beyond Gervinho tempting fortune, there was a lot of beauty in this play. For Mattia's part, it was all about knowing where to be while the rest of Garcia's machine did its thing. Notice how, as soon as Gervinho cuts inwards, Destro makes the slightest of moves in the opposite direction, heading towards the edge of the penalty arc, stands firm and waits for Gervinho to dish it off.
Really, the only shred of criticism we can lay at the feet of Destro is that he may have let the ball run just a bit too much, giving Padelli the chance to close down the open space. Fortunately, Destro was able get there a split second before the keeper and poke it home.
Besides, how boss was that celebration? He was either gesturing to an absurdly good looking woman or Cesare Prandelli, either way, it's good to be Mattia.
Ciro Immobile: 52nd Minute Volley
Another young forward looking to make an impression upon Prandelli made his mark on this match in a big way, and you can't say we didn't warn you; Ciro Immobile's imprint was all over this match, as he took 33% of Torino's shots on goal.
While we don't follow Torino on a weekly basis, I can't imagine any of Immobile's league leading 17 goals were better than this one. Speaking from a purely objective standpoint, this goal was phenomenal. Immobile caught a pass from nearly midfield perfectly in stride; volleying the ball past a helpless Morgan De Sanctis without so much as a settling touch, all while using his weaker left foot.
They cynics among us will scream this is why Rafael Toloi should never have started, and, yes he may been caught watching in this instance, but there wasn't much he or anyone can do; Ciro Immobile has 17 goals for a reason, he's awfully good.
Alessandro Florenzi: 91st Minute Match Winner
Men and moments like this are why Romans playing for this club are so exalted. Anyone could have scored that goal, but the fact that it was one of the city's own makes the celebration a bit more resonate.
Once again, full marks for Gervinho the playmaker on this one, as the Ivorian dished out his now league leading ninth assist. Receiving the ball from Maicon about 30 yards from goal, Gervinho found himself in open space and, rather than forging straight for the goal and unleashing his usual bag of tricks, Gervinho slid the ball out wide to the streaking Florenzi on the left side of the pitch.
The key to this goal, aside from Gervinho's pass, started some 30-35 yards away from the goal. As soon as Gervinho received the ball from Maicon, Florenzi, rather than heading straight up the pitch where he would've run into Destro, made a gorgeous diagonal run to the left past the two central defenders who were pre-occupied with cutting of the lane between Gervinho and Destro.
But it didn't end there, Florenzi made the deftest of touches, switching the ball from his right to left and then absolutely blasted it past Padelli to give Roma the victory.
Three men, three different responsibilities and three perfectly executed roles.
Men of Merit
Aside from our goal scorers, several other Romans had a fine day in the park, so let's have a quick look at some notable performances.
Big Dougie made a match high 114 touches, dishing out 80 passes, of which he completed 89%, while hitting on two-of-eight crosses. This is all a convoluted way of saying that, whether by design or not, Roma accentuated the right flank tonight, and Maicon was more than up to task, providing service and threatening the Torino defense all night long. Teach me how to Dougie also had two key passes, three successful dribbles and drew three fouls, while throwing in two tackles and four interceptions for good measure.
Leandro the overlooked was superb tonight, and was far and away Roma's best and most energetic defender. Castan took 63 touches tonight, completing 89% of his passes in the process. But, back to the matter at hand, defense. Castan once again led Roma in interceptions, picking off five Torino passes, while clearing the ball eight more times and drawing two offsides calls. There's a reason, aside from Immobile's golazo, that Torino's offense was inept tonight, and its mostly attributable to Castan.
Sure, his performance tonight didn't stand out for any particular reason, but let's honor the man's 700th appearance with the club, a feat in and of itself. In only 70 minutes, Totti created four scoring chances, completed 84% of his passes, went two-for-seven in crosses, a perfect two-for-two in long balls and managed one shot on goal.
700 pressure packed appearances, each one with the weight of a city bearing down upon him. While this wasn't a legendary performance by any measure, it was noteworthy nonetheless.