What started off as an incredibly dull match quickly turned into the Mattia Destro show. Thanks to three goals from Roma's young forward, the Giallorossi broke nearly two decades of futility on the island of Sardinia, defeating Cagliari on their home ground for the first time since October 29, 1995.
Ironically, that 2-0 victory was also born on the back of a terrific individual effort, thanks to two goals from Daniel Fonseca. For Fonseca, those tallies represented one-tenth of his 20 career goals for Roma, so he was hardly a club legend, so let's focus on the here and now.
Destro's hat trick pushed his yearly haul to 13 goals, a new career high and more than double his output from last season, while also launching him into fourth in the Serie A scoring race, even with both Alberto Gilardino and Mario Balotelli.
Destro is certainly making a name for himself, with each performance and each goal nudging him closer to a spot in the World Cup, so, before we dissect his best performance to date, let's take a quick look at the match in general.
Fortunately for Rudi Garcia, stats don't tell the entire story. On what was a beautiful Sardinian afternoon, the Islanders were the more aggressive side, outshooting and out tackling the Giallorossi 18-6 and 18-12, respectively. Were it any other day, perhaps Roma's woes in Cagliari would have persisted.
Although Roma held the advantage in possession 54% to 46%, it was a touch below their season average of 59%; they also committed six turnovers. For whatever reason, Roma, for much of the match, the first half in particular, were not able to maintain much momentum and actually spent much of the match mired in their own half, with only 2% of the matches action occurring in the Cagliari final third.
With only six total attempts on goal, the Giallorossi offense was far from potent today. But, thank god for Destro, his three goals--Roma's only shots on target, I might add--were more than enough to sink the Islanders.
So, without further ado, let's have a look a Destro's coming out party.
Destrinho Strikes Again: 32nd Minute
For the fifth time this season, Gervinho and Mattia Destro hooked up to guide Roma to the promise land. Only, in this instance, it looked like that equation would be turned upside down, as it was actually Destro who sprung Gervinho. Unfortunately for Gervinho's goal scoring account, Destro's well-intentioned through ball was pushed off course by two Cagliari defenders, the last of whom inadvertently chipped it over the diving keeper, which forced the ball out to the right towards Gervinho. The Ivorian calmly settled the ball, turned around and went five-hole on Albin Ekdal, finding Destro in ample space who tapped it home in stride.
It was a rather strange series of events, but it was further evidence of the chemistry between Roma's forwards, who, don't forget, have only shared the stage for roughly 12 weeks.
Destro 56th Minute: Right Footed, Low & Left
This clip shows the tail end of what was really a remarkable counter attack. For the full effect, check out the full match highlights here. In a mere ten seconds, and with only three touches, Roma went from defending in their own 18 to effectively grabbing three points.
Following a perfectly weighted headed clearance, Radja Nainggolan caught the ball on the bounce and, with one settling touch, sprung Destro into space on the right flank with no one between him and Vlada Aramov. From there it was pretty simple, Destro took a few touches, waited for Aramov to commit, and slotted it home low and away.
It's amazing how a 90 minute match can be decided in a matter of seconds, but thanks to Nainggolan's shrewd passing and Destro's clinical finishing, Roma did just that.
Destro 73rd Minute: Right Footed
Unfortunately for Gervinho, the statisticians in Serie A don't track secondary assists, because his pass to Florenzi was the first domino in Destro's third goal. But, brother, what a pass from Alessandro Florenzi.
Credit young Ale with a couple of things here. First, notice how he drifted slightly out towards the left, giving Gervinho ample room to make the pass; had he ran more directly towards the end line, Gervinho's pass may have been intercepted, or Florenzi would have been closed out by the defense, thus robbing him of the chance to play it to Destro. Second, Florenzi acted immediately upon receiving the ball; there was no unnecessary touch and no wasted movement, he simply and brilliantly played the ball across to Destro, with his left foot, no less.
Vision, anticipation and intelligence; Florenzi has it all. For Destro, the genius of this goal, beyond staying onside, was simply maintaining his balance while Danilo Avilar accosted him.
Continuing the Attack against Atalanta
A banner day for Destro, one that temporarily puts Roma five points behind league leading Juventus, putting the pressure on the Old Lady as they face Livorno tomorrow. Well, as much pressure as a two-time defending champion can have hosting an 18th place side, anyway.
Next on the fixture list, a home match against Atalanta, one Roma will have to manage without the newly suspended Destro, Florenzi and Miralem Pjanic, each out due to accumulated yellow cards. With those three on the sidelines, might we finally see Adem Ljajic, or even possibly Federico Ricci? Whatever the case may be, Roma cannot afford to give unwarranted penalties or cough up late goals like we've seen the past two weeks.
But for now, let us rejoice in the splendor of Italy's next great striker blossoming before our eyes.