For a club who spent nearly four years on the periphery of this competition, Roma's return to the Champions League couldn't have gone any better. Thanks to a world class performance from Gervinho, Roma ran roughshod over visiting CSKA Moscow, unleashing the fury and putting the visitors behind the veritable eight ball mere minutes into the match.
As the refrain from Roma, Roma, Roma rang out from the stands, the camera flashed to a smiling Francesco Totti, giving the match an incredibly auspicious start, and it wouldn't take long to convert those good feelings into actual results either.
Maicon nearly broke the match open minutes after the opening whistle, serving up a lovely cross from the right flank that was ultimately turned away. However, it was Juan Iturbe, Roma's €22m wunderkind, who opened up the scorer's ledger.
In the sixth minute, Manu and Gervinho teamed up to positively eviscerate the CSKA defense.
Gervinho and Iturbe are both known, quite rightly, for their speed, but in this instance it was the vision of the former and timing of the latter that put Roma ahead. Watch the freeze frame in that clip and notice how Gervinho split five...five!...defenders to find Manu in space, who stalled his forward progress, literally showing Gervinho where to place the ball before slotting it home.
With sequences like that, you can begin to understand why Garcia sought out both players so fervently the past two summers.
But it wouldn't end there, as Iturbe would return the favor, setting up Gervinho in the 10th minute giving Roma an extremely early cushion.
Not the finest quality, but the most important part of that goal, Gervinho repositioning himself and switching the ball to his left, is pretty clear. Call it quick thinking or lazy defending, but it was enough to double Roma's lead.
But then this happened...
Maicon found space on the right and drove towards the end line, scoring from a nearly impossible angle, beating both the splayed out defender and the outstretched arms of keeper Igor Akinfeev to bury the ball in the far post.
Summer training be damned, Maicon has looked as effective as ever through his first two appearances this season.
Then, in the 31st minute, Gervinho would go into full-on Predator mode. Blazing past the Moscow defense on the right flank, Gervinho slammed on the brakes, pulled the ball back and created just enough separation from the defender before slotting it home with his left foot.
Roma utterly dominated the first half, scoring four goals on 11 shots while completing a staggering 93% of their passes. I'm sure we all were optimistic heading into this match, but did any of us really expect the first 45 minutes to be that one sided?
Roma struck early and often, effectively ending the match after 20 minutes, making CSKA look like amateurs in the process.
What does one do when they're up 4-0 but there are still 45 minutes left to play? Why you pressure your opponents into an own goal, of course. Alessandro Florenzi did just that as his diving header glanced off Sergei Ignashevitch and fell helplessly into the CSKA goal.
Honestly, were it not for some poor crossing and a couple of offsides calls, Roma could have easily pushed this to a six or seven-nil affair, and besides CSKA capitalizing on some lax defending from Maicon, the remainder of the second half was rather non-descript. Roma, though they nearly pushed their advantage even further, were simply playing out the string, hoping to sew up three points and avoid any injuries.
We spent much of the preview discussing how Roma could potentially catch CSKA napping on the counter, but they didn't even need to do that, they just came right out and put CSKA on their asses, removing all doubt after only 20 minutes.
Day One Domination
Given how lopsided this match was--Roma effectively took their foot off the gas in the second 45 minutes--the statistics won't tell the whole story, but Roma put eight of fifteen shots on target, completed 91% of their passes, created 12 scoring chances, pulled off 22 successful dribbles and intercepted 19 passes. Pure and simple, Roma dominated this match from whistle-to-whistle, making particular fools of CSKA in the first 45 minutes, and thanks to Jerome Boateng securing a last minute victory for Bayern Munich against Manchester City, Roma sit atop Group E after match day one.
In order to even have a puncher's chance of surviving Group E, Roma absolutely had to protect the Olimpico and walk away with three points, but savaging CSKA in the manner we just saw should give Roma ample momentum before they travel to Manchester at the end of the month.
The best part of all this is we only have to wait four days to see Roma again when they welcome none other than Zdenek Zeman back to Rome on the 21st.