If your Francesco Totti birthday celebrations were anything like mine, I pity you. The lateness of this match review stems from a relatively simple DIY project that turned into a calamitous all-day affair. While we got the job done, it wasn't as quick, simple, or as easy as we'd hoped, much like Roma's encounter with Verona today. With Verona keeping Roma in check for the first half, and with the birthday boy himself not up to his usual standards, Totti's special day was anything but in the early goings.
However, in what is quickly becoming the norm, Roma, whether by design or providence, simply found a way to win. Despite overwhelming possession and shot numbers, the Giallorossi's simply couldn't capitalize on their many scoring chances, as the Mastiffs managed to keep the game scoreless until the 75th minute, but thanks to a somewhat cheeky goal from Alessandro Florenzi and an absolute jaw dropper from Mattia Destro, Roma gifted Er Pupone a 2-0 victory on his birthday, Roma's fifth on the trot.
Destro's midfield wonder goal, as lovely as it was in its own right, was ultimately imbued with a bit of irony. While we haven't seen the trident of Adem Ljajic, Francesco Totti and Mattia Destro often, if at all, one thing is for certain, without Gervinho and Juan Iturbe, Roma's offense tends to lack a little bite.
Without their speed, agility and chaotic runs, Totti's incisive passing can sometimes go for naught, which was certainly the case this afternoon, as Roma ripped off 10 shots and created nine scoring chances in the first half alone, but still left the pitch with nothing to show for it after 45 minutes . So, given the profligacy of shots and possession and the paucity of actual scoring chances, Destro's flubbed header in the 15th minute seemed to foreshadow a scoreless draw.
While Roma dominated the first half on paper, Verona was steady in their resolve, bending but not breaking, keeping their shape and remaining hell bent on frustrating Rudi Garcia's men.
The second 45 minutes carried on in much the same fashion; Roma ran circles around Verona, completing 91% of their passes and out creating the Mastiffs ten to two. It looked like the same Roma we saw on the rare occasions they stumbled last season; passing and moving with aplomb, but ultimately faltering where it mattered most, scoring goals.
That was, until, this happened:
If Totti couldn't score on his own birthday, it was only fitting that the only remaining Roman on the active roster took the proverbial cake. I hesitate to give credit to Radja Nainggolan here, as this series started off with him losing the ball, but he did enough to harass Artur Ionita to jar the ball loose, where Florenzi was in position ready to pounce, burying it low and away.
The next ten minutes of action saw Roma knocking on the door once more, as Destro fired off two shots, one blocked, one off target, while Florenzi nearly doubled his haul in the 81st minute. The Destro(yer) would rise to the occasion in the 86th minute, however, to put the match beyond all doubt.
There's nothing I can say about this goal that isn't already littered on the internet, but perhaps the most amazing part of this volley was that Destro settled the ball directly off a goal kick. Whether Morgan De Sanctis intentionally targeted Destro or not, we cannot say, but fucking hell, Mattia knew exactly what he was doing as he cradled De Sanctis' pass. Without even a moment's hesitation, Destro chested the ball down, calmly let it take a bounce, and then imparted just enough force and at just the right trajectory to make a Seamen-esque fool out of Pierluigi Gollini.
Is This It?
Listen, we're only five weeks in, so it's absurdly early to make any sort of Scudetto prognostications, but the type of play we've seen through five rounds is nothing if not the stuff of champions. Despite suffering a spate of injuries to key players, Roma has not only blown out opponents, but they've gutted out wins when all common sense and good reason suggested otherwise. Through five weeks, Roma has been saved by free kicks, midfield bombs and even own goals. New guys have stepped up early and often, and, so far, Roma has managed their hectic schedule better than we could've imagined, particularly when we account for the injuries to Juan Iturbe, Leandro Castan, Davide Astori and Daniele De Rossi
I'm not saying this is the year, and I'm not sayin you should drink the Kool-Aid just yet, but get your red plastic Solo cup ready, because these are exactly the sort of things that tend to happen to champions, right?