For once, Roma managed to avoid shooting themselves in the foot, as a late first half goal from Daniele De Rossi was all it took to dispatch Cesena in what was a really a sloppy match for both sides. I dole out the backhanded compliment simply because Roma was far from crisp throughout this match, particularly in the second half, as they were plagued by many of the same problems we've grown to loathe in 2015; meaningless possession, poor passing/finishing in the final third and disjointed defense.
The positive, and it is a huge one, was that this victory keeps Roma one point clear of Lazio in the race for second place. With Felipe Anderson giving Lazio the lead in only the fourth minute, I'm certain I wasn't the only one keeping an eye on the out of town scoreboard, so to speak, so De Rossi's goal should enable Rudi Garcia to sleep a bit better tonight.
It wasn't an enthralling match by any means, but let's run it back.
With his side stagnating for nearly four months now, folks around Rome have been clamoring for Rudi Garcia to take some chances, to make some changes and to shake things up a bit. Well, Garcia heeded the calls for change, inserting Salih Uçan and Seydou Doumbia into the starting eleven for this evening's match against Cesena. However, apart from a few nice touches from Uçan in the first half, Garcia's lineup tinkering was largely ineffective in the first 45.
Roma, per usual, spent much of the first half either pinned to the touchline or aimlessly tossing the ball back and forth in their own half, with little to show for actual chances other than a nice cut in from Gervinho and a few looping shots from 18 to 20 yards out from the likes of Adem Ljajic and Radja Nainggolan. Time and again, Ljajic or Gervinho would find themselves pinned to the touchline, outnumbered by as many as four or five Seahorses, but Seydou Doumbia was simply not able to find his way into the acres of empty space Cesena left by overcommitting to Roma's wingers.
It looked as if Roma was destined to die on the flanks once more, that was, until, Daniele De Rossi stepped up and capitalized on a Jose Cholevas' inswinger
Daniele De Rossi: 41st Minute
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It may have only been De Rossi's third tally on the season, but it may prove to be Roma's most important goal this season, as the Giallorossi looked like they were careening headlong into another scoreless snoozer.
Looking at it now, it's hard to tell if Cholevas was trying to pick out Uçan directly at the top of the six, or if he was trying to catch De Rossi streaking towards the back post, but either way luck finally fell Roma's way, as Uçan's mistouch didn't throw off De Rossi's timing. Notice how DDR stalls a bit once the ball initially reached Uçan, but forges ahead, tracking the run of play from 25-yards out before putting it away.
It was far from a golazo, but it gave Roma the first half lift she so desperately needed.
The second half was rather non-descript, save for Lorenzi Pelligrini's senior debut and a Victor Ibarbo cameo shortly before the final whistle, but Roma did enough and (for once) caught some breaks as they clung to their narrow lead in the second half. Despite the victory, Roma was far from convincing this evening, as their passing was sloppy, their shooting inaccurate and even their tackling inefficient.
It wasn't the win they needed, but it was enough to keep the wolves at bay (no pun intended). Things will take a decidedly tougher turn next time out when Roma plays host to Napoli on April 4th.