We're all well aware of Juventus' historical dominance over Roma, and with the Giallorossi stumbling year after year, it long ago reached the point where experimentation was Roma's best hope, and in today's victory, Rudi Garcia did just that...sort of. Though he didn't waiver from his preferred 4-3-3, Garcia did tweak his lineup selection a bit, opting for Daniele De Rossi at center back instead of Leandro Castan, while throwing Seydou Keita back into DDR's customary midfield role and giving Lucas Digne his first taste of Italian football, in arguably their biggest fixture in months.
These changes proved to be fortuitous, as each of the aforementioned players factored into today's victory, Roma's first league win over Juventus since 2013.
So, just in case you missed it, here are the half by half highlights.
Roma flat-out dominated the first 45 minutes of this match, particularly the first 15-20 minutes. Almost immediately, you could tell something was different. The combination of Digne and Iago Falque gave Roma a dynamism on the left side of the pitch we haven't seen in years. Within the first five to ten minutes of the match, Digne was overlapping and working one-twos with Falque as if they'd grown up playing together in back alleys. In fact, Digne showed no hesitation integrating himself with his new teammates, making 43 touches in his first 45 minutes in a Roma shirt, trailing only Miralem Pjanic and Alessandro Florenzi
Thanks in part to the steady play of that trio, Roma held 68% of the possession, completed 89% of their passes and ripped off 8 shots on goal in the first 45, including three from Pjanic who seemed like a man reborn in the first half.
Unfortunately for Roma, there best chances went just wide. There was Pjanic's bender hitting the woodwork and a Dzeko clear cut chance(ish) that was blocked in the 30th minute, but arguably their best chance came on a counter early in the first half, where Florenzi either didn't see or simply miss-hit an inswinger from the right flank, missing Dzeko who was wide open at the far post.
Thanks in part to the oppressive heat, the pace of play slowed down as the clock approached half time, which, as one would expect, caused tempers to flare, as Giorgio Chiellini was carded in the 37th minute nearly causing Kostas Manolas to foam at the mouth.
It wasn't the most free flowing, end to end match we've ever seen, but Roma looked as crisp, determined and as motivated as they have in months.
Neither side elected to make any changes coming out of the half, which was surprising given the conditions, but the pace of play didn't seem to suffer much due to heavy legs.
Listen, we can run back all the tactical movements, tense moments and substitutions, but the second half is really all about these three moments, each of which sent Juventus down the path of an 0-2 start.
Miralem Pjanic: 61st Minute Free Kick
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Seriously, what needs to be said about this one? Perfect placement plus the perfect weight equals the perfect free kick. Gianluigi didn't even bother to move, he knew he was beaten. If there was anyone who needed a moment like that, it was Pjanic. He pulled so hard to get Dzeko to Roma, but it's almost as if he is the one who is re-energized by the move.
Edin Dzeko: 79th Minute Header
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Not to be outdone by his countryman, Dzeko effectively put the match away 18 minutes later. Taking a high, lobbed cross from Iago Falque, Dzeko did a masterful job keeping Leonardo Bonucci off his back, holding his ground and getting in position to beat Buffon low and away.
Then there was this..
<blockquote class="twitter-video" lang="en"><p lang="it" dir="ltr">Smanacciata vincente <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Szczesny?src=hash">#Szczesny</a> <a href="http://t.co/2yGz6fVn7l">pic.twitter.com/2yGz6fVn7l</a></p>— Matteo Moretto (@Matte_Moretto) <a href="https://twitter.com/Matte_Moretto/status/638047830054191105">August 30, 2015</a></blockquote>
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After Paulo Dybala pulled one back for Juve in the 86th minute, it looked like the Old Lady might come back to haunt us, nearly levelling the match in the 93rd minute, but Roma's new man between the sticks was up to the challenge, parrying away the Juve attempt with the very tip of his fingers.
This was a jaw dropping and potentially season-altering save. In his extremely brief Roma career, Szczesny has shown a penchant for rising to the moments.
Like we said, Roma dominated this match from start to end. Outside of those few minutes surrounding Dybala's goal, Roma dictated the pace throughout this match, using Digne, Salah, Falque and even Iturbe to keep Juve's defenders confused and bewildered, thereby allowing Dzeko to find space in the middle. Quite honestly, this could have just as easily been a 4-1 scoreline; Dzeko was denied a couple of times, while only the woodwork kept Pjanic from a brace.
While Garcia didn't make any formational changes, the conclusions are clear; the combination of Digne and Falque is so far above anything Roma trotted out on that flank last year—the balance is back, which in turn makes it harder for opponents to cue in on any one section of Roma's attack.
We'll see if they can keep the train rolling next week when they play their very first quasi-derby match against Frosinone. For the time being, Roma sits second on the table, two points behind undefeated Sassuolo.