With AC Milan dispatching lowly Palermo, Roma entered this match in dire need of a win to keep the Rossoneri at bay, while both Lazio and the continually surprising Atalanta gained ground within the top five. And Roma, as is their style, came out listless, nearly conceding twice within the first three minutes to the eleven walking highlighters masquerading as Bologna FC...seriously, what was up with those kits? I think I’ve lost the ability to see that particular color anymore.
After sleeping their way through the first ten minutes or so, Roma came alive when Diego Perotti picked out Edin Dzeko with a crisp through ball, followed by a surprisingly deft cut in from Dzeko, whose shot unfortunately didn’t curl quite enough to beat the keeper. Dzeko cutting through defenses reminds me of when Shaquille O’Neal would lead a fast break; it’s awkward and entertaining, but damnit it all if it doesn’t work.
Perotti would force Bologna’s hand in the 13th minute, centering a ball from the left towards Mohamed Salah, whose shot was deflected past the keeper by a Bologna defender.
Mohamed Salah/Own Goal: 13th Minute
GOAL Salah!! Roma 1-0 Bologna pic.twitter.com/2Ekqu9UdBq— Serie A News (@TransfersCalcio) November 6, 2016
No doubt about this one, the ball caromed off his leg like a pinball off the little paddle thingies...it’s a technical term. Roma got lucky, sure, but credit to Perotti for finding Salah, and Mo for putting the Bologna defense in a position to make an error in the first place.
The remainder of the first half played on nearly without issue, bar a lazy back pass that nearly gifted Umar Sadiq a goal before Wojciech Szczesny nearly snapped his legs in half. Roma’s midfield was definitely left wanting in the first forty five, ditto for really everyone else. While Perotti was effective enough cutting in from the left, that furious spark to which we’ve grown accustomed just wasn’t there; Roma didn’t play poorly in the strictest sense, but they weren’t terribly dangerous either.
Despite all that, Roma headed into the dressing room with a 1-0 lead thanks to Bologna’s early error, which was still fairly preventable. So we’ll chalk this one up to good luck.
The second frame started off innocuous enough until about the 58th when a Mohamed Salah goal was mysteriously disallowed. After settling the long ball over top, Salah skirted around the last defender and keeper, before slotting it home from beyond the 18 yard box. The problem, according to the official, was that Salah had fouled the last man, call it a phantom shoulder barge, but upon the replay, it was actually Salah who was harassed; just a terrible, terrible call, but you can’t help but marvel at Salah’s game changing speed.
Salah wouldn’t have to wait long for redemption, however.
Mohamed Salah: 62nd Minute
GOAL Salah!! Roma 2-0 Bologna pic.twitter.com/dA6f6nhaDU— Serie A News (@TransfersCalcio) November 6, 2016
Just a fabulous pass from Strootman, who was not up to his usual high standards to this point, but he picked out Salah in stride on this one, giving Bologna little to no chance of stopping him.
Salah would “strike” again less than ten minutes later
Mohamed Salah: 71st Minute
Hat-trick for Salah!! Roma 3-0 Bologna pic.twitter.com/pXmdkZlwgD— Serie A News (@TransfersCalcio) November 6, 2016
No mystery here. Dzeko with a decent long effort forcing the keeper to parry it wide, where Salah was waiting to capitalize, gently tapping it home.
Thanks to Salah’s magnificent performance, we don’t really have much to debate, though we should start quaking in our boots at the thought of this club without him during his AFCON duties this winter.
However, we can talk a bit about Spalletti’s odd second half substitutions; Leandro Paredes on for Antonio Rüdiger, pushing Daniele De Rossi into defense was an interesting move, in that it seemed to completely remove whatever force was hindering Strootman in the first half, while the Gerson for Bruno Peres was a bit harder to explain, beyond simply getting the kid some playing time in a blowout.
All in all, this was a strange match—Roma wasn’t quite as dominant as the scoreline would indicate—yet they poured in three goals thanks to some lucky bounces and whatever quirk of genetics it was that gave Salah such otherworldly athleticism.
Whether it was a rationale, conclusive victory or not doesn’t matter, Roma grabbed three absolutely essential points, pushing them back into second place, one point ahead of third place Milan. Salah’s hattrick pushed Roma’s total to 29 goals in 12 matches, the best mark in the league.
If and when this defense gets healthy, and if and when they can sustain Salah’s absence, the stretch run in 2017 could be quite entertaining.