Well, they did it again, what they always do, making a meal out of what should have been an easy match. While the sodden pitch didn't necessarily blunt Roma's attack, it made it damn near impossible to conjure up any sense of momentum. Beset by Mother Nature and a stingy Carpi side, Roma looked set to slog her way to yet another dreary draw, destined to be taunted mercilessly by Mohamed Salah's early miss.
There wasn't a ton to write home about in the first 45 minutes, so let's jump right into the second stanza, which was telling in so, so, so many ways.
Coming out from the break, Luciano Spalletti opted for one change, pulling off Stephan El Shaarawy for Miralem Pjanic, but, for better or worse, that change had little impact on the flow of the match.
While the first ten minutes or so of the second half went off without incident--Pjanic fired wide while Radja Nainggolan's 53rd minute attempt was blocked--Lucas Digne broke the deadlock with an absolute stunner of a goal
Lucas Digne: 56th Minute
DIGNE!!!! GOOOOOOOOOOL pic.twitter.com/IU7zLcGWZs— Roma Press (@ASRomaPress) February 12, 2016
Given the weather and a surprisingly resolute Carpi side, you got the feeling this match would turn on a miracle like this. Digne was inexplicably left alone in the center of the park, took a couple of touches and then channeled his inner Tim Wakefield, knuckling one past the keeper from 25ish yards out. Look at how that thing bends with absolutely no spin whatsoever, remarkable.
Of course, it just wouldn't be Roma if they didn't piss it away five minutes later. Enter Kostas Manolas and Antonio Rüdiger.
Kevin Lasagna: 61st Minute
We'll set aside the fact that Roma's entire midfield and defense was picked apart with one pass and focus on Rüdiger's pitiful attempt to outmuscle Jerry Mbakogu. Sure, Mbakogu is probably a bit bigger than Rüdiger, but he should've and could've done more to forestall his advances. Then again, given Manolas' complete inability to cover the backpost, I'm not sure it would have mattered anyway.
In hindsight, as you'll see below, this blunder didn't matter, but if these two aren't the most chaotic defensive pairing in club history, I don't know who is.
Their tomfoolery was rendered moot, however, when Dzeko rose from the dead.
Edin Dzeko: 84th Minute
Dzeko has been plagued by criticism the entire season, and for good reason, but the look on his face and the hop in his step after this goal reminded us all of what he was, and hopefully remains, capable of--but let's not forget Salah's role in this strike; #11 did a wonderful job creating separation, dragging the ball towards the endline and connecting with Dzeko in the only space possible.
If you've been a Roma fan for more than a fortnight, you know a one goal lead for this club is about as safe as leftover pizza in the breakroom.
Mohamed Salah: 85th Minute
Salah put this match beyond all doubt a mere 60 seconds later, pouncing on the loose ball to seal the deal. It's missing from this clip, but Dzeko was involved in the buildup to this one as well, though it was off a turnover, but in all honestly, he was instrumental in holding up play and setting up his teammates this evening. So if nothing else, appreciate the man's continued effort.
This was hardly one for the Spalletti scrap book--really, should it take until the 84th minute to finish off a club like Carpi?--but, once again, this team looks a completely different entity under his leadership. Even the saturated pitch couldn't dampen their spirits; the passing and movement was crisp, Diego Perotti and Digne looked dangerous on the left, Dzeko was finally getting service and Salah had space for days. The puzzle is far from complete, but the pieces are certainly coming together.
And, perhaps the most encouraging sign came after the Lasagna goal. In months gone by, Roma would have buried their heads in their chest, made several thousand passes backwards and crossed their fingers, praying for a free kick. Not this time. Although it took a solid fifteen minutes or so to recover from the shock of the equalizer, Roma kept pressing, heaping pressure upon a weary Carpi defense before Dzeko finally exorcised his personal demons. The look on their faces after Dzeko slotted that one home tells you all you need to know about this club going forward: they're energized, united and committed to turning this thing around.
And, hey, look at that, we're back in third place!