With two straight wins, it appears as though the fog, metaphorical or otherwise, has lifted from Roma. In a closely contested match, Roma walked away winners thanks to their duo of Egyptian attackers. Led by Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy, Roma managed a 2-0 victory over Sassuolo, just their fourth victory away from the Olimpico all season.
Roma once again received banner performances from the new guys, with El Shaarawy, Ervin Zukanovic and the newest of the new, Diego Perotti, all playing crucial roles in Roma's second consecutive league victory, a feat they haven't matched since late October.
We don't have time for a blow by blow analysis, so instead let's shine a light on the box score, but first, the goals!
Mohamed Salah: 11th Minute
Ex Chelsea player Mohamed Salah just scored this for Roma to put them in the lead vs Sassuolopic.twitter.com/0jHMXdFr2e— The Set Piece (@The_SetPiece) February 2, 2016
Talk about a guy needing a goal, today's strike was Salah's first since November 4th against Bayer Leverkusen, and what a goal it was. Taking the feed from Pjanic, Salah took two or three touches to his left and gently bent it into the far post. Fantastic goal, but look at that subtle interplay between Salah and Pjanic that created the chance in the first placeâSalah holds up his run and slides in tandem with Pjanic, deftly and sneakily exploiting the space behind the defense.
Stephan El Shaarawy: 92nd Minute
And just as the clock ticks to an end, @OfficialEl92 pops up and scores the second of the night! #SerieA https://t.co/HdQqUFJocm— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) February 2, 2016
El Shaarawy struck for the second time in as many matches, but Roma's other new boy, Perotti, played an equal if not greater role in this goal. Starting with a hustling defensive play, Perotti was able to dispossess the Sassuolo defender and immediately drove towards the goal line and waited just long enough for SES to slip into the only crevice in which Perotti could possibly thread the ball. And man, oh, man, what a job by El Shaarawy. Not only did he have the presence of mind to get into the box the minute the ball was turned over, but look at how he slalomsâstopping and startingâaround the defense to exploit the only possible space available; that sort of instant chemistry between two completely unfamiliar players certainly bodes well for the future.
Statistically speaking, this match was much closer than the 2-0 scoreline would indicate, granted that last goal came in stoppage time, but you're picking up what I'm putting down, right? Roma was actually outshot and out created by the Neroverdi, while narrowly winning the possession battle.
However, if you want a true picture of how/why Roma came out on top, dig this:
Sassuolo may have won the creation battle, but look at the respective location of those chances created; Roma's were concentrated inside the area, with nearly 50% of their chances coming in the Sassuolo box, while the Neroverdi were content with firing from distance and the fringes (sounds familiar, right?).
The New Guys
If El Shaarawy, Zukanovic and Perotti continue to play like this, not only will the heat be off Walter Sabatini, he may very well be in line for a pay raise. Perotti seemed instantly comfortable in Spalletti's set up, Zukanovic was extremely active on the defensive end, picking off three passes and clearing eight balls, while El Shaarawy already looks like a man rebornâjust take a look at the pure elation on his face after scoring that goal, doesn't it already seem like he's bought in to so many of the things we all love about this club?
That's it for now. Roma receives a bit of a reprieve and won't have to play again until Sunday when they welcome Sampdoria to the Olimpico. It may not have the panache of that other big "football" game on Sunday, but I know which one I'm more excited about.
passing graphic via squawka.com