Considering the frenetic pace with which this match began—each side had genuine scoring opportunities after only 30 seconds—it hardly looked like they’d been on holiday for the past two weeks, but the oddities didn’t end there. In the first half alone we saw super saves from both keepers, one of which may have seriously injured Mattia Perin, an own goal and end-to-end action seldom seen this time of year.
And as much as I’d like to say this match settled down after that initial flurry, it didn’t; there was very little in the way of cohesive defense in this match, particularly in the first half, as each side bombed down their respective flanks, with Roma showing a strong penchant for pushing play through Diego Perotti on the left.
However, despite the free flowing nature of the first half, the goals didn’t follow suit. With Roma on the road against an inferior opponent AND a backup keeper, you’d be forgiven for expecting the worse, and truth be told, Roma’s first half goal owed as much to luck as it did to skill, as Bruno Peres put back shot was deflected by Armando Izzo.
You won’t see a more blatant own goal than that, but up to that point, Roma had almost exclusively funneled play down the left, so if nothing else this own goal was proof positive that good things happen when you attack down both sides.
The remainder of the first half played on without issue—beyond Wojciech Szczesny’s wonder save—with Roma holding the slim lead heading into the dressing room.
While the second 45 minutes wasn’t quite as fast and loose as the first, it wasn’t without its hazardous moments. Roma attempted fewer shots on goal, pulled off less successful dribbles and was about as accurate in the passing game as they were in the first half, 70 some odd percent. Due to that dip in performance, they nearly choked this one away.
Statistics aside, this was, in some ways, more of the same. Roma was knocking on the door, thanks largely to the efforts of Edin Dzeko and Radja Nainggolan, while doing everything in their part to allow Genoa back into the match. Only in this instance, they weren’t done in by opposing goalkeeping heroics, they simply couldn’t create enough clear cut chances, and the few that they did went astray.
Good god, why must they make it so hard? This was Genoa not PSG— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) January 8, 2017
In years past, leaving the door open even slightly, would inevitably lead to an 85th minute equalizer from, in this case, Mauricio Pinilla. So while Roma struggled mightily putting Genoa away—as that Tweet suggests, this was Genoa FFS—they managed something that would have been unthinkable a year ago, taking a match that for all intents and purposes they had no business winning. And it is incredibly ironic that it happened against Genoa, the very team that inexplicably extended Rudi Garcia’s reign last season.
If that second half summary seems a bit disjointed, there’s a good reason: very little actually happened in the second half, yet it spoke volumes. On the one hand, Roma was awful in the second 45; there is no reason on earth why they should have let Genoa hang around as long as they did, but they didn’t completely choke it away; so in a strange way, there is still growth within this stagnation.
Despite the lack of clear plaudits, there were several noteworthy performances today. First and foremost, Wojciech Szczęsny. You would have been hard pressed to find a more vocal critic of the Pole than me last season, but with each passing week, his importance to this squad becomes more apparent; he isn’t perfect by any means, but his penchant to rise to occasion has saved Roma’s ass several times this season. Needless to say, with Lukasz Skorupski officially (or soon to be) gone, and with Alisson showing little in this few appearances, Roma has a gigantic decision to make this summer with Szczesny—extend the loan again, attempt a full purchase or turn the keys over to Alisson?
Beyond Woj, Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan continued to cement their place as the league’s best midfield. Between the three, they (to the extent possible in such a match) controlled the tempo and harried the Genoa attack, particularly Nainggolan in Roma’s attacking third; his hustle and commitment made it difficult for Genoa to build from the back.
And, once again, Federico Fazio continues to make me look like an idiot. Fazio was massive today, chipping in four interceptions and an almost imperceptible 22 clearances. He has been a revelation this season, I shudder to think where Roma would be without him.
We’re getting a bit long in the tooth here, and while this was by no means a decisive victory, there were several encouraging signs, namely the play of the midfield and the dominance of Fazio and Antonio Rüdiger; hell, even Juan Jesus was decent today.
While Sampdoria didn’t do us any favors blowing their lead against Napoli yesterday, the top of the table remains as it was before the break: Juventus-Roma-Napoli, which I expect will be the theme of 2017.
Roma jumps back into action next Sunday against Udinese. Until then. TTFN.