Whether it was due to Roma’s packed schedule recently or the deluge that fell upon the Artemio Franchi this evening, Eusebio Di Francesco opted for several changes to his usual starting eleven. Gone were Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman and Diego Perotti, replaced by Maxime Gonalons, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Gerson, respectively. While we’ve seen these sort of personnel moves many times this season, with an international break coming up, it was surprising nonetheless, particularly the inclusion of Gerson at forward.
But it took all of 300 seconds for the young Brazilian to reward his manager’s faith.
Gerson: 5th Minute
While it would have been fantastic if Gerson’s first Roma goal was some splendiferous display of individual talent, the young Brazilian’s first tally in a Roma shirt stemmed from some beautiful build up play. After harrying the defender into turning over the ball, Gerson continued to trot down the right flank as Radja Nainggolan corralled the loose ball, firing off a quick pass to Stephan El Shaarawy, who quickly settled the ball, took a touch and found Gerson streaking into the gap on the right. From there, Gerson was calm, cool and collected, simply slotting the ball into the far post.
It was a nice bit of build up from Roma, one made even more impressive by the defensive pressure that preceded it; that’s total football, my friends.
But that front to back synchronicity would come unglued four minutes later...
Jordan Veretout: 9th Minute
Fiorentina equalized four minutes later thanks to some shoddy defending from Aleksandar Kolarov (and even Gerson on the far post), whose lead-footed defense on Gil Dias precipitated the Jordan Veretout goal. An uncharacteristic lapse in judgement from Kolarov early in the match, but given how amazing he’s been this season, you can’t really be too mad at him. However, given the pitch conditions, this slip up could have costed Roma dearly.
Roma would continue to press as the first half wore on, with Edin Dzeko getting a point blank effort turned away by a spectacular save from Marco Sportiello, and despite the slick pitch, Roma had their way with the Viola for much of the first half, but simply couldn’t manage to extend their lead through the first 25 minutes or so.
However, as is so often in the case in matches like these, you’re only as good as your execution, and in the first half, no player was as precise as Roma’s youngest...
Gerson: 30th Minute
Similar to his first strike, Gerson’s goal was the end result of some incredible defensive effort. In this instance, it was the hustle and muscle of Kostas Manolas that created this goal, as he raced back to stop a one-v-one against Alisson, stealing the ball away and turning it up the pitch to Alessandro Florenzi, who shuffled it on to Maxime Gonalons, who then pulled off a one-two with El Shaarawy before finding Gerson on the right flank. From there, it was all Gerson. Taking a couple of quick shuffle steps to free up space and get the right angle on the ball, Gerson played the ball low and away, beating Sportiello in the only spot possible.
Gerson was the man of the match in the first half. From starting the first goal with his defensive pressure to pulling off two picture perfect shots, Gerson looked every bit the kid we all envisioned when Roma beat Barcelona for his signature.
With a match against his father’s Atletico Madrid side looming, it was only right that Diego Simeone’s kid would pull one back for Fiorentina.
Giovanni Simeone: 39th Minute
Giovanni Simeone equalizer for Fiorentina! 2-2 at HT pic.twitter.com/xsFPcsFYV8— Eden (@EdenDassidy) November 5, 2017
Much like Veretout’s goal, Simeone took advantage of porous defending from Roma’s backline. In this instance, it was a combination of Kolarov not keeping Diego Simeone onside and Federico Fazio opening the door for him on the back post that broke Roma’s back.
Fiorentina continued to exploit the suddenly shaky Roma defense as the first half wound down, forcing Alisson into two spectacular saves. After Alisson parried away a long attempt, he was quickly forced into a reflex save on the rebound. This was bipolar Roma at its finest, with Gerson’s precision countered by Roma’s confusion at the back.
So what would the second half hold?
Roma would come out guns blazing in to start the second half, with Edin Dzeko threatening Sportiello almost from the word go, but it would take a bit of an odd deflection from a set piece to give Roma their third lead of the match.
Kostas Manolas: 50th Minute
What initially looked like a clean headed attempt from Manolas was later revealed to be more of a chested goal, as Manolas was able to use his impressive pecs to guide this goal past Sportiello. Not exactly text-book execution of a set piece, but sometimes that’s what it takes to win a match.
Roma and Fiorentina would continue to trade barbs for the next thirty minutes or so, with the Giallorossi nearly making it four when Gerson missed a chance at a hat trick. EDF would make three subs in the second half, pulling on Kevin Strootman, Diego Perotti and Gregoire Defrel, who came on for the injured Gerson.
No matter the personnel on the pitch, the form remained the same—Roma was lovely in the run of play, with Perotti, Nainggolan, El Shaarawy and Florenzi being particularly effective and pushing the pace of play, but they continually relaxed at the back, and were it not for Alisson, Fiorentina could have levelled this match.
But all of that became academic as the clock creeped towards the 90 minute mark.
Diego Perotti: 87th Minute
For the third time this evening, a Roma goal stemmed from some excellent defensive pressure, with Nainggolan’s persistence forcing Fiorentina into a turnover. From there, Naiggolan found Perotti in space on the left flank, where the Argentine quickly settled the ball before driving it down and past a helpless Sportiello. The best part of that goal was the little splash of water bursting from the net as Perotti’s strike squirmed past Sportiello.
At this point, I’m not quite sure what to make of this match. It was, as we suggested, a prime example of Roma at her bipolar best, a phenomenon not exclusive to any one manager, but rather an endemic issue that has plagued the club for years.
On the one hand, Roma’s attack was relentless, peppering Sportiello with 21 shots, with nearly 50% of those on target, yet they allowed 20 shots and were exploited several times down their left defensive flank. They created 15 scoring chances and allowed 14 on the other end. They completed 79% of their passes yet allowed Fiorentina to complete 78% of their attempts.
This was an exceedingly close match that could have broken either way, but once again Roma rose to the occasion when it mattered most. Gerson was incredible with the ball at his feet this evening, showing no hesitation whatsoever on his two goals, while Nainggolan was incredible in all facets of the game, making up for a rather substandard performance from his midfield partners. And Alisson, I mean, what else can we say at this point? How many points has Alisson saved this club already? Roma definitely has a gem of a keeper on their hands.
This was neither the best nor the worst we’ve seen Roma, and I suppose any ambivalence you might have towards this results stems from the fact that it should have been more lopsided than it was. Fiorentina as able to capitalize on some lax Roma defending twice, turning what should have been a three or four nil laugher into a tense one goal match through 87 minutes.
It’s these moments of complacency that have torn Roma asunder many times over the years, giving us all agita in the process, but something has changed in 2017. Whether it was Luciano Spalletti or Eusebio Di Francesco at the helm, Roma has continually won the moments that mattered, the ones that swing wild matches like this.
The big difference between EDF and his predecessor is that Di Francesco has been able to cast more faces into the hero’s role, making Roma a more complete and, by extension, dangerous side.
And EDF will need that added edge when Roma returns from another interminable international break when they face Lazio in the Derby della Capitale. With Lazio’s match being postponed this morning, the two sides of the city will square off in a massive six pointer, one made even more important with Inter Milan dropping points earlier today.
Man of the Match?
This poll is closed
Other (name in comments)