From their kits to the names on the back of them, the order of the day for Roma and Eusebio Di Francesco was clear, tinker. Swapping out their usual road whites for their Champions League black/brown unis, Roma was primed for change, a notion that carried over to EDFs starting lineup as well. Edin Dzeko, Diego Perotti, Kostas Manolas and Alessandro Florenzi were gone, replaced by Patrik Schick, Gerson, Juan Jesus and Bruno Peres, respectively.
Given all we discussed in the match preview—the mounting fatigue and Chievo’s poor defensive record—it was the right move. The problem, as we saw in the first half in particular, was that it simply didn’t work; there was little to no interplay between Stephan El Shaarawy, Schick and Gerson.
Due to this lack of familiarity, Roma relied on what’s worked for them so many times this season, attacking down the left. Aleksandar Kolarov was Roma’s beast of burden in the first half, taking 64 touches while attempting nine crosses. Working with El Shaarawy and Kevin Strootman, this trio was really the only viable threat in the first half, making Roma extremely one dimensional.
Outside of your standard I-only-play-great-against-Roma save from Sorrentino, who snuffed out a Gerson attempt after a rather chaotic sequence midway through the first half, Roma simply couldn’t create any genuine scoring chances.
With nothing sticking against the wall, Roma seemed primed for a second half change, but would it come?
EDF opted for no changes out the gate—because everything was going so swimmingly before—and, well, the results were about what you’d expect; nada. Before long Di Francesco swapped out two-thirds of his forward line, bringing on Edin Dzeko for Gerson, pushing Schick out wide, and then replacing El Shaarawy with Diego Perotti.
Despite the changes, the song remained the same; Roma simply wasn’t at their most incisive. You could see the blueprint—there were some great looks and passes through the middle and in the final third—but the actual construction fell short.
And, well, this happened
You can’t quite see it from that vantage point, but that’s Stefano Sorrentino making the save of the year. With Patrik Schick carving out space in the six and unleashing a rather impressive left footed attempt, Sorrentino initially misjudges the path of the ball, leaning towards his left thinking its shading towards the far post, yet he somehow sticks out his right foot to miraculously prevent this one from going in; in any other match on any other planet that’s a goal, but as we all know, Sorrentino saves his best for Roma.
And that was really that; Shick’s impressive maneuver in the 82nd minute was really Roma’s last and best chance of the match, but thanks to Sorrentino’s herculean effort, this match ended in a scoreless draw.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to write home about; this was your standard Roma-dropping-points-to-a-lesser-side-on-the-road affair. EDF’s men dominated possession and doubled the Flying Donkey’s offensive output yet, well, here we are; they simply couldn’t convert and/or were turned away by Super Sorrentino.
One can’t overlook the lack of chemistry between Gerson, Schick and El Shaarawy upfront, who looked like they’d just met, forcing Roma to once again rely on Kolarov as their prime playmaker. Which is all well and good because Kolarov has delivered all season long, but Roma were simply out of ideas beyond that, and today it showed; 43% of their attacks came down Kolarov’s flank. To wit, Kolarov’s 111 touches were by far the most of any player in the match, exceeding Maxime Gonalons by 30 and nearly doubling Valter Birsa’s workload for Chievo.
For as much as we rang our hands over Daniele De Rossi’s foolhardiness a few weeks ago, these are the matches that have consistently kept Roma from the top of the table. Dropping two points to a decidedly inferior side on the road has always been the bane of Roma’s existence, and no matter who’s running the show or how much money they throw at players, it simply never changes.
I’m not sure how they solve that riddle, but it’s been plaguing them for damn near a decade now.