With literally tens of millions of dollars/euros on the line, and facing a decidedly inferior squad on the road, Roma came out and did exactly what you’d expect them to do: fall behind early and start firing crosses and long balls over the top in a desperate attempt to level the match. It’s a tale as old as time itself, yet somehow it still catches us off guard.
In this instance, Chievo drew first blood after only 15 minutes, capitalizing on an extremely poor clearance from Antonio Rüdiger.
Lucas Castro: 15th Minute
Castro breaks the deadlock! Chievo lead 1-0! pic.twitter.com/Gj8TNk1Sq7— Stereo Serie A Radio (@StereoSerieA) May 20, 2017
I don’t know who Lucas Castro is, you don’t know who Lucas Castro is, and apparently neither did the Roma defense, whose half-assed attempt at “defending” him resulted in the early Chievo goal.
The ensuing ten to fifteen minutes was actually rather wide open, with both sides bombing up and down the pitch as if it were the final ten minutes and the Champions League title were on the line. Despite the rapid approach to the match, clear cut chances weren’t exactly flowing for either side, but as he’s down so often in his brief time with Roma, Stephan El Shaarawy was right there when the club needed him the most.
Stephan El Shaarawy: 28th Minute
Not the best look there, but what an impeccable header from Federico Fazio, whose headed clearance traveled some distance before falling right to El Shaarawy’s feet—also good job by the advanced players to dummy/avoid corralling it before it reached SES—and from there, this goal was all El Shaarawy, as his athleticism was once again on fully display, as he danced around the Chievo defense before slotting it home.
But since this is Roma we’re talking about, their lax defending once again did them in, as Roberto Inglese beat was left virtually uncovered in the 37th minute, giving the Flying Donkeys yet another lead.
Inglese gives Chievo the lead for the 2nd time! 2-1 for the hosts! pic.twitter.com/Zf71jerocu— Stereo Serie A Radio (@StereoSerieA) May 20, 2017
Seriously, look at that! He breezed past Fazio like a fart in the wind, while no one pinched in from either side and El Shaarawy was simply too far behind to backtrack enough to prevent Inglese from getting free.
If you’re looking for Roma in microcosm, there it is—shoddy defending in the worst moments that could ultimately cost them tens of millions. Of course, it wouldn’t end there, though—Roma is without a doubt the most bipolar club on the planet, no matter the sport.
Mohamed Salah: 42nd Minute
Salah pulled off one his patented left footed looping shots, this time beating Sorrentino from about 15 yards out. Unlike most of his highlight goals, this one was not born out of pure speed, but rather his deceptively deft left foot, as Salah delicately scooped this one into the far post.
I literally cannot surmise the first 45 minutes of this match. Roma did everything in their power to piss this one away, but thanks to the blinding athleticism of El Shaarawy and Salah’s nifty touch, they were able to level a match they had no business being in...but isn’t that just our Roma? They’re like a B+ student who shows up high to class and can’t understand why they don’t pull straight As.
The start to the second half was a bit syncopated as the match was delayed a few minutes due to a Chievo injury, but El Shaarawy struck once again nearly a quarter into the second frame.
Stephan El Shaarawy: 58th Minute
Just an absolutely beautiful ball from Kevin Strootman, as he played a left-footed, slightly outswinging cross, leading El Shaarawy from the left to the right. Take another look and you can almost see the wink and nod between Strootman and El Shaarawy; just perfect communication and synchronicity between the two. From there, El Shaarawy settled the ball and beat Sorrentino with one-v-one with a bit of an odd shot—his momentum was carrying him away to the right, so he sort of had to swing against himself to beat Sorrentino on the far post.
These are the reasons you want to keep El Shaarawy at all costs. We tend to forget, he’s still awfully young and has barely scratched the surface, but whether or not he becomes a 20 goal scorer is irrelevant, his athleticism and knack for the big moments has already made him a game changer.
El Shaarway’s Egyptian counterpart, Salah, would grab his double about 20 minutes later.
Mohamed Salah: 77th Minute
Lovely bit of team play here as De Rossi played it straight ahead to Edin Dzeko, who took a smart touch, settling the ball and giving Salah a split second more to advance towards the goal and split the defense. From there, Salah beat Sorrentino clean and easy, putting the match beyond all doubt, which is saying a lot considering how the first half played out.
Not to be outdone, Edin Dzeko joined the party late in the second half with a quintessential strikers goal.
Edin Dzeko: 83rd Minute
After receiving the feed from Radja Nainggolan, Dzeko took a couple touches and then simply gripped it and ripped it, burying it in the corner past a helpless Sorrentino. For Dzeko, his 28th league goal extended his capocannoniere lead to three.
Chievo would grab a third goal, taking advantage of further poor marking from Rüdiger on a setpiece, who left the door open for Roberto Inglese to grab a double of his own. But at that point, you know, whatever.
Well, what can we really say? This was your prototypical AS Roma match, it was fast and loose, full of brilliance and brilliant fuckups. From nearly throwing away a guaranteed shot at forty or fifty million to absolutely throttling Chievo in the second half, burying three goals in the second stanza, this was absolutely everything we’ve come to expect from Roma in the 2010s. You can’t explain, you just hope that it doesn’t kill you.
We’ll expand on this a bit later, but despite all the mishegoss and uncertainty we’ve dealt with all season, particularly in the past five months, this has been a remarkable season for Roma, scoring an astounding 87 goals while earning 84 points, both of which either tied or are approaching club records.
So, once again, we must say it—they’ve simply been done in by Juventus’ historic run. All those lapses of judgement, poor man marking and misfired shots have come home to roost once again, and that’s really the dividing line. Despite Juve’s financial clout, its been the simple execution that has kept Roma from grabbing two, perhaps even three, titles during Juve’s run of six.
It’s not fair, but that’s just the way it is, but don’t let it cloud your vision. Roma has been on quite a run the past few seasons.
So now all we’re left to do is wait—will Napoli drop points this afternoon? Can Crotone do the unthinkable and beat Juventus tomorrow? Both matches will loom large in Roma’s approach to next week, and by extension Totti’s role against Genoa.
Never a dull moment.
Man of the match?
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Stephan El Shaarawy