Luciano Spalletti defied convention as his squad took the pitch today, sticking with the same 4-2-3-1 that was so horrifically putrid last week versus Lazio. But a funny thing happened once the whistle blew, Milan wasn’t laying back like Lazio did in the derby; the Rossoneri were playing right into Roma’s hands, and it didn’t take long for the Wolves to pounce.
Edin Dzeko: 8th Minute
Throughout the entire season, when Roma was in dire need of a goal, Mohamed Salah and Edin Dzeko stood at the ready, and here they were once again, providing the club with a spark. With three points absolutely essential today, Roma took an early lead thanks to a lovely bit of two-man play between Roma’s leading men. After Salah was able to ward off the defense and shuffle the ball off to Dzeko, he continued his run towards the goal where he received a forward pass from Dzeko and immediately pinged it back towards the Bosnian Batistuta. From there, Dzeko calmly tucked it into the near post, giving the ball just enough bend to get past Donnarumma.
This goal really set the tone for the next fifteen to twenty minutes, which was absolutely frenetic, as both sides were careening headlong down the pitch, with little regard for the concept of defense. Roma almost doubled their lead when Diego Perotti unfurled a lovely curling shot from 20 yards or so out, nearly putting it home on the far post, only to be denied by the tippy tip of Donnarumma’s fingers.
Dr. Dzeko and Mr Hyde reared its ugly head again in the 21st minute as, after yet another Roma flurry on Milan’s net, the ball settled towards Dzeko in the area and, rather than side footing it home, Dzeko skyed it with the top of his boot, bottling Roma’s second chance at a two-nil lead. It’s amazing how a man with over 30 goals can still be so maddening, isn’t it?
Haha, you can’t make this stuff up, Dzeko flipped the script again several minutes later, increasing his capocannoniere lead in the process.
Edin Dzeko: 28th Minute
After Lovely Leo played a relatively flat corner in from the left corner flag, Dzeko rose to the occasion, fighting off two defenders to get his forehead on this one, putting it past the wonderkid to give Roma a two-nil lead. For Dzeko, it was his league leading 27th Serie A goal—two ahead of Andrea Belotti—another in an incredibly remarkable season for Roma’s number nine.
The wide open play continued as the first half wore on, with Roma pressing the matter as the match approached the 40th minute. Salah, Dzeko and Radja Nainggolan led an extremely quick and extremely wide counter late in the first half, covering nearly 3⁄4 of the pitch in maybe three to four passes, with Nainggolan springing Salah on the right flank, and while they were ultimately left wanting, it was perhaps their best counter of 2017.
ANOTHER GREAT SAVE BY DONNARUMMA!! pic.twitter.com/OsJ4SIFQFb— TheMilanBible (@TheMilanBible) May 7, 2017
As you can see, Roma nearly made it 3-0 were it not for a stretched save from Donnarumma, though Salah could have easily followed it up to grab a goal, but Donnarumma is the new Buffon for a very good reason. C’est la vie.
This was beyond a shadow of a doubt the best we’ve seen Roma play in weeks, and were it not for Donnarumma’s freakishly long fingers and/or some poor finishing from Dzeko (the shot in between his two goals) and Salah on that follow up, we’d be looking at a 4-0 halftime advantage.
All told, Roma ripped off 17 shots on poor little Donnarumma, but would the two that creeped by be enough to walk away with three points?
For the first half hour of the second half, Roma and Milan felt each other out, with neither side making much hay, but my oh my that would change. After Dzeko missed another attempt midway through the second half, Milan made Roma pay on a set piece, pulling one back thanks to some shoddy marking by Juan Jesus.
For a minute it looked like a classic 2015 capitulation all over again, run out to an early lead, only to blow it thanks to some lax defending on poor marksmanship on their own part. However, in typical Roma fashion, that moment of malaise didn’t last long, as none other than Stephan El Shaarawy would put the match beyond doubt against his former club.
Stephan El Shaarawy: 78th Minute
Although he missed a couple chances, Dzeko was instrumental on this goal, heading the cross down and back to El Shaarawy. But mercy me, El Shaarawy did some work here, taking one touch before lashing it into the upper corner past a helpless Gianluigi Donnarumma. Credit to SES for his subdued celebration against Milan, too.
Roma would tack on one more goal after Salah drew a penalty on Gabriel Palletta, who was sent off with a straight red. Daniele De Rossi would rip one from the spot, which had just enough juice on it to get past Donnarumma, who actually guessed right. Pretty rough night for Donnarumma, but something tells you he’ll be fine.
And in a completely classless move, Spalletti used his final sub to remove Edin Dzeko in favor of Bruno Peres. Yes, in what might have been Francesco Totti’s final match at the San Siro, and with the match fully secured, Spalletti opted for the disappointing Peres instead of Totti, who was actually being hailed by the Milan fans for his illustrious career.
While I still love Spalletti as Roma’s manager, his use of Totti this season has been highly suspect. Beyond ceremonial moments in Milan, his use of Totti, or lack thereof, when Totti is still effective in small bursts, has been a blight on an otherwise successful return to Roma for Mr. Spalletti.
But I digress, there will be plenty of time to gnash our teeth over that in the coming weeks. In the here and now, Roma got the job done in grand fashion, setting up a do or die encounter with Juventus next week.
Ball game. Roma back to second place, or as Spalletti calls it, the Pseudo Scudetto— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) May 7, 2017
The title may have been lost months ago, but next week’s date with the Old Lady is critical for several reasons. Aside from fending off third place Napoli, a win next week would forestall Juve’s official Scudetto celebration, a sight no one wants to see take place in the Olimpico.
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