In the hours before kickoff it seemed as though mother nature wouldn’t do Roma any favors, as whispers of yet another rain-induced postponement swirled around the city, a fate Roma already suffered in week three. However, the rain subsided just long enough to get this match off the ground, and to honor the occasion, Roma donned their new blackish/brownish third kits, as well as nearly a 50% lineup overhaul.
Gone were Kevin Strootman, Diego Perotti, Gregoire Defrel and Bruno Peres, who made way for Lorenzo Pellegrini, Cengiz Under, Stephan El Shaarawy and Alessandro Florenzi, respectively. While we don’t know the precise reason EDF opted for such sweeping changes, they proved quite fortuitous, as each new face was integral in Roma’s refreshed performance.
Whether it was the long domestic layoff or the mini-controversies the club suffered throughout the week, they seemed intent on seizing the initiative from Verona, pulling off several genuine chances in the matches first five minutes alone, with Stephan El Shaarawy’s volley falling harmlessly into the keeper’s hands, Lorenzo Pellegrini’s shot skirting over the bar and Edin Dzeko’s individual effort in the six being undone, in part, by the soggy pitch.
Nevertheless, this was a Roma side with an intent; attack early and often, and despite a sudden deluge in the 20th minute or so, the Giallorossi would capitalize on that intent.
Radja Nainggolan: 22nd Minute
Dzeko, El Shaarawy and Nainggolan orchestrated a lovely bit of three-man play in the attacking area here, with Dzeko starting the series off by finding SES in the slot on the left. From there El Shaarawy did a wonderful job of delaying things for a split second while Nainggolan made a deft little diagonal run across the goal mouth before slotting it home. For a side that look so ineffective and uninspired offensively in the past few weeks, this goal was a thing of beauty, and even more impressive that it came on a sodden pitch.
It wouldn’t take long for Roma to double their lead...
Edin Dzeko: 33rd Minute
This one was probably even better than the first. With Florenzi charging down the right hand flank, on a knee twice surgically repaired I remind you, he slammed on the brakes, cut back in and served up a beautifully lofted cross that seemed to hang in the air an extra second longer to give Dzeko time to catch up, and catch up he did. Dzeko wasted no time burying this one past the keeper, putting the match beyond all doubt really.
No one was quite certain how soon Florenzi would adapt to playing again, but in the first half of this match, he was phenomenal, getting involved in the attack to an extent Bruno Peres could only dream of; a healthy Florenzi is a transfer unto itself.
The remainder of the first half was all Roma, as Pellegrini and Florenzi continued their dominance of the right flank, with El Shaarawy and Under doing the same on the center-left of the pitch. We have to keep the level of competition in mind here—Verona were practically invisible out there—but the first 45 minutes were indicative of a side slowly ingraining their new manager’s philosophies.
Despite the poor pitch conditions, Roma was quick and decisive, twisting and turning the Verona defense at their whim, but would they carry this momentum into the second half?
In short, yes. Within the first ten minutes of the second half, Roma drew two fouls in dangerous territory, first from a late challenge on Pellegrini and later when Under was dragged down as he cut inside. In each instance, Aleksandar Kolarov stepped up to the spot, narrowly missing the first attempt.
Point being, Roma’s bark lost no bite during the halftime intermission; they were every bit as fast and direct in the opening ten to fifteen minutes of the second half as they were in the first, with the bulk of the action being dictated by EDFs new starters, particularly Pellegrini, El Shaarawy and Under.
Dzeko would link up with Kolarov moments later to ice this match...
Edin Dzeko: 61st Minute
Edin Dzeko GOAL HD - AS Roma 3-0 Verona 16.09.2017 pic.twitter.com/H5TujwAvHy— I love football (@taraskorytko1) September 16, 2017
Kolarov and Dzeko certainly made their share of magic when they were playing for Manchester City, and this right here was another feather in their cap. Watch as Kolarov unleashes a low, pinpoint cross from way out wide, one which found Dzeko nearly perfectly in stride, but kudos to Dzeko for extending his boot out on this one. There’s no way in hell this goal should have scored, but from start to finish it was well taken and well executed.
Roma would continue to press for a fourth goal, with El Shaarawy coming the closest, before Eusebio Di Francesco pulled a double swap, pulling off Nainggolan and Under for Gerson and club debutante/highest transfer ever Patrik Schick. Schick jumped right into action, like, right into action, taking his first touch inward from the right flank before firing off a shot from 25 or so yards out, legitimately threatening the keeper.
Roma did the job tonight, putting this match essentially beyond all doubt after half an hour.
What can we say? Roma were wonderful tonight. The passes were crisp, efficient and effective, as was the movement. The changes made by EDF went off like gangbusters, as Under and El Shaarawy had free reign on fringes, morphing the space around Dzeko, while Pellegrini and Florenzi were dynamic and diabolical on the right flank.
Again, the level of opponent was a factor here, but the inclusion of Pellegrini was particularly incisive. For as much as we love the De Rossi, Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman trio, it does lack a bit of creativity and simple speed, attributes Pellegrini provided in spades tonight. The young Roman had his best match for this new club tonight, nearly grabbing a goal as well, so if this is a sign of things to come, Roma’s midfield runs five deep at least (if we throw in Gerson), something they haven’t been able to claim in years.
Beyond that, Roma’s defense was rather untested, and apart from an offsides canceled goal from Giampolo Pazzini, Verona was held in check by Kostas Manolas and Federico Fazio, while Kolarov and Florenzi each assisted on a goal, a feat Roma hasn’t achieved in god knows how long—both fullbacks creating chances in the same match!? Unheard of.
Whether this was Verona or United’s 99 treble winner was irrelevant. What Roma wanted out of this match, what Roma needed out of this match, was a sign of life. And by drubbing Verona 3-0, looking sharp in every facet of the match, they did just that.
With a trip to Azerbaijan and tilts against AC Milan, Napoli, Chelsea and Torino in successive weeks, Di Francesco’s side was in dire need of a confidence boost, and tonight, Verona was the perfect slump buster.
It’s a short week as Roma jumps back into action Wednesday when they take on another newly promoted side, Serie A newboys Benevento.
Man O’ The Match
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Stephan El Shaarawy