Roma are the epitome of the old Jekyll and Hyde reference. One day, the Giallorossi are stumbling against SPAL in Serie A, while practically the next day, they’re thrashing CSKA Moscow in the Champions League. The same CSKA who beat Real Madrid mind you.
Whatever it is about the UEFA Champions League, it has brought the best out of Roma during Di Francesco’s 15 month tenure. The team, which so often looks lost in Serie A under the former Sassuolo manager, has looked like world beaters on some of its biggest European nights.
Now don’t get me wrong, beating CSKA is not the same as the miracle comeback versus Barca, beating Chelsea in last year’s group stage, or Shakhtar in the Round of 16. However, as I mentioned in yesterday’s preview, beating CSKA at home could be the difference in making the knockout rounds or being relegated to the Europa League; as the two will likely battle it out for the right to join Real in progressing.
Roma answered the bell in emphatic fashion on Tuesday, led by Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian Bomber has been nearly infallible on the European stage under EdF and tonight was just another demonstration of that. It’s been more than the Dzeko Show lately in Europe. It might as well be the Dzeko Marathon on replay, as he added two more goals and an assist to his European totals. Dzeko who scored 8 goals in last season’s competition, already has 5 this season. The Bosnian trails only Cristiano Ronaldo since the beginning of last season with 13 goals in 15 games.
Lost in the comfortable scoreline was the fact that Robin Olsen put in another fine performance between the sticks. The Swede, who was much maligned upon his arrival this summer, made a few more big saves for Roma. Early on with the scoreline 0-0, Olsen ensured that it would stay that way with a couple big saves.
The returns of Kostas Manolas and Daniele De Rossi, after neither played against SPAL, paid big dividends. Capitano Futuro was his usual commanding presence in the middle of the park. Meanwhile, the Greek led the defense and helped cover for Federico Fazio who continues to struggle early in the season. The absence of Aleksander Kolarov, who came on as a late sub, wasn’t an issue. Davide Santon ensured he wasn’t missed by putting in another solid performance in his place.
Most encouraging was the fact that the attack was clicking on all cylinders. Lorenzo Pellegrini, Stephan El Sharaawy, and Cengiz Ünder all contributed to the goal scoring. Pellegrini played a lovely one two with Il Faraone en route assisting Dzeko’s first goal. The assist was Pellegrini’s fourth in five games as he continues to impress on a weekly basis.
The play was the end result of some patient build up play by the Giallorossi. In fact, the 29 passes connected on the play were the most on a Champions League goal since a former Roma man, Lucas Digne, scored against Celtic last year.
29 - There were 29 passes in the build-up to #Dzeko's first goal, the most in the #ChampionsLeague since October 2017 (Lucas Digne, Barcelona vs Celtic, also 29 passes). Geometry.#RomaCSKA pic.twitter.com/yiVuKRz4iR— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) October 23, 2018
Meanwhile, El Sharaawy, who was a late addition to the starting XI, assisted Dzeko’s second goal. The last goal was scored by Ünder and assisted by Dzeko. The two have now combined for ten goals in Roma’s eight home Champions League matches over the last two seasons; half of the team’s scoring output. Meanwhile, the team have only conceded twice (against Liverpool) in those matches. Roma are undefeated under Di Francesco in the Champions League at home and have now won seven straight.
⭐️ That's now 7⃣ home wins in a row in the @ChampionsLeague ⭐️— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) October 23, 2018
✅ 3-0 Chelsea
✅ 1-0 Qarabag
✅ 1-0 Shakhtar
✅ 3-0 Barcelona
✅ 4-2 Liverpool
✅ 5-0 Viktoria Plzen
✅ 3-0 CSKA Moscow pic.twitter.com/SOfGekJMzT
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Tuesday’s performance could go a long way in laying the foundation for a successful Champions League group stage. The Giallorossi will be buoyed by its fine performance against CSKA at the Olimpico as they head to Moscow on the next match day in just two weeks time.