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The Day After... Roma vs. Real Madrid

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Another case study for the Roma School of Mental Health.

AS Roma v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Group G Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

What can be said about this game action-wise? This was a near identical loss to last weekend’s defeat at Udinese, with only one real difference up front in Nicolo Zaniolo’s physical domination of Real Madrid.

The rest? We’ll we’ve seen it for two games in a row now, and many times this season already.

Roma were in the ascendancy, should have gotten on the scoresheet and then seppuku’d themselves at the back for their perceived shame in failing to do so.


Fazio and Olsen’s Honour Ritual - 46:00 Minutes Exactly

The second half saw just three Roma touches of the ball, before directly assisting Gareth Bale’s opener. Yes, three.

The first half ended with Ünder’s inexplicable miss and Roma stand-in captain Alessandro Florenzi consoling the Turkish young gun at the half-time break. At the restart, 50 seconds of Real Madrid possession from their own kick-off had the nerve to get in the way of Fazio and Olsen getting straight down the business.

If optimism had you believing Roma could use their momentum before half-time to keep going for more, the Lupi were determined to hit the reset button on your hopes as soon as possible.

A Fazio backpass, an Olsen fluffed kick and a Fazio header all worked their magic before Bale obliged with a goal. EDF said he wanted more determination from his Roma charges, and this was about as determined to shoot themselves in the foot as it gets.

Cengiz’s Nadir - Roma’s Attack Fires More Blanks

Roma’s attacking performance last night: 17 shots on Real Madrid’s goal, 14 of them from open play. 5 shots on target, 0 goals, 0% conversion rate.

Last night, Aleksandar Kolarov (5 shots on goal, 2 on target) had nearly as many shots on goal as Kluivert, Schick and Under all put together (6 shots on goal total, 3 shots on target total between all three players).

Then there was Ünder’s second glaring mistake of the night, launching a cross from deep into the middle of the pitch and putting it on a plate for Real Madrid to turn a Roma corner into a lethal counter attack at the other end for 0-2.

While it took a collective series of errors in the interim from Fazio, Manolas and Florenzi to conceed Madrid’s second goal, Ünder’s initial turnover was the one mistake EDF chose to label “absurd” (without explicitly mentioning Cengiz’s name) in an otherwise very supportive post-match spot with Roma TV.

Last night’s game has to be the rock bottom of an already-bad season for Cengiz. The only way is surely up for the Turk from here. And he’ll get plenty of game time to seek redemption, since...

SES Send Help - Top Scorer Falls Victim to Olimpico Pitch

“The pitch was in an awful state,” Real Madrid coach Solari would say in the media mixed zone after the game. “They played a rugby match here this week and Lazio played at the weekend. It was a bad pitch more than anything else, but in the end we won the game.”

Perhaps Solari was being generous to Robin Olsen for his bad day on the ball, but the Olimpico pitch wasn’t so generous to either Stephan El Shaarawy (injured 22 minutes into the game last night) or Edin Dzeko (injured 5 minutes into Roma’s pre-match warmup session the day earlier).

The forced changes meant Roma - already qualified from Group G before kick off - fielded her youngest ever front line the club’s Champions League history. Roma’s front four held an average age of just 20.25 years old.

The bittersweet news for Schick, Under, Kluivert and Zaniolo is they’ll get the one thing they need to turn reach the next rung: consistent playing time.

They’ll get it in the thick of this December-January stretch of games. One where Eusebio Di Francesco needs - more than anyone - to do better than his worst spell in charge of Roma at this same time of year last season.

Steven Nzonzi Boo’ed Off The Pitch

While Cristante was making a physical game of it with Real and coming up with his usual interceptions (one of which gave Kluivert a clean shot at goal that the Dutchman blazed over the bar), Nzonzi was slow on the ball and generally looked off the pace.

By the time Nzonzi’s number was up on the pitchside board, he was roundly booed by the near 60,000 Olimpico crowd and stormed off straight down the tunnel to the dressing room before being called back up the dugout to join his fellow teammates on the bench.

Life in Rome isn’t proving as simple as we thought for the giant Frenchman, who’s best form and fitness will be needed at the weekend against Inter.

Nicolo Zaniolo’s Pressing For A Starting Spot

Yesterday’s one notable difference was Roma facing a superior opponent on the ball - something which is perfect for EDF’s preferred way to create fast attacks and played right into Nicolo Zaniolo’s impressive physique to dominate Real Madrid off the ball.

Zaniolo coming out on top of physical duel with Sergio Ramos in the second half was a sight in itself, and only cramp stopped the Tuscan prodigy from seeing out the full match.

Don’t expect Zaniolo’s off-the-ball game to dominate in Serie A matches where Roma enjoy the lion’s share of the possession instead of opponents, but he was a positive as ever in his post-match interview.

“We played a perfect first half and we could have scored a goal to go in at half time with the lead, and instead we’ve lost this game.

They were better than us when it came to finishing. Tomorrow, we need to work in training to be better in front of goal. Because in the end, scoring was the only thing missing.”

How could the performance drop so much after the first goal?

“I don’t know what led to our heads getting down. Maybe that first goal was a killer blow, we were playing well. I think it was a mental problem that won’t happen again.”

Does the team have complete faith in Di Francesco and his work?

“Definitely, definitely. Yes, yes yes.”

Was something said in the dressing room after the game?

“Yes, he told us just be calm and know we’ll get more chances. In the end we created so many that it’s ok we miss one or two.”

What difference did you feel between tonight and your debut at the Bernabeu?

“No... in the end Real Madrid is always a great team. I don’t speak about players but about the team in general. And we played a good match up until we conceeded that first goal.”

What reaction do you expect against Inter? A fundamental game for the top 4...

“Definitely, now there’s the game with Inter and we’ve absolutely got to win to put an end to this spell.”