This will be a bit of a haphazard review/highlight package because I had to leave in the middle of the match, but fortunately for me (and I guess all of us), Roma took care of business pretty early this evening against Sassuolo. While Roma almost botched the match in the first minute, with Domenico Berardi nearly chipping Robin Olsen after 55 seconds, EDF's crew looked sharp, attentive and dangerous in front of the sparsely crowded Olimpico.
The biggest bit of news pre-match was the inclusion of Diego Perotti, who earned his first start since (I believe) Bologna in late September. Perotti has had a variety of minor injuries lately, and even when healthy isn't blessed with consistency, but he provides a level of intuition and a different sort of creativity on that left flank, which had a transformative effect on the club as whole today.
Perotti would make his presence felt almost immediately, linking up with Patrik Schick early in the first half, but it would be his trade mark penalty that put the first dent in the scoreline.
Diego Perotti: 8th Minute (Roma 1, Sassuolo 0)
I have to admit I was hoping he'd do one of his cheeky, slow creep-up kicks, but Perotti left nothing to chance and just tucked this one home, though if you look at it from certain angles, you can see how he sort of looked the keeper off one way while shooting the other; good to have you back, Diego.
Schick drew that penalty in the box thanks to some impressive off the ball movement, a subtle piece of skill that was on display fifteen minutes later.
Patrik Schick: 23rd Minute (Roma 2, Sassuolo 0)
First off, very impressive pass from Bryan Cristante. Playing it from well beyond midfield, Cristante caught Schick in-stride, playing the ball with the absolute perfect weight, angle and trajectory, not only ensuring the defenders had no shot at it, but placing it so well that Schick didn't even have to deviate from his course. From there, Schick did a wonderful job of baiting and evading the keeper before tucking it home.
Quite an entertaining first half: Roma almost blew it 55 seconds into the match, drew a suspect penalty, had an own-goal missed by literally a pixel on the goal line review, and scored a beautiful team goal from the run of play.
My second half viewing was interrupted by the real world for 30 minutes or so, but this is all you need to know about the second 45 minutes.
Nicolo Zaniolo: 59th Minute (Roma 3, Sassuolo 0)
There are debut goals, then there is that. Nicolo Zaniolo's first career goal was awe inspiring. Channeling his inner Francesco Totti, Zaniolo made absolute fools out of three Sassuolo players, putting Gianmarco Ferrari and Andrea Consigli on their asses with an ankle breaking cutback/dummy, but the best part was the nonchalant-I-do-this-shit-everyday manner in which he chipped it over the two fallen defenders.
We're barely halfway through the season, and given how poorly Radja Nainggolan has performed for Inter Milan, it's safe to say Roma won this deal already. Nicolo Zaniolo looks like a 15-year starter at this point. He has not shrunk one iota since being pressed into service for the injured Lorenzo Pellegrini, and looks capable of playing above average ball at several positions...Grazie, Inter. Grazie!
Sassuolo would pull one back late in the match, but by that point it was all she wrote. With the victory, Roma have jumped back up to seventh place, four points behind Lazio for Italy's final Champions League spot.
Roma will have their third match in seven days when they travel to Parma on Saturday. It won't be an easy fixture, the Crusaders are only two points behind Roma and just dispatched of Fiorentina earlier today.
Until then, Forza Roma!