The Giallorossi took to the Ennio Tardini pitch in the land of ham looking more Rosso than Giallo, substituting their controversially yellow socks with red ones. Edin Dzeko made his very welcome return to the starting lineup, flanked by Under and Kluivert while the remainder of the starting XI was unchanged from the Boxing Day victory over Sassuolo.
Parma had thus far carved out an impressive return to Serie A with a swashbuckling counter-attack lead by a familiar black headbanded protagonist whose return to Italy pushed more nostalgia buttons for Roma fans than a Disney movie remake. Meanwhile Bobby English, sat in the stands for the delicatessen specialists which pushed them into a false 9 frontline.
Gervinho FC were always going to set up a counter-attacking trap targeting Roma’s soft underbelly that had shipped numerous goals in this very manner during the suboptimal 2018-19 campaign. The name of the game was always going to be protecting possession and generating chances for Dzeko so the big Bosnian could get his eye back in.
The opening exchanges generated little excitement until Parma scythed through Roma’s midfield in the 27th minute as a through ball connected with Silligardi who forced a breathtaking one handed save from Olsson. The Swede continues to be one of the genuine good news stories of a rather difficult Roma season thus far, admirably filling the classy loafers of the Brazilian Don Draper since his arrival from the cold north.
Gervinho FC built on this early momentum and went into halftime arguably the more dangerous of the two sides. The star of the show got Roma hearts a fluttering with a trademark sprint past two defenders into the box, before running out of room and shinning the ball over the line for a goalkick. Ahhhh, never change you helicopter demanding speed demon!
Roma’s sole serious chance for the half came in the 40th minute as Kluivert was only able to toe his sliding finish wide from a low Under cross that flashed across the area.
The second half got underway more or less the same as the first half ended, with Roma conservatively tapping the ball around non dangerous areas until feeding a direct ball into Dzeko.
A few decent spells of possession lead to a Roma corner and it was the sort of Canadian, Bryan Cristante, who rose highest to flick on the ball into the net. Seriously, why the hell don’t teams put players on the posts during defensive corners? I mean sure, Parma’s attack is almost solely based on rapid counters, so corners are an attacking opportunity for them, but as far as soft goals go, this one was squishy.
It didn’t really look like Cristante was trying to score with his header and I’m struggling to find an appropriate hockey metaphor as is mandatory following all Cristante goals, the best I can think of is that he redirected the ball into the net, a bit like those big guys that loiter in front of the net and deflect shots with their hockey stick. You know what I mean right? What do you want from me, I grew up watching cricket.
Minutes later, rather than take control of the match and grind Parma down, Roma made things more difficult. On this occasion it was the injury gods that struck as Manolas pulled up lame from a stretched clearance, clutching his hamstring. Juan Jesus was substituted on in his stead, setting up a rather worrisome duel with Gervinho for the final half an hour.
Nicolo Zaniolo was swapped with Lorenzo Pellegrini in the 73rd minute following a handy attack that Dzeko should have done better with. The Romanista wasted no time stamping his influence on the pitch slicing across a gorgeous pass for Cengiz Under to side foot home to put Roma 2-0 up and calm the tormented nerves of the Roma faithful.
Zaniolo (my mate Nick thinks he is a younger John Kerry lookalike) will struggle to keep Lorenzo from that starting CAM position despite the phenomenal start to his Roma career to date. Pellegrini’s range of passing opens more doors for Roma’s attacking third and he has proven himself decisive to Roma’s fortunes in 2018. EDF will be sure to add figuring a way to start both players, to his laundry list of ‘to do’ tasks over the January break.
Edin Dzeko was rested in the 83rd minute for Patrik Schick. The Bosnian despite being wayward with his shooting boots, was magnificent in pinning back the Parma defenders and stamping his influence on the match in a way the young Czech is simply unable to at this stage of his career.
Roma’s attacking chances became more plentiful as Parma stretched their midfield in search of a way back into the match. Cristante and Pellegrini connected well and presented Under and Kluivert with some genuine chances in front of goal. Indeed the substitution of Pellegrini shut the door on Parma contributed a calm and confidence that had been sorely lacking from Roma’s play during second halves in the season to date.
And despite a mandatory late panicked mix up at the back, EDF’s team managed to hold onto their 2-0 lead and walk away with back-to-back victories and even more impressively a clean sheet! Given the calamitous start to the season, it is a fine way to go into the winter break on the back of one of their better halves of football for some time.
The health of Roma’s front line remains imperative to restoring the quest for 4th place and both Dzeko and Pellegrini showed today the gap in performance between the depth and starters and fingers will be crossed that Kostas Manolas will be available following the break. In the meantime, the switch on the Roma mood-ometer can be flicked a few dials to the positive and speculation on EDF’s longevity should also be shelved until February.
A strong performance and three points away from home is a mighty elixir to most footballing ailments and is a fine way to say farewell to the dumpster fire that has been 2018 as we cautiously welcome what we hope will be kinder and more generous 2019. Happy New Year!