Whether it was due to several injuries and/or suspensions forcing his hand, or simply the delayed realization that what he’s been doing hasn’t been working, Eusebio Di Francesco made some pretty drastic changes to Roma’s starting eleven today. Roma morphed into a 4-2-3-1 against Benevento with Edin Dzeko supported by Cengiz Under, Diego Perotti and Stephan El Shaarawy.
It was an attacking lineup slotted into an attacking formation, who knew such a thing was possible!? Unfortunately for Roma, that attack didn’t amount to much in the early goings as they were, you guessed it, directionless and without cohesion. And, is so often the case when that happens, Roma are done in by little twists of fate
Guilherme: 7th Minute
I have no idea who this guy is, nor do you, but in this instance Roma’s defense made him look like Lionel Messi. Look at that balance, that close control, that ingenuity. Of course, it’s easy to look like Messi when you have four defenders standing stone footed staring at you in awe. Yes, the ball ultimately needed a deflection to narrowly beat Alisson, but what precipitated it was absolutely dreadful. Still, pretty impressive stuff from Guilherme.
You would think falling behind so quickly to such a decidedly inferior opponent would light a fire under Roma’s ass, but you’d be wrong. Try as they might, EDF’s boys simply couldn’t make a lasting connection, as there was often no link up and too much space between midfield and attack, resulting in the usual Superman runs into five defenders from Diego Perotti or an array of “fuck it, why not?” crosses from Alessandro Florenzi and anyone else in red.
Roma would claw one back from an extremely unlikely source twenty minutes later, though.
Federico Fazio: 26th Minute
Just an absolutely scintillating set-piece here from Roma. Starting with the cheeky little hop at the beginning, to the picture perfect ball by Aleksandar Kolarov to the textbook header from Federico Fazio, this thing was all aces. But what a header from Fazio! He lashed onto this thing from 12-yards-out and hit it perfectly—the keeper didn’t stand a chance.
There wasn’t a ton of action in the ensuing 18 minutes, but in no way shape or form did this look like a meeting between a newly promoted side and a title pretender—this was an incredibly even first half.
Given how tightly contested the first half was—and if you were Roma, frustrating—the second half could have gone any number of directions. The most likely scenario, given how the club has performed over the past two months, was another 45 minutes of futile gestures from Roma coupled with an over the top performance from Benevento’s keeper. That’s just been the Roma way for, oh, the past ten years.
But...and this is a big one...it didn’t happen! Roma hit Benevento with a deluge of goals in the second half, wasting little time in putting this one to bed.
Edin Dzeko: 59th Minute
For much of the first hour, Edin Dzeko was more scarecrow than capocannoniere, to the point where many (including me) were calling for his substitution. But, lo and behold, the Bosnian Batistuta was up to snuff.
With Cengiz Under dashing down the right flank, Edin Dzeko followed in kind, heading right towards the center of the area, putting himself into prime position to head this one home. While it wasn’t quite as aesthetically pleasing as Fazio’s header, it was impressive nonetheless, particularly when you consider that Under was going full bore when he fired that cross in.
Under would factor once more, as Roma ratcheted up the scoreline, 3-1.
Cengiz Under: 62nd Minute
Finally, some tight, succinct movement from Roma. This one actually started right at the center-stripe, with Kevin Strootman playing the ball to Under, who quickly shuffled it forward to Edin Dzeko some 35-yards-out from the goal. The beauty of this one was how Under shadowed the ball, trailing behind Perotti then bursting into the slightest bit of open space at the point as soon as Perotti made his endline run before tucking it away low and hard. Great run of play from Roma, and Perotti and Under in particular, who can’t have shared that much match time together.
But Under wasn’t done yet, and may have saved his best work for last.
Cengiz Under: 75th Minute
AGAIN! AGAIN! ÜNDERRRRR GOOOOOOL pic.twitter.com/fHkP02e2tB— RomaPress (@ASRomaPress) February 11, 2018
All you need to know about this goal comes the moment the camera switches to a low angle. Good lord, look at the bend on that shot—Cengiz Under is coming into his own before our very eyes, quickly establishing himself as the club’s most dangerous wide player, and if this goal was a sign of things to come, watch out, this kid might be something special.
The remaining 15 minutes played out in typical Roma fashion—they conceded a goal to Benevento thanks to some lackadaisical defense and actually grabbed another thanks to a handball call against the visitors—before the final whistle blew.
But in the end, the Giallorossi walked off winners in what turned out to be a lopsided match.
Even against a side as lowly as Benevento, who saw this coming? Five goals! Seriously, Roma, this Roma, our Roma, just scored five goals in a match, two of which actually came in the run of play. It was astounding!
However, since this is still our Roma we’re talking about, they countered that precision with some inexcusable defense at the back, one that would have come home to roost to a greater degree had Roma not been playing last place Benevento.
Still, dont let that dampen your good spirits, Roma in the second half was a sharp and as clinical as we’ve seen in months. Ultimately, Roma did what they were supposed to do; flatout dominate an outmatched opponent. So while we can quibble about the disparity between the first and second half, and the fact that they conceded two at home to a relegation candidate, this was precisely the type of victory this club needed—a no doubter.
Win, lose or draw, the real story here is the continued emergence of Cengiz Under, who was simply magnificent today. In 81 minutes of action, Under took 43 touches, ripping off three shots, creating four scoring chances, playing three accurate crosses, assisting on Dzeko’s header and, of course, scoring two of his own. And this kid is only 20-years-old.
We threw a lot of criticism at Monchi this year, but Under may very well be his first gem for Roma. The kid is brimming with confidence at the moment and seems a prime candidate to permanently pip Diego Perotti’s starting spot.
Roma jumps back into league action next Saturday when they take on Udinese. Until then, TTFN.