When I was a child, Sunday’s were great. After my mother dragged us off to church we were rewarded with a diner breakfast and/or candy, then I’d spend the rest of the day doing whatever I wanted—playing sports with my friends, riding my bike, video games, you name it; the day was mine. Fast forward a few decades and my Sunday goals are quite succinct: do as little as possible and don’t even leave the house if at all possible.
So, when Cengiz Under did this 45ish seconds into the match, I was beaming...
Cengiz Under: 1st Minute
Thanks to Under’s first Serie A goal, I was able to blissfully drift in and out of consciousness during this match and not feel guilty, but mamma mia, what a way to make your debut goal! Under pounced on that loose ball and immediately knew exactly what he wanted to do, cut in and unleash one towards the far post, and that’s precisely what he did.
We still have no idea what this kid can really do, but the glimpses he’s shown of late have been among the few bright spots of 2018. And as it turned out, Under won the match for Roma before the players even broke a sweat. This goal came so quickly, EDF hadn’t even flashed his patented squinty face confused look yet. Pretty impressive.
Remarkably that would be the only goal of the match (more on that in a second), but Roma was stout enough to hold off Verona after going a man-down thanks to a Lorenzo Pellegrini red card, earning their first victory in their last six matches.
So, given that many of us weren’t able to see this match in its entirety, let’s take a quick look at the positives and negatives.
Change of Formation
As it turns out Eusebio Di Francesco is familiar with formations other than the 4-3-3. Whether he bowed to public pressure or simply realized that his preferred tactics weren’t jiving with his players, EDF rolled out a 4-2-3-1 with Edin Dzeko supported by Under, Stephan El Shaarawy and Radja Nainggolan, the latter of whom revived his role from last season, serving as the last link to Dzeko.
Chances and Shots
EDF’s crew had little to no trouble working the ball against hapless Verona, to the tune of 17 shots (8 of which were on target) and created 14 scoring chances, 11 of which were in and around the 18-yard-box.
Under and Nainggolan
Few players benefitted as greatly from the shift in formation as these two. Nainggolan took 89 touches, and was able to generate three shots, one key pass and four dribbles with those touches. He was riding Dzeko’s hip all match, helping to push play through the center of the park. Under, meanwhile, had a career day, pulling off three dribbles, creating three scoring chances, drawing three fouls and, of course, scoring the game’s only goal.
Lots of Shots and Chances, Little to Show
We’ll keep our griping confined to this one particular (but extremely important) area. New formation or not, Roma should have run roughshod over Verona in terms of creating chances and shots, which they did, but once again their finishing was woeful. Roma had eight shots directly in the box which were either saved or snuffed out by a Verona defender. And yes, some of that is down to excellent defensive play, but this kind of inefficiency is not sustainable—Roma were lucky that Verona were not able to take advantage of all of the Giallorossi’s wasted chances.
Hey, at the end of the day, a win is a win is a win, and Roma needed this one desperately. With Inter Milan dropping points yesterday, today’s victory pulls EDF’s side within one point of Inter, who have a slim hold on fourth place. And while this win should provide a morale boost for the squad, make no mistake, there are still serious issues plaguing this side, issues that one miraculous and well-timed goal from Under haven’t cured.
Having said that, Roma’s upcoming stretch (Benevento and Udinese) should provide more chances to pad their resume (so to speak) before they re-enter the Champions League fray in late February. Over that half a handful of matches, we should know whether today’s result was a mirage or a genuine sign of life.