While you never want to overlook any opponent, based on their recent forms and their respective stock of talent, even the most neutral observers probably favored Roma heading into this Round 12 fixture. And what’s more, Roma have had their way with Parma at the Stadio Tardini for the past several years, winning their past three matches away to Parma. With history and current form on their sides, even in their wounded form Roma should have won this match walking away.
But, as they so often say, matches aren't played on paper. As promised, Paulo Fonseca didn't make any changes to his starting eleven, leaving Gianluca Mancini in midfield despite the return of Amadou Diawara, while Cengiz Ünder remained on the bench behind Justin Kluivert and Nicolo Zaniolo.
Unfortunately for Roma, that continuity didn't yield positive results. Almost from the word go, Roma had difficulty breaking down Parma's extremely compact defense. The Crusaders were content with yielding the first two-thirds of the pitch to Roma (a full 33% of all action occurred in Parma's final third), but once they approached the final third, there was virtually no space between Parma's backline and their midfield; they completely compressed the space in the final third, leaving Roma with little room or time to function in attack.
For most of the match, Roma did well enough in defense but Parma simply made better use of the ball, ripping off 10 of 14 shots in the box. Even when they didn't manage a shot on goal, Parma simply created better chances in the area, flashing multiple balls across the face of goal, several of which would have produced clear cut chances had the end runs been timed better.
It wasn't pretty, but, if nothing else, it seemed like Roma could hold Parma to a stalemate. Their luck would run out before long, though. In the 68th minute, Riccardo Gagliolo put a lovely bending effort past Pau Lopez at the far post. At first blush, it looked like a fluke/miss-hit type of goal, but Gagliolo did a hell of a job contorting this ball past Lopez.
By that point, Fonseca had used two of his three subs and with no real options in attack remaining on the bench, his final move was Amadou Diawara coming on for Fazio. Needless to say, that swap didn't produce much in the way of offense, as Roma continued to struggle against Parma's congested defense, which had shifted to a veritable 4-5-1 by this point.
Roma would press for an equalizer, with Cengiz Ünder getting off a fantastic late attempt at goal, but wound up actually conceding a second goal in stoppage time as Parma took advantage of a lazy pass in the middle third.
We've seen Roma drop points to lesser sides in the past, and while these are sometimes the results of questionable officiating or some narrow misses, that wasn't the case today; Parma executed their defensive plan flawlessly and took advantage of attacking chances when they were presented.
Full marks to Parma, they deserved all three points today.
Random Thoughts & Observations
- I'll keep this one brief, except to say that Parma did to Roma today what they had done to their past few opponents: winning the match despite losing the possession battle
- Parma held only 37% of the possession yet managed 14 shots, 10 of which were in the box, 8 of which were on target.
- By comparison, Roma, with their 63% possession, managed only three more shots than Parma and were incredibly wasteful with those attempts. Controlling the ball allows you more room for error, but Roma were inaccurate and complacent in their attempts
- To wit: 11 of Roma's 17 shots were outside of the box and only 6 of their total attempts were on-target. Whenever they'd pivot the ball towards the point, Zaniolo and/or Dzeko were quickly closed down.
- In a sense it was like a basketball game where your opponent is dominating the defensive glass, limiting your second chance attempts. You only had a finite number of attempts, so you’d better make them count.
- Roma didn't and that's why they lost.
Roma definitely looked tired and seem to be feeling the impact of having such a short bench, but, again, full credit to Parma, they gamed this match perfectly, using their shape and patience to frustrate Roma’s attack.
The dreaded international break.