A football match, like nearly any other sport, ebbs and flows, with momentum shifting from team to team throughout the game, and today's Derby del Sole was no exception. What was interesting, though, was how clearly demarcated those swings in form were. Normally we'd see 30 minute sections of interchanging dominance, but this match seemed to sway back and forth every 15 minutes.
Roma ran hot early in the first half, only to acquiesce to Napoli following a missed penalty from Aleksandar Kolarov. That would have put Roma up 2-0 after only 23 minutes, potentially putting this match to bed, but Kolarov's miss really tilted this match back towards Napoli—Roma simply looked deflated. Napoli then ran the table for the next 20 minutes, only to be foiled the half-time whistle
Once again, Roma came out with guns blazin’ in the second half, earning another penalty in the 55th minute, one which Jordan Veretout claimed in Kolarov's place, putting Roma up 2-0 at last. Things were looking pretty for Roma, until the match was halted for something rather ugly.
Play would stop some 12 minutes later thanks to some “territorial chanting", which may very well have been racist since Koulibaly was quick to call attention to it, and given Italy's recent history with such abhorrent behavior, we have no reason to doubt him.
Once play resumed in the 70th minute, Napoli had wrested control back from Fonseca's men, pulling a goal back in the 72nd minute when Milik finally found his break through. The final 15 minutes were as intense as one would expect given that fourth place was on the line, but stoppage time really cranked up the pressure.
Thanks to the fouls, the stoppage of play, and a couple VAR calls, Rocchi added six minutes to this match. Roma actually handled the increased Napoli pressure quite well, but were nearly done in by Cetin's inexperience, as he drew not one but two yellow cards in stoppage time, the last of which gave Milik a free kick from maybe 20-yards out.
Fortunately Roma's wall was up to the task and the attempt caromed over the cross bar. It was a wild and tense match, but Roma walked away winners.
Random Thoughts & Observations
- Today's match was brought to you buy ESPN News and their patented 90-second delay.
- This was billed as the return of Kostas Manolas, but Mario Rui also made the start, and I can't think of a more inconsequential Roma career over the past decade, can you?
- ESPN immediately starts commenting on Roma's “factory” of center backs. Time will tell if Mancini and Cetin join those ranks, but they do seem to have an uncanny ability to find quality back there.
- But out of all those departed center backs, which one do you actually miss right now? The list has to begin and end with Marquinhos, right? None of the others (Romagoli, Rudiger) have gone on to become anything special.
- Justin Kluivert had two decent long range efforts within the first ten minutes. He has a far stronger leg than I ever imagined he would. Given how well he and Zaniolo are performing on the wings, I don't think Ünder will be an automatic inclusion when fully fit.
- Mancini was the start of the show through 20 minutes, and not because of his defense. He unfurled a series of beautifully weighted long passes, nearly springing a Javier Pastore goal.
- His long pass down the right flank to Leonardo Spinazzola set off the chain of events that led to Nicolo Zaniolo's 20th minute goal.
ZANIOLO! WHAT A PASS FROM MANCINI pic.twitter.com/nJNpTGva4z— ASR Goals (@AsrGoals) November 2, 2019
- And what a crack from Zaniolo. I could not have been the only one screaming at him to shoot, but his hesitation was perfect—he kept the defender at bay, giving himself an additional split second to dial it up to 11.
- Roma were awarded an ex post facto handball Callejon, who deflected the ball with his hand/arm. It was a borderline call...but Kolarov missed the PK, so no harm, no foul I guess.
- Chris Smalling...again. Pulling a goal off the line with his back to the ball.
- What more can we say about this guy? What a signing.
- Of course, he very nearly gifted Napoli an equalizer when his back header towards Lopez sort of died in the air. Smalling giveth and Smalling (almost) taketh away.
- Roma completely ceded control after Kolarov's missed penalty. It just seemed to deflate them. Napoli dictated the tempo of the match from that point on. Half time could not come soon enough.
- Roma did a great job keeping a numerical advantage while pressing Napoli's left flank in the middle thirds—breaking the wheel before it starts to turn. They couldn't keep this up for every single minute, but they did it well enough to disrupt Napoli's rhythm.
- Pastore's close control in the area earned Roma another PK, forcing a handball on Mario Rui
- No Kolarov this time. Jordan Veretout gripped it and ripped it. 2-0.
- The match was suspended in the 68th minute for territorial chanting (or so it was reported via Twitter, Koulibaly pointed it out, so it very well could have been racist). Dzeko then implored the crowd to stop. The delay lasted approximately two minutes.
- Cetin's inexperience would yield horrific results moments later, as he barely made an effort to deflect a low cross that Milik tapped in for a goal. He had the pace and position, but his sliding effort was lackadaisical.
- Roma and Napoli then traded wasted efforts, as each side was guilty of ignoring an open man.
- This match got TENSE as it moved towards the final 15 minutes
- And of course they tacked on six additional minutes.
- Another red card—this time to Cetin in stoppage time,which was actually his second yellow in those six minutes. Probably a wise foul since Llorente had a clear path to goal, but a pretty sour ending to his first start.
Things were more tense and nervy than they probably needed to be down the stretch, but this match was further proof that the Giallorossi are in the right hands. Not only did Paulo Fonseca mix and match his lineup as health and suspensions dictated, but his defensive schemes did just enough to keep Napoli off kilter, keeping the Partenopei at bay long enough for Roma to secure three points.
Roma have gotten off to hotter starts in recent seasons, but I don't think we've ever felt quite as secure in the man pulling the strings as we do with Fonseca. Things seem like they're trending upward, there isn't that same fear of the other shoe dropping like we've seen with other managers.
A trip to Germany on the 7th to take on Gladbach in the Europa League.
Man of the match?
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