Roma travelled to Turkey this late afternoon to face Cengiz Under’s old club Basaksehir. The Turkish club played nothing like we expected they would at kick off. They were the ones sitting pretty with the two point lead at the top of Group J. Surely all they had to do was sit back at home and play for a draw to qualify? Even the most ardent Basaksehir fan would understand that approach.
Instead, true to their Netherlands World Cup ‘98-look-a-like home kits, Basaksehir chose the gun-ho approach and eventually paid for it. At first the Turkish side started strong and could count themselves unlucky not to be ahead within the first twenty minutes, but eventually the space given to Roma to break onto the counter-attack would tell. And if there’s one thing Fonseca’s Roma love so far this season, it’s to bury teams on the counter.
Was the pre-match plan from Basaksehir courageous or suicidal? You decide.
To be real, I forgot Roma were slotted into an early kick-off this afternoon, and manage to miss nearly all of the first half. I tuned in just in time to see instant replays of Edin Dzeko chesting down a Lorenzo Pellegrini dink-ball over the top, then slotting it past the Basaksehir keeper.
Random Thoughts & Observations
- Looking at the half-time replays, a weak and unconvincing tumble from Zaniolo leads to no penalty award. One thing that frustrates me about modern players is when they’re looking for the contact instead of thinking about scoring a goal.
- Two assists from Lorenzo Pellegrini. Both balls over the top to Kluivert and Dzeko respectively. Even Roma’s opening goal comes from a handball award off a Lorenzo Pellegrini ball to get the penalty.
- Since 2013, Jordan Veretout has now scored 16 of his last 18 penalties taken for an 88.8% success rate from the spot. First-choice taker over Kolarov from now on? Kolarov still has some goal-records to smash for 2019 before the year is up but evidently the team comes first.
- I wish I knew what Basaksehir’s half-time epic music is, as it plays of the PA system.
- 52 minutes in and the home side have used all their subs while, a minute later, Spinazzola comes back from injury off of the bench to give Kolarov a breather. Is Under going to get a run-out against his old club? Surely.
- Here we go, 70 minutes have gone by and Cengiz is subbed on for Pellegrini. In the very same sequence, it looks like Mkhitaryan is subbed on for Dzeko and it’ll be Zaniolo playing up front as Roma’s striker. Paulo Fonseca’s CdT subscription confirmed.
- This also means Chris Smalling wears the captain’s armband, and it’s not that big a surprise. Ever since his first game for Roma, Smalling has personnified leadership on the field.
- At this point, the game is made up of Roma constantly playing balls just shy of the halfway line through Basaksehir’s last line of defence. It is baffling why the home side are playing like this, still leaving acres of space behind their backline to goal. I guess when you’ve used all 3 subs, you’ve got to try and go to where the ball is and keep the play compact to keep the yards-run count down. But they’re even failing at that. If Roma wanted to win 4 or 5-0 they could, but both sides are playing casual by now.
- It’s a selfish play from Cengiz who, when released on the right wing to cut in across Istanbul’s 18 yard line, just keeps searching for an opening to shoot and ignores three teammates. Can you blame him though? The temptation to want to make a mark back home is huge.
- This is really becoming a Fonseca team now. Roma relentlessly stringing together 5 yard passes all around the home side, as the Giallorossi hold onto possession to the end of the game.
- Roma played with the most width I’ve seen all season, and showed no respect to the Turks by pushing up 4-5 forward players to keep Basaksehir’s backline stretched wide. The Giallorossi weren’t even trying to stand in between the lines, but just camped out all along Basaksehir’s backline, period. Fonseca must have figured Roma have the better midfield here. Speaking of which...
- Let there be no doubt who pulled the strings for this Roma victory. He’ll won’t score many goals (if any at all) and has all the athleticism of Fazio, so he’ll never be a headline-grabber in Rome, but Amadou Diawara racks up a truly monstrous 110 touches of the ball tonight. That is 34 more touches than second-placed Jordan Veretout. I can’t remember the last time I saw a player go into triple-figures on touches of the ball for Roma.
So, Roma are now second in Group J. The Giallorossi and level on points with Borussia Monchengladbach but behind on results against (I think that’s the tie-breaker here). Roma will now go into their remaining game against Wolfsberg at the Olimpico, aiming to beat the bottom-placed side and hope that Basaksehir can nab points off ‘Gladbach.
As for tonight’s game, it’s worth nothing that Roma have managed to dominate games regardless of fielding the Mancini-Veretout or Diawara-Veretout pairing in the heart of midfield. Aleksandar Kolarov has firmly been relieved on the creative burden in this side, and you’ve got to give credit to Paulo Fonseca’s setup for the equilibrium in Roma’s play.
It doesn’t matter who he plays in deep-lying midfield as Roma tend to keep calm and control of the ball all the same, with intelligent use of it to hurt opponents and score. The only question is: Do you prefer your players to look for the killer ball and rack up the goals and assists? Or do you like the “balancers” of the team who keep the play ticking over from further back?
Man of the Match?
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