Roma kicked off with a one-point lead at the top of Group J, by virtue of their opening matchday 1 victory that now seems like a long time ago. There hasn’t been a single win in Europe for Roma since, but all four Group J teams have been taking points off one another and left the Giallorossi with needing just a single point to qualify for the next stage.
Could they secure that point in Germany? The temptation to play out time was evident for Roma from the very start, as life in Europe’s second tier plays out along the lines of low-risk, low-reward.
I’m not knocking the competition itself, but that is the plain and simple trade-off of being forced to play on a Thursday night with weekend games just around the corner. Halfway through the first half, the commentator even has time to mention that Roma will be flying directly to Reggio Emilia for the Parma game at the weekend, skipping training in Rome altogether.
But onto tonight’s game in Germany we go.
Random Thoughts & Observations
- Gianluca Mancini has got the ‘salida volpiana’ down to a tee. This is what Roma have been wanting out of De Rossi, Nzonzi and others for the last 2-3 seasons.
- Roma are not having any luck drawing Borussia MGB onto them. The secret of Roma’s resurgence is out, and the Giallorossi won’t get much joy trying to counter-attack their way out of this first half.
- The referee has already had enough of Pau Lopez’s timewasting, just over a half hour into the game. Lopez’s long-range kicking has not been good tonight.
- Wow, an unnecessary intervention from Fazio has Roma 1-0 down on the night. Fazio’s opponent peels off of him in to the near post, only Fazio believes that the danger behind him is at the far post and sticks a leg out to try and cut out the cross. He only succeeds in slotting the ball right past Pau Lopez. Own goal.
- Well the home crowd are in top spirits now, and Roma have failed to control possession anywhere beyond their own defensive third. With Pau Lopez’s kicking actually getting worse.
- The ref has been threatening to book Mancini for a good ten minutes, and a high arm in the face of a Borussia player finally does it. Mancini gets a yellow, while he explains to his opponent that he wasn’t trying to elbow him. It’s an “I’m sorry that you feel that way” type of apology from Mancini, one where the subtext says “I’d slide tackle you in the face if the ref wasn’t here, so get over it.”
- Zaniolo pushes a Borussia player as the ball goes out of play, and Roma’s Young Italians (I swear that’s a book title?) have to keep their discipline in check here or Roma’s night will get worse.
- Golarov tries his luck with a 40-yard free kick, but... yeah. Half-time.
- Wait, not half-time yet. Pau Lopez has time to kick yet another long ball straight to the opposition. Roma 1-0 down, their young players looking like suspensions waiting to happen. And no real plan to hold onto the ball outside of their own defensive third, where Borussia are happy to stand off them. Something’s gotta change this half.
- As things stand live, with a 0-0 draw in the other Group J game at the moment, all 4 teams are tied on 5 points in this group. You can finish first or dead last right now. Gordon Gekko: “Fifty, a hundred million dollars, Buddy. A player... or nothing.”
- Strangely enough, Roma are now defending in a 4-4-2 diamond off the ball. Am I late? When did this happen? And the German side has now decided to press Roma’s backline. An odd decision to do at 1-0 up when you weren’t doing it at 0-0. It’s letting Roma back into the game.
- The Borussia keeper launches a missile of a clearance straight at the back of his Ginter’s skull at less than 10 yards distance. Ginter goes down like a ton of bricks and he’s lucky he’s still conscious.
- Fonseca doesn’t want to see Mancini sent off, so decides to pull him off for Diawara in midfield.
- Roma get a freekick thanks to Javier Pastore’s persistence in trying to win the second ball. And it’s an exquisite Kolarov delivery straight to Fazio, who slides in to score his second goal of the night. This time at the right end. 1-1.
- Another unimpressive touch from Kluivert, and I’m not sure where his head is at tonight. It looks like one too many games in succession for the Dutch youngster.
- WHAT A BALL FROM VERETOUT, who laser-guides a cross-field pass into Dzeko’s path from out wide. Dzeko flicks it out wide to Kluivert, who runs into the box and hits it over the bar.
- Is it Javier Veretout or Jordan Pastore? Because, frankly, one is bringing the grinta and ball-winning to Roma’s play that I expected from the other. And the other is completing the kind of game-splitting passes on this whole vice-versa scale.
- Roma’s #27, Jordan Pastore, is closing down the opposition keeper in Borussia’s box late in the game. #hunger.
- Meanwhile, #21 Javier Veretout floats a beautiful ball out wide to Santon. #vision.
- Perotti is subbed on for Pastore (the real Pastore this time, for real) and Roma look like they’ve actually LOST grinta in that swap. Who’d have said that at the beginning of the season?
- A lady with three-quarters white, one-quarter dyed black hair looks on anxiously in the crowd at her Borussia team labouring to a draw on the night. This result obviously suits Roma more at this stage.
- Pau Lopez rushes 40 yards out of goal to kick the ball........ straight out of play.
- I don’t believe it. Another 90+5 minute goal from Borussia MGB against Roma for the second week running.
- A couple of Borussia substitutes get booked by the referee. The German side wins as the ref blows for full time.
Well, that was a weird game and the worst of results. Had Roma only lost 1-0 on the night, they would have finished this evening still ahead of Borussia Monchengladbach. But with a 2-1 loss on the night, the Germans leapfrog Roma while Turkish side Basaksehir leapfrog them both to the top of Group J.
There are two games left to go in this group stage, and Roma are headed out of Europe for now. Two Borussia goals in the dying moments of each fixture has changed the Giallorossi’s fortunes. Roma will now have to go and get a result away in Turkey if they want to stay on the European Thursday night scene.
I’m sure some voices will already be speculating as to whether Roma shouldn’t just welcome an early exit out of this competition to save on the fixture congestion. Personally, I’d rather win it all. But with lapses of concentration and the tiredness shown in games like this, that’s easier said than done.
Roma will now fly straight to Parma for their 5 pm Sunday kick-off this weekend.