With back to back three-nil wins in the books and a manager looking for even greater gains, Roma greeted the rainy Verona evening with a greater sense of purpose—dominance. Now that they've shed their injury woes and have nearly a full squad at their disposal, Roma seemed ready to impose their on weaker opponents. We've seen different fragments of the dominant Roma at various points throughout the season, but they've seldom put together a complete and thoroughly dominant 90 minutes this season, so it's not surprising that Fonseca is yearning for more.
Of course, putting in a lopsided and entertaining performance is exceedingly difficult on a rainy pitch, even more so when you're squaring off against one of the league's sternest defenses. With only 11 goals conceded through 13 matches, Verona's back line has been virtually impenetrable, and while there are a few flaws in their armor (they concede nearly 18 shots per match), if nothing else, they can batten down the hatches when needed. And when you throw the soggy pitch into the equation, Verona seemed well equipped to slow down and frustrate the Roma attack.
And through much of the first half, that's precisely what they did. Roma attempted to combat Verona's stout defense by using the speed of Justin Kluivert and Cengiz Ünder on the wings to their advantage, but the Mastiffs defense did an admirable job cutting off any passing/crossing lanes Roma's wingers hoped to exploit.
It was a frustrating start to the match for Roma, as the weather and Verona's defense seemed to conspire to against the Giallorossi, but Roma found a breakthrough in the 17th minute when Lorenzo Pellegrini delivered a sensational assist (from midfield with his weaker leg while falling over...amazing) to Justin Kluivert, springing the young Dutchman down the left flank. Kluivert's attempt on goal was equally impressive, as he delivered a tight-angled shot towards the far post, giving Roma an early lead.
That lead wouldn't last long, though. Verona would strike back four minutes later, as Marco Faraoni got on the end of a looping out-swinging cross to beat Pau Lopez. Full marks to Verona for this play, but multiple Roma defenders (particularly Aleksandar Kolarov) were caught ball watching, leaving Faraoni WIDE OPEN on the back post. It was about as easy a goal as you'll likely see.
Verona would peg Roma back twice more, but had goals disallowed due to offside calls. Roma, undaunted by their complacency, would strike back when Cengiz Ünder caught Edin Dzeko streaking into the area, drawing a penalty in the process. Diego Perotti, who had come on midway through the half for an injured Kluivert, converted the penalty with his signature nonchalant approach.
The song remained the same in the second half, as Verona's attempts to level the match were scrubbed out by the official, while Roma were simply content to play out the string for the final 20 minutes of the match, putting it officially out of reach when Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored in the 92nd minute.
Random Thoughts & Observations
- I can't speak for anyone else, but I really love the white top/red shorts look on the away kits.
- Verona had three, count ‘em three, goals disallowed via offside calls in this match. They were correctly judged in the end, but on each of those occasions, Roma's defense was exposed and exploited rather easily. They have a deadly penchant to ignore the far post, and today it nearly bit them cost them three points.
- Going along with that: Roma's defense is as shallow as their midfield is deep. At this point, they're pretty much riding the same three guys 90 minutes week in and week out (Smalling, Mancini and Kolarov), while rotating through three options at right back (Florenzi, Spinazzola and Santon), none of whom are ideal and/or healthy enough to contribute.
- Of course, now that we've said that, Gianluca Mancini will miss next week's match against the now first place Inter Milan. He came into the match with a yellow, and with that huge fixture looming, it is right to question why he played the full 90 minutes.
- Verona nearly had another one in stoppage time but Giampaolo Pazzini flubbed a gimme right on the goal line, though he was deemed offside anyway. Once again, this would-be goal was correctly ruled offside by the official, but Verona was able to find cracks in the Roma defense with shocking ease.
- These didn't stem from naked athleticism either. With a few simple passes and exemplary spacing/positioning, Verona was able to create clear cut chances in the six-yard box on at least four occasions today.
- Roma eventually rendered those concerns moot when Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored an insurance goal, sealing up the 3-1 victory.
- While he didn't directly set up that last goal, Lorenzo Pellegrini had a whale of a match, dishing out his fourth assist in three matches since returning from a foot injury. It almost seems insane he was played in the double pivot earlier this season because about as natural a trequartista as you'll see in today's game.
This wasn't exactly the dominating performance Paulo Fonseca called for earlier this week, but even with less than 50% possession, Roma still managed to double Verona's shot attempts (8 to 4) while putting five of those on target and scoring two from the run of play. Roma were lucky that Verona were caught offside three times in the penalty area, but aside from that the only real blemish was the late card to Mancini—he should have been pulled off by then and will now miss a critical match against Inter Milan.
Away to Inter on December 6th.
Man of the match against the Mastiffs?
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