Roma were spotted the rare Friday fixture when they faced 10th place Fiorentina today. With the Viola going winless in their last six league fixtures and missing Federico Chiesa, this had the looks of a cakewalk for Roma, especially since Paulo Fonseca had the majority of his nominal starting eleven available for the first time in weeks.
Despite that good health and theoretical advantage over Fiorentina, Vincenzo Montella's compact midfield and the sodden pitch at the Artemio Franchi stifled Roma's high-flying attack in the early portions of this match. With no real sense of flow or a clear path to travel, the Giallorossi stuttered in their early attempts to unlock this match, looking overwhelmed and frustrated in the early portions of this match.
That would all change midway through the half when Roma pulled off a beautiful three-touch move to grab an early lead.
Edin Dzeko: 19th Minute (Fiorentina 0, Roma 1)
I'm about to run out of adjectives for Lorenzo Pellegrini, but his work on this goal was absolutely sensational. Watch how he evades at least four defenders there with his back turned to the goal, and somehow finds Nicolo Zaniolo wide open on the right. And what this clip doesn't show is how Pellegrini drove into the 18-yard-box to begin with, making his evasion of those defenders even more impressive. Kudos to Zaniolo for setting up Dzeko, but this goal was all about Pellegrini—he's really come into his own as a play-maker this season.
Considering how well Fiorentina were frustrating Roma to that point, this was actually quite a shocking goal, but Pellegrini's brilliance flipped the match on its head, and Roma would double Fiorentina's misery two minutes later.
Aleksandar Kolarov: 21st Minute (Fiorentina 0, Roma 2)
What else is there to say? This was yet another picture perfect free kick from Roma's ageless left back. I keep worrying that Roma will run him into the ground, but he keeps chugging along and coming up with moments like these. And all things being equal between Kolarov and Spinazzola at left-back, Kolarov's set-piece wizardry will always be the difference maker.
Fiorentina would find an equalizer in the 34th minute when Milan Badelj took advantage of a poor headed clearance from Smalling, who blindly flicked the ball back towards the edge of the area, allowing Badelj to pounce on the loose ball. With Mancini and Smalling giving a moment's pause to look for a ref's call, Badelj was able to slip past them and beat Lopez low and to the right.
Roma had another golden opportunity several minutes later when Alessandro Florenzi delivered a pinpoint cross to a streaking Diego Perotti in the six-yard-box, and while Perotti's first touch was sublime, he wasn't able to transfer it to his stronger foot, allowing the Fiorentina defense to sweep it away with ease.
The second half began in pretty much the same fashion as the first, with Fiorentina deceptively controlling the game flow, frustrating Roma at the edges of the final third and exposing seams in Roma's backline. However, thanks to Pau Lopez's impressive sense of timing, Roma was able to avert disaster early in the second half.
With the match remaining in this holding pattern, Fonseca opted for an attacking change, bringing on Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Diego Perotti, but before the Armenian could check in, the match swung decidedly back in Roma's favor.
Lorenzo Pellegrini: 73rd Minute (Fiorentina 1, Roma 3)
At this point in the match, Dzeko was becoming visibly frustrated with his lack of effective service, but in a measure of what a complete player he is, Dzeko filled the role of setup man here. After receiving a nice feed from Pellegrini and seeing the defense closing in on him, Dzeko played the ball back to Pellegrini, who then placed his shot in the only conceivable place it could beat Dragowski.
Roma would add one more for good measure when they hit Fiorentina with a quick counter in the 88th minute: Diawara kick started the counter by finding Dzeko in the midfield, who then quickly flung it up field to Zaniolo on the right. From there, The Kid slotted it home as cool as you like, putting this match to bed.
Random Thoughts & Observations
- The beauty of this match were Roma's three goals from the run of play, which show the extent to which they've truly absorbed Paulo Fonseca's tactics. The spacing, the quick passing, and the orchestrated runs are all the end result of a well prepared and well coached team.
- Even though he scored the first goal, today was a study in Everything Else Edin Dzeko Does 101. Dzeko was instrumental to Roma's cause today, frustrating Fiorentina in the middle of the park by drawing five fouls, setting up shots for Roma's wide players and providing two assists. Matches like this are what makes him practically irreplaceable.
- Zaniolo's day was practically a carbon copy of Dzeko: six fouls draw, three key passes, a goal, an assist and even five successful dribbles. The Kid is quite good.
- Final shout out goes to Pau Lopez, who saved Roma's ass with his aggressive play off the line. Were this 2018 and we still had Robin Olsen, I'm not sure Roma walk away winners; Lopez stopped two to three clear cut chances with his rushes.
Up Next...nothing. See you on January 5th when Roma host Torino
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