The first knockout round of the Champions League is when European play really gets interesting. Sure, Roma has had its difficulties getting to that phase every now and then, but the expectation for the club in this era is that the Giallorossi will get to the Final 16. The further along you go, the bigger the clubs get, the higher the share of the TV money, the more pressure on each player in the squad to find success. When you consider that Juventus seems to have Serie A locked up for the next millennium, it becomes all the more clear why success in the Champions League is critical for Roma.
Form is perhaps the most important factor for midweek matches, and unfortunately, Roma’s recent form has been mixed at best. Sure, there’s been some success in the league, but I’m still smarting from that loss to Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia. Add in the fact that Porto is no Chievo Verona, and that Roma’s squad is looking thin to say the least, and I honestly had no clue what the final score was going to be after ninety minutes. Porto has given Roma fits in the past, to the point where the Giallorossi have actually never beaten the Portuguese side in European play. Would this embarrassing trend continue into 2019?
From the get go, both Porto and Roma played with a bit of hesitancy, showing that both managers seemed to understand they were not playing against clubs to be trifled with. Roma’s buildup play was solid, with early chances for Edin Dzeko and Stephan El Shaarawy showing that i Lupi meant business. Il Faraone’s first chance was quite spectacular in particular, with El Shaarawy seizing on an egregious defensive error by Porto to nearly score within the first four minutes of play, but a missed pass to Bryan Cristante ruined that early chance. The counter was Roma’s biggest tool early on, with Porto’s defending looking rather panicked when Dzeko, El Shaarawy, or Nicolo Zaniolo began an attack.
There were no goals in the first half, but that isn’t to say Roma didn’t get their fair share of chances. One particular Edin Dzeko miss was only inches from getting past Iker Casillas, but the Bosnian’s greatest enemy, the crossbar, struck again.
Before the 70th minute, I had written up a couple paragraphs describing how boring the second half had been. There were a couple of chances for Lorenzo Pellegrini and a quick skirmish between Di Francesco and Conceicao, but that was pretty much it. Then...
Nicolo Zaniolo: 70th Minute (Roma 1 - Porto 0)
Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior, Nicolo Zaniolo? Honestly, what is there to say about this one. Zaniolo continues to find himself in the right place at the right time, with a nice pass from Edin Dzeko turning into a shot sewn quite neatly between the last Porto defender and beyond Iker Casillas.
Whisper it very, very, very quietly, but that #10 may not be vacant for too long.
Speaking of which...
Nicolo Zaniolo: 76th Minute (Roma 2 - Porto 0)
This time, a shot from Dzeko careened off the post, with Zaniolo running down half the field to keep up with the Bosnian and kick in the rebounded shot. Zaniolo has pace, size, and the technical ability, and he certainly showed it tonight.
Nicolo Zaniolo is the player with the highest amount of potential in the side. He is already one of the best players in the side. And he’s only nineteen! There’s not much I can say beyond that, except that I’m quite happy Zaniolo ran to the fans after both of his goals. That’s how you mend fences with the tifosi.
We have Nicolo Zaniolo and you don’t.
Grazie mille, Inter.
Adrian: 79th Minute (Roma 2 - Porto 1)
Well, it couldn’t be all sunshine and roses. If it was, it wouldn’t be Roma. Porto snatched an ever-important away goal after going down 2-0, with Adrian Lopez scoring after defensive errors by both Federico Fazio and Kostas Manolas. I’m not going to dwell on this goal too much in the quick review, but it does show that despite the blossoming of Zaniolo, there are still other issues Roma has to resolve in the near future.
Zaniolo got his curtain call, there was five minutes of stoppage time, and Dzeko almost got a shot on goal, but that’s basically the way this one ended.
- I’m a fan of Nicolo Zaniolo.
- Roma beat Porto for the first time in European play. Hopefully that away goal doesn’t come back to bite them.
- I’m a fan of Nicolo Zaniolo.
Zaniolo of the Match?
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