Today's match against Frosinone was the ultimate test of assumptions. Facing 19th place Frosinone, even on the road, Roma seemed primed for an easy victory, so much so that we speculated more on who Eusebio Di Francesco would rest rather than how he'd defeat today's opponent. With a bit of a mixed and matched lineup, we can safely say that EDF did not overlook the Canaries as flippantly as we did, starting most of his regulars in this critical yet winnable week 25 fixture.
I'd say we should have been thankful he chose to rely on so many tested players, but Roma's experience advantage didn't matter much in the early goings. While the opening moments of the match were your standard business—just two teams feeling each other out and getting used to the touch of the ball—things soon went sour for Roma.
Camillo Ciano: 5th Minute (Frosinone 1, Roma 0)
Ugh, do I really have to describe what happened here? This one was equal parts miscommunication between Daniele De Rossi and Steven Nzonzi, Steven Nzonzi's generally blahness as a footballer, and Robin Olsen not being a Brazilian named Alisson Ramses Becker. However you describe it, this was an absolutely shambolic display from Roma, and was quite indicative of their start to this match.
Roma were in absolute shambles at this point, and Ciano nearly doubled Frosinone's lead some five or six minutes later. With the ball swinging out wide from left to right, Frosinone had Roma's defense BEAT but Ciano couldn't settle the ball, blasting it over the crossbar and sparing Roma further ignominy in the process.
With a 1-0 lead in their pocket, Frosinone coalesced like it was the 89th minute of the World Cup Final, killing the clock, playing it safe and protecting that lead like it was a Supreme hoody on a rainy day.
Things were looking quite bleak for Roma: passes weren't being strung together, clearances were haphazard and no one seemed to care, but as the match moved towards the half hour mark, there were some subtle signs of life, with Roma creating a few near chances, but it would take an error from Frosinone for Roma to equalize.
Edin Dzeko: 30th Minute (Frosinone 1, Roma 1)
While this wasn't quite as egregious as the error that led to the Canaries first goal, thanks to some lax defending and general unawareness from Edoardo Goldaniga, who seemingly had no idea there were, like, 20 other dudes out there with him, Dzeko was able to swoop in and beat Marco Sportiello to level this match.
And just like that Roma were back in this one: two Roman(ish) teams, two ghastly errors and two goals. What else could possibly happen?
Well, I'm glad you asked...
Lorenzo Pellegrini: 31st Minute (Frosinone 1, Roma 2)
You can only just see it there at the beginning of the clip, but that's Dzeko springing Stephan El Shaarawy into space, and once he received the ball SES played a wonderful shot towards the far post, one that Sportiello just got a finger on, leaving Pellegrini with a gimme tap in. But hey, given how poor they were for the first 25 minutes of this match, I don't care if he sneezed this one past the line—a goal is a goal, and Roma desperately needed to get back on top of this one.
72 - Only 72 seconds have passed from Dzeko and Pellegrini's goals vs Frosinone, the fastest back to back for Roma in Serie A since Totti and Borini vs Cesena in January 2012 (50 seconds). Rapacious. #FrosinoneRoma— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 23, 2019
The remainder of the first half would play on without issue, but I think we can all agree those first 45 minutes were...unique.
With neither manager opting for an early change, it was business as usual for each side: Frosinone desperately trying to find their equalizer and Roma desperately trying to get an insurance goal.
The second half would wax and wane for the first twenty minutes or so, but with nothing breaking either way, both sides opted for a pair of changes. For Roma, that meant swapping out Steven Nzonzi and Diego Perotti for Bryan Cristante and Nicolo Zaniolo, respectively. Despite his early error, Nzonzi was his usual neutral self, though his partner in midfield, DDR, was well off the mark today, looking a step behind in most respects.
And it would be the 19-year-old former Inter youth product who'd make the first impact...but we're not talking about Zaniolo. Andrea Pinamonti, who is on loan with Frosinone from Inter, would make an almost immediate impact after being subbed on, as he very nearly banged home a cross but was sort of caught between two minds—head it or volley it, and the ball ultimately fell safely into the arms of Robin Olsen. It was an entirely score-able shot, Pinamonti just mistimed his attack.
That wouldn't be the last we'd hear of Pinamonti, though...
Andrea Pinamonti: 80th Minute (Frosinone 2, Roma 2)
GOAL Pinamonti.— Para (@Paracelsus) February 23, 2019
Frosinone equalize thanks to Ciano’s wonderful pass pic.twitter.com/gTCKay2huM
Pinamonti would have his moment in the sun in the 80th minute, getting on the end of a sublime cross from Ciano, who drew the attention of three Roma defenders before playing the ball across the face of goal to Pinamonti, who tapped it home cool as you like. Credit to Ciano for that run, which diverted ALL of the men in red shirts there, but if that shape and spacing doesn't speak volumes about Roma's defense, I don't know what does.
All of this occurred moments after Kostas Manolas was stretchered off the pitch after appearing to injure his ankle. If the injury proves as bad as the look on his face as he was carried off, Roma could be in deep, deep trouble.
Oh, and there's also this...
Interesting tidbit from this disaster, Pinamonti was the rumored second youngster originally included in the Nainggolan deal with Inter.— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) February 23, 2019
Considering how crazy and unpredictable the first 94 minutes were, I'm not sure we should be surprised the following happened, but good god, what moment!
Edin Dzeko: 95th+ Minute (Frosinone 2, Roma 3)
The most appropriate sort of finish to a truly perplexing game. Dzeko at the death pic.twitter.com/O2sLs1UMS1— Wesley Davidson (@wesleynd2) February 23, 2019
Look, we all love him, but De Rossi was deplorable today...until this, and in some respects that's what captains are for; they deliver when it matters most, and that's precisely what De Rossi did there, threading a perfect ball through to El Shaarawy, who then set up Dzeko's match winner. Great ball from De Rossi, great job from SES to settle it, and perfect positioning from Dzeko, who sorted nudged it home with his thigh.
But it all makes perfect sense, doesn't it? In a game as crazy as this, the match winner would bounce off a thigh—remarkable.
I have no idea what we just witnessed. One thing is for certain though, Dzeko proved his worth today, scoring two goals and setting up a third. He's been all over the map this season, but he seems to rounding into form at the most important time.
Dzeko heroics aside, this match was very nearly a disaster. When I woke up this morning, I fully expected Roma to score at least three goals against a rather poor Frosinone side, what I didn't imagine, however, was that the third goal would be a 95th minute match winner. Roma's defense was atrocious today, in form, shape and function—so do whatever you gotta do to send some positive juju Manolas’ way.
But hey, a win is a win. Whether it took five minutes or ninety-five, Roma (just barely) got it done today, and in the process they gave themselves some slight breathing room in fifth place thanks to Atalanta's loss earlier today.
So, despite all those shenanigans and all that stress, we're still good shape—one point off AC Milan in the bitter fight for fourth place.
Roma run in back next weekend against 8th place Lazio.