This past month has debuted several new faces at Primavera level. In January’s post, we mentioned Ebrima Darboe signing on permanently at the club and making his U-19 debut in the Milan match below. Darboe has proven enthusiastic but reckless in midfield, picking up a card in almost every game he’s played. Another new signing, Felipe Estrella, tried to sub in for Zan Celar up front. Then Valerio Coccia - an 18 year-old Roman central defender built like a bulldog - made his debut out of nowhere in a match where Roma wiped the floor with Napoli Primavera.
I have no idea where Coccia was hiding all this time, but his presence on the field is the first genuinely intimidating centre-back talent that I’ve seen emerge from the gates of Trigoria for the last couple of years. But the most impressive U-19 debut came from none other than summer signing Daniel Fuzato, who took advantage of a long gap between the Porto and Bologna games at senior level to make a unique start between the goalposts with the Primavera.
I couldn’t see Fuzato’s game live - SportItalia weren’t showing it - but, by all accounts from the match reviews against Napoli online, he was damn good. And I mean damn good.
Fuzato was quick off his line, aggressive in closing down the angles when left 1-on-1 with opposition strikers, pulling out saves and quick to redistribute the ball to launch Roma’s counter attacks. Fuzato was like... well, I can’t think of any Brazilian sweeper keeper in world football off the top of my head. I certainly can’t think of anyone like that who’s played in a Roma jersey recently. Answers on a postcard.
Roma Primavera 4-0 Milan Primavera
The first match of February was the return game against struggling Milan, who Roma had demolished 7-1 on Milan’s own turf back at the beginning of the season. Despite a heavy 4-0 scoreline in this game, the goals were down to individual talent this time around. Milan didn’t put that much of a foot wrong, except they came up against Gianmarco Cangiano on fire.
Pick your favourite from Cangiano’s hattrick of top-drawer goals above. We highlighted Cangiano as one of Roma’s five talents to watch this season, but I maintain he is a streaky player. Truthfully, his counterpart Ludovico d’Orazio - playing in the #10 shirt above and now permanently shifted to the right wing to accommodate Cangiano - is far more consistent and increasingly influential in Roma’s games lately.
Where Cangiano can explode out of nowhere, d’Orazio has the motor to keep going and keep his mind clear for the next pass and move. Both youngsters are vying for the right to jump to senior level as Roma’s next right-footed inside left forward, so keep an eye out to see if at least one of the two makes it this coming summer.
Last but not least in this game, centre forward Zan Celar pops up with his 20th league goal of the season to wrap up the 4-0 result.
Chievo Primavera 4-3 Roma Primavera
Losing to Chievo was a hugely disappointing result. Roma had wonderful league momentum going into this game against a lower-table side, and even got off to the best of starts with Darboe’s early goal.
Roma have regularly tried no less than four keepers in goal this season (largely due to number 1 keeper Stefano Greco’s injuries) and Emanuele Zamarion still struggles for confidence between the sticks whenever he gets a chance for Roma. Three goals flew right past him, and Roma were 3-1 down by half-time.
Roma came out with a more aggressive but disjointed game in the second half, and traded goals (including another Cangiano stunner) with Chievo to finish the game with a 4-3 loss. Darboe started the match off on a high but ended on a low, getting sent off in the 83rd minute for a second yellow.
Roma Primavera 5-1 Napoli Primavera
We mentioned almost everything there is say about this game at the beginning, but this was by far Roma’s most dominant performance of February and Daniel Fuzato’s arrival on the scene.
Honourable mentions should go to captain-on-the-day Salvatore Pezzella, who was back to his best playmaking form to control the midfield. When Pezzella plays like he did this game, he’s a real metronome to keep Roma’s heart beating strong in the midst of any match. Right-back Stefano Parodi was also strong on the ball on his flank, while Alessio Riccardi wasn’t as impressive when moved back into a central midfield role but still came up with an assist in this game at the very end from out wide.
After Zan Celar opens the scoring, Cangiano buries an extremely difficult header from d’Orazio’s cross to make it 2-0. There is nothing that Daniel Fuzato can do to keep out Napoli’s free-kick goal for 2-1, but that came only after a top-class save from Fuzato earlier in the game. Then Coccia strikes at the other end from a Roma corner to close out the half at 3-1 up.
In the second half, d’Orazio chases down a ball to force an error inside Napoli’s box and feed Celar his 22nd league goal of the season. Then Roma’s defence are caught too high up the pitch, Napoli put a man through on goal but Fuzato closes down the angle and saves aggressively in a way you could only dream of Olsen doing. Celar should have really had a hat trick this game, but the big striker doesn’t let his head down and keeps playing for the team in the build up to Freddi Greco’s goal making it a 5-1 final score.
And perhaps Freddi Greco’s presence is the best news of all, since Greco finished off January with a suspected knee injury but it clearly wasn’t as bad as first feared.
UEFA Youth League Playoff - Midtjylland U-19 1-1 Roma U-19s
This was Roma’s biggest match of the month. Because UEFA.TV don’t allow embeds, you can find the highlights of this game here.
This was a one-off playoff match for the right to advance to the round of 16 in Europe and, despite the Roma-heavy highlights in UEFA’s video, I tuned into the final 20 minutes of the match to find Midtjylland pretty much dominating the game in their stadium. Maybe Roma just ran out of gas from that point on.
Salvatore Pezzella opens the scoring inside 3 minutes, but went from hero to zero a quarter of an hour later, conceeding a penalty at the other end. The match finished 1-1 and went to penalties.
Most surprising of all, the first to blink from the spot was Ludovico d’Orazio with a weak penalty at a saveable height right down the middle on Roma’s third spot kick. Then Roma’s fate was sealed when Luca Chierico, brought on specifically for penalties right at the end of the game in place of Cangiano by Alberto De Rossi, missed the fatal fourth kick.
Palermo Primavera 0-0 Roma Primavera
There’s nothing much to report from the last game of February. Roma were possibly still hungover from being out of Europe, because they blew the chance to go second after results at the top elsewhere favoured them.
Instead, this goalless draw means Roma are still in fourth and their destiny can take a big turn with the first game of March coming up.
Roma Primavera vs. Atalanta Primavera: March 2nd. 11:00 CET/5.00 EST. Stadio Tre Fontane, Rome.
The next month kicks off with none other than a head-to-head against current league leaders Atalanta. It’ll be a difficult one to catch at 5 in the morning if you’re in the States, but I’m near certain SportItalia will choose to show it live. Most matches are broadcast free-to-view on their web live streaming service here.
Roma recently had their asses handed to them by Atalanta when crashing out of the U-19 Coppa Italia, but the Giallorossi will be aware they beat Atalanta in their own backyard 4-0 in the first half of the season.
If Roma win the return league fixture at home, they can go level on points with the current 1st-placed team. Then it’ll turn into a very interesting four-way fight at the top between Torino, Fiorentina, Roma and Atalanta.
But lose the next game and Roma can get caught up by Juventus and Inter below them, which would mean struggling to stay in the playoffs spots. As usual with all things Roma, it’s win or bust.