A match between a big club and a minnow should generally be an open-and-shut case. The big club racks up a few goals quickly, sealing the win and allowing for some prospects or bench players to sub in and work to impress their manager. This isn’t Roma’s typical style, however; instead, i Lupi tend to play to the level of their competition, making matches against minnows nail-biters and traditionally “big” matches victories that come easier than one might expect.
Isn’t it nice when things work out easier than you anticipated?
Because of various injury worries, there wasn’t as much rotation for this match as one would expect when Roma plays a bottom-dweller. The largest change was the inclusion of Antonio Mirante for his second start of the season. Injuries to Robin Olsen and Kostas Manolas combined with fitness issues for Alessandro Florenzi and Daniele De Rossi essentially forced Di Francesco’s hand in terms of his starting eleven. Edin Dzeko was once again handed the captain’s armband despite recent unprofessional conduct on his part, perhaps with the hope that the honor would bring back his formerly electric Serie A goal-scoring form.
Well, it worked. Let’s dive into the match.
Stephan El Shaarawy: 9th Minute (Chievo 0, Roma 1)
GOOOOOOOOOOOL EL SHAARAWY!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/hQTD0ANWdV— RomaPress (@ASRomaPress) February 8, 2019
Roma scored early! Well look at that!
El Shaarawy continued his hot streak with this 9th minute chip, weaving through a couple defenders and over the head of Marco Sorrentino to open the goalscoring for Roma. Continuity has always been Stephan’s problem; when he gets hot, he can be one of the most potent attackers in Europe. The problem is that injuries and time on the bench have often turned him cold just as he got on a hot streak. This hot streak is slowly turning into a good season, though, and considering SES is still only 26, it’s not crazy to believe the Italian can be a critical part of this Roma side (and maybe the Azzurri) for a while to come.
It’s also important to note Rick Karsdorp’s role in this goal (though it’s not shown in the replay above). Karsdorp has been showing off his assist skills as of late, and would continue to do so later in the match. Slick Rick seemed like he was destined for an ignominious exit from the Stadio Olimpico as recently as this fall. If this is the real Rick Karsdorp, not only will that probably not be the case, Roma may have finally found a solution at right-back beyond Alessandro Florenzi.
Edin Dzeko: 18th Minute (Chievo 0, Roma 2)
Once again, Karsdorp’s assisting play set Edin Dzeko up for a ruthless strike on poor, poor Stefano Sorrentino. Mid-to-bottom table opponents’ goalkeepers tend to turn into Alisson Becker or Gianluigi Buffon against Roma; this definitely wasn’t the case for Sorrentino today. Dzeko deserves some credit here, too; he lined this goal up perfectly, hitting the ball right between a defender’s legs. Some goals you just don’t save, even if you’re a world class goalie. The keeper for Chievo is certainly not that, so this one was destined to go in.
Aleksandar Kolarov: 51st Minute (Chievo 0, Roma 3)
If you had told me that Roma’s top scorer in Serie A would be Aleksandar Kolarov, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet here we are. A great counter-attacking run run by El Shaarawy set Dzeko up for the perfect one-touch assist to the Serb, putting Roma up 3-0 within six minutes of the restart. Put simply, this is the type of play a club like Roma is expected to show against a minnow like Chievo Verona.
It’s definitely true that Kolarov’s goal-scoring this season has excused his poor defensive form in the eyes of many fans. Despite all these nice goals, I’m still hoping that Monchi brings in a new left-back this summer, because Kolarov’s defensive ability has certainly withered away this season. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that Kolarov was never thought to be a long-term solution for Roma at left-back; that he has stuck around and put in good performances coming into 2019 is a great return for the club.
Unlike other matches where Roma’s gotten ahead by a couple goals, they didn’t take their foot off the gas against Chievo. Counter-attacks were still leading to opportunities until the last breaths of the match, and every player performed with intensity until the end of stoppage time. Let’s have more of that every match, please.
This was a statement win. Yes, Roma should always beat the Chievos of the world (even though they don’t), but winning by a good margin and keeping a clean sheet shows that Roma is actually trying. There was a level of attacking fluidity present in Di Francesco’s tactics that I haven’t seen for quite some time; simply put, it was actually fun to watch Roma systematically tear the Flying Donkeys to shreds. Even the non-goalscorers looked good tonight, with everyone from Rick Karsdorp to Nicolo Zaniolo to Steven NZonzi impressing at one point or another.
These types of performances are necessary if Roma truly intends to play in the Champions League for the 2019-2020 season. Beating clubs like Chievo makes it easier for the players, the manager, and the fans to believe that their club can go toe-to-toe with Milan, Lazio, and Atalanta for that last Champions League spot, a financial must while the Stadio Della Roma project is still in progress. Let’s hope that beating up on a side like Chievo can translate to success against Porto on Tuesday; moving on in the Champions League this season may be the shot of adrenaline the Giallorossi need to make it through the second half of the season.
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Stephan El Shaarawy
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