Roma’s Saturday match against Cagliari Calcio meant quite a lot in terms of Roma’s Champions League future, but it also served as an audition of sorts for certain players. Alessio Cragno, Nicolo Barella, and on-loan Luca Pellegrini have all been heavily linked to a move to the Stadio Olimpico this summer, and those rumors certainly line up with the potential signing of Antonio Conte and Jim Pallotta’s decision to make Roma a destination for current and future Azzurri mainstays.
All of those potential signings, including on the managerial side, depend a huge amount on whether Roma can finish in the top four this season. Barring a shock buyout by Qatar or a magically-fast construction of the Stadio Della Roma, Roma’s finances are going to depend on continued Champions League play in the near future. With one point separating Roma from A.C. Milan and Atalanta, and with the Rossoneri playing a difficult Torino team this weekend, it was obvious that a lot was riding on Roma managing to get three points out of the Rossoblu’s trip to the Olimpico. And, nearly from minute one, Ranieri’s Roma delivered.
Federico Fazio: 5th Minute (Roma 1, Cagliari 0)
Federico Fazio’s performances this season have been much maligned, and for good reason: the Argentine international who once was listed among the best defenders in Serie A has been, well, quite underwhelming this season. His always-lackluster pace has only slowed, and his pairing with Kostas Manolas doesn’t have the same shine it used to.
Given that, it’s really great to see Fazio make a difference in a game, even if it’s against Cagliari and even if if came on the offensive side of the pitch. I don’t think anyone expects Fazio to be a starter for Roma by the time the summer mercato is through, but he has been one of my sentimental favorites during his time at Roma. So thank you, Captain Caveman.
Javier Pastore: 8th Minute (Roma 2, Cagliari 0)
JAVIER! JAVIER! GOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!! pic.twitter.com/tkV12rYyoX— RomaPress (@ASRomaPress) April 27, 2019
On the flip side, I think it’s fair to say that Javier Pastore hasn’t been anyone’s sentimental favorite based off of his time in the Eternal City to date. The Man To Bring Back La Maggica has, well, had the same injury issues that have plagued much of his post-Palermo career, and in hindsight it may have been a poor idea to send such a fragile player to the notably-unlucky-with-injuries Trigoria in the first place. Yet, when he has played, Javier Pastore has impressed.
Remember that backheel goal early on this season, when it looked like Pastore might deliver on all that was promised? Well, this isn’t that goal, but nevertheless it is a beautifully slotted shot past Cragno. In the same vein that I doubt Fazio will be starting for Roma next season, I doubt that Pastore will be even practicing at Trigoria by the time September rolls around. Yet moments like this help balance out some of the anguish that has come with Pastore’s time at Rome.
All in all, Roma’s first half versus Cagliari was some of the best football I’ve seen them play all season. Stephan El Shaarawy and Justin Kluivert both shined without scoring, with El Shaarawy marauding down the left wing like nobody’s business and Kluivert putting in the defensive work that has often been lacking on the right wing this season. Granted, Cagliari aren’t exactly giant-killers, but this looked like a squad with purpose. For as long as I’ve followed Roma, a unifying thread has been that Roma consistently plays down to the quality of their opponent. It was nice to see that not be the case in the first forty-five minutes of play.
Naturally, because this is Roma, the Giallorossi came out a little flat after the halftime break. The team that had originally looked incredibly unified on the defensive and offensive ends looked shaky, with a lot more chances being given to Cagliari than I would ever like to see.
Yet, despite nearly thirty-five minutes of next to nothing happening, Roma did finally close the door on Cagliari with a last-minute goal by Aleksandar Kolarov.
This video of the goal doesn’t show it, but late substitute Ante Coric played an important part in this goal. How was he important? Well, he got on the pitch, and that’s all that matters to me.
I hear he's the next Luka Modric— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) April 27, 2019
This was a necessary win for the Giallorossi; it keeps the door open for a place in the top four, which keeps the door open for a Antonio Conte hiring, which keeps the door open for the signing of players like Nicolo Barella (and the retention of our current favorite Nicolo, he of the Zaniolo variety).
A fourth-place finish is everything but guaranteed, but this was a good win that showcased Roma’s best side, particularly in the first half. Let’s hope Roma can continue on in this vein for the next month. If they can, Champions League won’t be too far out of reach.