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Second Half Surge Sees Roma Topple Juventus 2-0

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Roma haven't played Juventus this well in quite some time, and thanks to a second half surge, they took the spoils tonight.

AS Roma v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

As we mentioned in the build up to this match, Roma and Juventus entered this fixture with drastically different agendas. Roma, in the fight of their life to grab Italy's final Champions League spot, need to run the table through their final three matches and hope for some outside help, a tough task under any circumstance let alone when facing Juve. But the mission was clear: win at all costs. The Old Lady, for their part, had literally nothing to play for, so they thought it would be fun to debut their new home kits...on the road. Say it a million times and you haven't said it enough; these clubs exist in different universes.

However, once the match started and your eyes not only adjusted to Juve's new look but ESPNs newer and incredibly intrusive score graphic, the distance between these two sides didn't seem that great.

Sure, Juventus dominated possession early in this match and created several clear cut scoring chances, but thanks to Antonio Mirante channeling his inner Alisson, Roma were able to forestall the Old Lady's advances in the first half.

Content to sit back and absorb the pressure, Roma's counter attack looked surprisingly sharp, very nearly breaking the deadlock midway through the first half. With Stephan El Shaarawy leading the charge down the middle, flanked by Justin Kluivert and Lorenzo Pellegrini, Roma had the numerical advantage in the final third but Pellegrini's eventual shot clanged off the right hand corner of the goal.

The remainder of the first half pretty much followed that same form: Roma was content to absorb and counter rather than taking the initiative. And, much like they did in the 18th minute, Roma came close to opening the scorer's ledger when El Shaarawy found space on a break, only this time he didn't find that extra inch or so past the defender and his shot was dealt with rather easily.

And that was all she wrote for the first half, neither side was able to find that last bit of space and the first half closed at nil-nil.

Second Half

While Roma weren't exactly steam rolling Juve, they came out with a clearer sense of purpose in the second half, and the match was more entertaining for it, as the opening ten minutes or so were fast and loose at both ends.

Just like he did through most of the first half, El Shaarawy was Roma's source of inspiration, once again nearly breaking this match open, only to find his attempt thwarted...twice in the 50th minute or so, first by Martin Caceres and then by Wojciech Szczesny.

With the missed chances piling up, you would have been correct to suspect a subsequent breakdown from Roma's defense, and it almost happened were it not for the assistant referee. Just past the hour mark, Juve picked apart Roma's defense with maybe two passes, eventually finding Ronaldo even with Roma's final two defenders, giving him a clear path at Mirante. And with his patented stutter step, Ronaldo made quick work of the awkwardly charging Mirante, but his celebration was quickly subdued thanks to an offside call.

The match would REALLY open after that, with Roma coming right back at Juve. With yet another spectacular save from Mirante, El Shaarawy once again found himself in scoring position on the counter, forcing Woj into a leaping finger tip save off his 18-yard attempt.

This was about as even a Roma-Juve match as we've seen in ages, but the missed chances kept piling up for Roma, which ratcheted up the nerves even more as the match moved towards the 70th minute mark.

Things would settle down a touch as both sides made changes, Juve swapping Miralem Pjanic for Betancur and Roma inserting Bryan Cristante for Pellegrini, but with 15 minutes left and their financial life on the line, Roma could not relent.

Sensing some complacency in his side, Ranieri opted for another change, putting Cengiz Ünder in for the ineffective Justin Kluivert, who made some space with his pace this evening but was otherwise absent.

Ünder would pay immediate dividends as well, providing the first pass that led to a BEAUTIFUL one-two from Florenzi and Dzeko, finding a seem behind the Juve defense.

Alessandro Florenzi: 81st Minute (Roma 1, Juventus 0)

Just a beautiful play between Florenzi and Dzeko; you couldn't have drawn that up any better. After taking the feed from Ünder, Florenzi took a touch and quickly found Dzeko in the center of the area, and the instant the defense collapsed on him, Dzeko found Florenzi in the now-vacant space. From there, Florenzi chipped it over Woj as cool as you like.

Roma almost made it two-nil moments later but Dzeko just couldn't guide the ball home, but the crowd was roaring at this point. Forget the stakes here, beating Juventus anywhere at anytime is cause for celebration for Roma fans.

The best part of that goal will probably go unnoticed, but it all started when Szczesny hoofed a goal kick right out of pounds, which precipitated the goal-scoring sequence. I love it when former Roma players fail.

Edin Dzeko: 93rd Minute (Roma 2, Juventus 0)

Roma would capitalize on another Juve goof in stoppage time, seizing on a loose ball and storming down two-thirds of the pitch in a 3-on-1 odd-man rush, one which Edin Dzeko finished with a flourish.

We mentioned it on Twitter, but you can throw out all the external circumstances here, beating Juventus is always a cause for celebration.

Conclusions

Well, we sort of just said it all there, but why on Earth can't Roma play Juventus like this all the time? Sure, they had nothing to play for, but Max Allegri rolled out most of his A-team and Roma played them incredibly tightly for the entirety of this match. Ceding possession for most of the match, Roma were able to catch the Old Lady napping on the counter attack several times, and were it not for a few degrees of separation, El Shaarawy could have had two goals of his own before the stroke of half-time.

Credit Ranieri with making sensible and effective subs, particularly his late inclusion of Cengiz Ünder, who was either directly or indirectly involved in both goals, while his choice to roll with Antonio Mirante has quite literally saved Roma's season, not to mention this match.

Unfortunately, given all their slip-ups earlier in the season (not to mention last week), this high is not quite as high as it could have been; Roma still need help on the table, but for today they got the job done.

Two matches to go, and two matches they have to win. It'll be a nail-biter either way, but for now we dance!