If the Betrayal of Daniel De Rossi didn't dampen your spirits ahead of Roma's fixture with Sassuolo today, then the rain at the Mapei Stadium surely did. While things were calm at kickoff, it didn't take long for the heavens to open, with the rain-sodden pitched slowing down an already dull affair. Roma had everything to play for today, but mother nature simply didn't comply, and Roma's attack simply didn't show up.
With virtually a full squad at his disposal, speculation ran rampant as to who Ranieri would select ahead of this match. However, thanks to a late week injury to Kostas Manolas, Ranieri was forced to do some last minute tinkering, rolling with Juan Jesus and Federico Fazio as his central pairing. Outside of that, it was pretty much business as usual—Edin Dzeko supported by Cengiz Ünder, Stephan El Shaarawy and Nicolo Zaniolo, who got the nod over Lorenzo Pellegrini.
Given how the rain slowed this match down, particularly after the halfway point or so of the first 45 minutes, it's a shame Roma couldn't capitalize in the early stages of this match. However, with lateral pass after lateral pass, Roma were seemingly content on playing benign possession football early in this match, resulting in some of the dullest action we've seen all season long.
Things would pick up a tad as the match approached the 30 minute mark, but with the saturated pitch slowing through balls to a crawl, Roma's best chances were (oddly enough) a headed attempt for El Shaarawy, which was struck incredibly well but was WAY off the mark, and a late first-half attempt from Aleksandar Kolarov, who played a worm-burner at the near post, forcing Consigli into a save and winning a corner.
Sassuolo would nearly capitalize close to the stroke of halftime but thanks to an incisive slide tackle from Federico Fazio, who intercepted a low cross from the right win, the match remained a stalemate heading into the half.
The opening moments of the second half pretty well mirrored the first; Sassuolo pressing the issue and Roma struggling to find a fraction of fluidity in attack. Despite that incongruity, Roma did manage to conjure up the matches first clear cut chance; a bounding ball that eventually found its way to El Shaarawy dead-center in the Sassuolo area. Unfortunately, thanks to a bit of an odd bounce, El Shaarawy couldn't get a good foot on it, but it was a brutal miss and one that SES should have buried rather than attempting a Karate Kid-style crane kick at it.
Roma would be done in by imprecision moments later when Dzeko received a lay-off from El Shaarawy at the edge of the 18, but Dzeko's attempt, which was well struck, clanged off the post—which marked the 100th or so such instance in his Roma career.
And seconds after that, Roma were ONCE AGAIN denied, this time by the keeper at least. With Bryan Cristante free in space, Kolarov found him with a beautiful cross, one that Cristante headed perfectly but was denied by a diving save from Consigli. Nothing Cristante could have done better, he buried the header into the ground in an attempt to beat the keeper via the bounce, but Consigli read it perfectly.
Ranieri would make Roma's first change of the match in the 66th minute, bringing on Javier Pastore and Justin Kluivert on for Nicolo Zaniolo and Cengiz Ünder, respectively.
Pastore would add to Roma's shooting woes just before the 70th minute when he was on the receiving end of a beautiful low cross from Dzeko, and rather than burying it home, he tried to finesse it to the far post, allowing the Sassuolo defender the time to block his attempt.
A couple of nice moments aside, it's astounding how poorly the Pastore experiment has worked out.
About ten minutes later, I think I witnessed something I've never seen in a Roma match before. With Justin Kluivert streaking towards the end line, meeting the ball and the defender at the same time, Roma's young forward seemingly lost his sense of time and space. As a result of that mini-collision, Kluivert got twisted around, not realizing the ball was practically at this feet, giving Sassuolo that half a beat to clear the ball away—this was one instance in which Kluivert's jackrabbit speed probably went against him; his momentum completely turned him around and he was powerless to re-orient himself towards the ball.
Roma would tempt fate once more in the 86th minute when Federico Fazio's headed attempt off a corner sailed over the bar, heaping further pressure on the Giallorossi as the match marched towards the 90th minute, and the club's Champions League hopes likely marching out the door.
With several lengthy delays in the second half, including one furious debate between Fazio and the ref over the position of the wall, five added minutes were tacked onto this match.
Fazio almost won the match in the 94th minute when his low attempt found the back of the net, but thanks to Dzeko being offside and/or interfering with a Sassuolo defender, the goal was disallowed.
Fazio had another attempt second later, getting on the end of a long Kolarov free kick, but his left footed volley sailed well wide of the mark.
Roma tried to muster up a last second rush, but the whistle blew and the sides shared the points.
It was a fitting image with which to leave this match. With everything at stake for next season, Roma were at their absolute worst when it mattered most. The lack of urgency throughout three-fourths of the match and the shambolic finishing, particularly in the second half, were really the tales of the tape.
It's also fitting that, in such a controversial week in which so many of the club's skeletons came to bear, Roma were done in by some plain old shitty football. Seasons come and go, heroes rise and fall, but Roma will always sink to the occasion.
With nothing left to play for next week, Daniele De Rossi should play 89 minutes and then get a last minute ovation and tribute befitting his legacy with the club.