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Roma Primavera Virtually Seal Playoff Spot With 2-2 Cagliari Draw

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William Bianda puts in a star performance at the back. Roma can look ahead to the Primavera title playoffs.

AS Roma v Avellino - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

The Primavera boys definitely limped across the finish line for the last two months, but Roma are in top spots where it counts in May. I didn’t cover the last two Primavera updates because of a sheer lack of games on the fixture list.

March was truly nothing to write home about. Roma only had three games to play, of which the Lupini contrived just to gain just one solitary win at home to Genoa 4-2; both a red-hot Gianmarco Cangiano and Zan Celar individually made mince-meat out of the Genoa defence that day. But that win came after two damaging March defeats to home to Atalanta Primavera (1-2) and away to Inter Primavera (3-2); both rival teams have since gone on to run away with the top-two spots in the league which will land both clubs a path straight into the playoff semi-finals. Meanwhile, Roma had just two fixtures to play in the entire month of April.

Roma made a huge statement by kicking off last month with a 5-0 trouncing of a Vincenzo Millico-less Torino. The result was made all the more sweet by Zan Celar moving ahead of Millico in the Capocannoniere standings - Celar reaching 25 league goals at the time. Between Millico getting called up to the Torino senior squad for weekends and the Italian youngster’s long injury throughout April, Celar has made sure to profit.

That win could have been the launching pad for Roma to move into the top two league spots and seal a bye into the Scudetto semi-finals, but the capital club threw away the chance with a 2-2 draw at Empoli. The game was notable for 2002-born Edoardo Bove making his debut at U-19 level.

Less than a week later, Roma returned to Tuscany but threw away a two-goal lead to yet again draw 2-2 with Fiorentina. All of this fed into yesterday’s game against late playoff contenders Cagliari at the Stadio Tre Fontane.

Roma Primavera 2-2 Cagliari Primavera

Having taken 4 wins in their last six league games, Cagliari weren’t to be taken lightly. I only managed to catch the second half of this game live, and the Sardinians clearly had less quality than Roma but Cagliari still dominated yesterday’s match all the same. They’d already built up enough momentum to go 2-0 up inside the first half-hour.

Roma weren’t exactly marauding down the other end of the field to equalize. It was a tentative game, with Cagliari showing exactly why they’ve upset the balance of the table by keeping Juventus Primavera out of the playoff spots. It was left to Zan Celar to pull one back before half-time, bringing him to 27 league goals for the season in the lead for Capocannoniere. If Celar manages to stay with either Roma’s B or senior squad next season, you couldn’t think of a better mentor for him than Edin Dzeko - the two men play exactly alike.

At half-time, Alberto De Rossi made a substitution upfront that would reap the necessary dividends in the last phase of the match. Felipe Estrella - the new January signing - came on to play alongside Celar and Riccardi up front, eventually latching onto a second ball inside Cagliari’s box before spinning and firing across goal, into the back of the net from 5 yards out for the 2-2 equalizer.

Cagliari will be kicking themselves that they let Roma back into this game at the death, as the Lupini had to bide their time and be clinical with the opportunities inside Cagliari’s box to fight back to yet another 2-2 draw - the third in a row for this Roma side. Yet the point is enough for Roma to plan ahead for the knockout rounds.

Only a massive swing of goal difference (38 goals) would lead 7th place Chievo Primavera to finish above Roma in the league table. Basically, Roma are qualified into the final six tournament. The only job for Alberto De Rossi is to now find the best team chemistry to bring into the playoffs.

There are so many good individual performances from this Primavera side, yet the squad often fails to stick together as a unit and keep the goals out of Roma’s net when put under pressure from opponents. Credit should go to Matteo Cardinali in goal, who had a bad first half in giving away a penalty out of nothing for Cagliari’s second. Despite the error, Cardinali came back strong in the second half to pull out some impressive saves and keep Roma in the game at 1-2 down, which would prove vital to the final score.

Man Of The Match: Salvatore Pezzella

LAPRESSE

The honourable mentions in this match go to Salvatore Pezzella, Ebrima Darboe and William Bianda. Celar will take most of the headlines with his goal-laden season, but Pezzella was the creator at the heart of anything pushing Roma up the pitch today and the author of Celar’s goal.

I tipped playmaker Pezzella as one of the 5 biggest talents to watch this season, and sometimes came close to regretting it. Pezzella is quality but sometimes inexplicably arrogant - one time going as far as getting into a strange argument with teammate Cargnelutti in the middle of a goal celebration. If Pezzella isn’t doing that, then he’s sometimes going for unnecessarily fancy-lobs inside the box that turn into wasted chances rather than goals. But today Pezzella was the team captain happy to pull the strings from deep, and put his teammates through on goal whenever he saw an opening.

Darboe has come on leaps and bounds in just a few weeks since earning his big break at this level. Initially the younster looked card-happy and reckless in his tackles, but he proved another inspired second-half substitution from De Rossi yesterday. Darboe came on, won the ball back high up the pitch and dribbled through his opposing Cagliari men if needed. The midfielder was crucial in giving the Sardinians more to think about in their own half.

Meanwhile, William Bianda can still - ever so often - look like he doesn’t read from the same playbook at his teammates. But the French youngster has physically exploded this year, now looking like a different athlete entirely. Bianda has gained at least two yards of pace and can now get all over the park as well as making himself far more open for passes from teammates, or anticipating danger before its begun. He shows a confidence on the ball that Roma had hoped to see from Bianda since last autumn.

If Bianda is caught out of position (which does still happen), it’s no big deal as the Frenchman always recovered today to snuff out any danger that came his way. By the end of the match, Sport Italia’s commentators were describing Bianda as the “wall” of Roma’s defence. Voce Giallorossa went as far as to say Bianda “showed a defensive read of the game worthy of his fame.”

For more on Roma's youngest players, be sure to check our Youth & Reserves section.