Anticipation and Roma walk hand in hand. Given the pace with which Roma induces delight and despair, one never simply knows what to expect at the beginning of any new season (or match for that matter), and that sense of the unknown was palpable as Roma and Genoa took the pitch at the Olimpico today. Despite all that, there was a renewed sense of optimism from Roma fans because, if nothing else, Fonseca's tactics would produce some fast, loose and entertaining football, a prophecy that proved remarkably prescient throughout this match.
As one would expect, the opening minutes were nervy from both sides, but Roma would break the match wide open some 360 seconds into the new season.
Cengiz Ünder: 6th Minute (Roma 1, Genoa 0)
We talked about it during our Roundtable discussion, our three reasons series and even during my podcast appearance with RomaPress, but if there is one player who stands to benefit most from the change in manager/tactics, it's Cengiz Ünder. Though, it must be said, he could have scored this goal under any setup—it was that brilliant. Just a great job skipping around the defenders, keeping his eye on the goal and unfurling that beauty...and he almost doubled his tally a minute later when Lorenzo Pellegrini picked him out from deep in the midfield, only for Ünder's shot to narrowly miss the corner.
Needless to say, that goal got the Olimpico rocking, but the revelry would come to a screeching halt ten minutes later when Andrea Pinamonti leveled the match thanks a great headed flick from Romero, who found Pinamonti at the edge of the six where the young Italian lashed onto the ball, beating the outstretched Pau Lopez in the process.
No clip of the goal was immediately available, but this was too good not to share:
They're like polar opposites here: Fonseca with the long bangs and open shirt, Andreazzoli complete buttoned up and short cropped like a 1950s teenager. This wasn't the most critical defensive breakdown we've ever seen, but Florenzi and Jesus were a bit lax in their defending, let's just say that.
Roma would hold possession for much of the next 10 to 15 minutes, not really threatening the goal but working the wings with Zaniolo, Kluivert and Ünder each taking their turns pressing the issue, but it would be the man who almost left, Edin Dzeko, that would put Roma back on top.
Edin Dzeko: 30th Minute (Roma 2, Genoa 1)
Dzeko is a stereotypical tall, lumbering forward in many ways, but every so often he does something like this, displaying surprising agility and composure in space. Starting from the left side of the area, Dzeko tip toed his way around three Genoa defenders before beating the keeper at the far post, putting Roma back on top and scoring his first league goal of the season—you'll remember he didn't score at home until April last season.
Florenzi almost made it 3-1 with an absolutely insane one-touch volley from at least 30 yards out but was denied by a leaping Radu—this would have been a goal of the century candidate, that's how incredible and audacious it was.
Roma's defense would rain on the parade once more as Juan Jesus decided to slide tackle Pinamonti from behind in the penalty area, knocking down the budding superstar like a jenga tower. Just an inexcusable mental error from Rruan. It may not have actually been a foul, but he should know better than to even tempt fate in that situation; Lopez was right there and Pinamonti would have needed a miracle to squeeze it past him.
Lopez would guess correctly and get a hand on the ball, but Domenico Criscito would convert the penalty, evening the match at two goals apiece. Kolarov came tantalizingly close to grabbing another lead for Roma with his near post free kick attempt, but Radu was able to protect the near post and preserve the two-two draw as the match headed to the half.
Fonseca opted for no changes at the half, and while the first few minutes proceeded without issue, Roma would barely...and I mean barely...snatch back the lead.
Aleksandar Kolarov: 50th Minute (Roma 3, Genoa 2)
Another patented Kolarov free kick, bending and swerving towards the near post, only this time it clanged off the cross bar and fell towards the goaline, bouncing back out and producing a chaotic scrum in which Nicolo Zaniolo nearly scored. However, thanks to the benefit of goal line technology, Kolarov's sublime effort was proven to be a goal...just barely, like, by a few centimeters. Kolarov scored eight goals last year, and if his work on set-pieces tonight is any indication, he may approach that mark again.
Fonseca's first sub would come in the 66th minute as he swapped out the maligned Juan Jesus for Gianluca Mancini, pairing the new kid with Federico Fazio, giving us a glimpse of the likely first team defense going forward.
Mancini's first moments as a Roma player were...uh...not good. In the 71st minute, Genoa would strike back, leveling the match at 3-3, thanks in part to Mancini's poor defending, as he was shaded towards the far post towards an already covered Pinamonti, leaving Christian Kouame virtually unmarked at the other post, where he beat Lopez easy as you like.
Fonseca would make his second change shortly thereafter, bringing on Javier Pastore in place of Kluivert, hoping for a last gasp of offense in the matches final 15 minutes. Fonseca's final substitution would see Florenzi make way for last week's signing, Davide Zappacosta.
Zappacosta would be heavily involved getting forward on the right flank while Pastore...existed...but neither sub made much of a difference in the final 15 minutes of this match, as Roma limped to a 3-3 draw, dropping points to Genoa at home for the first time since 1994 according to the ESPN broadcast.
What Went Right
Well, Roma did score three goals, so there were plenty of positives to go around. Ünder looked especially dangerous in the first half, driving in from the right and even finding room to run through the middle of the attacking third. He faded a bit as the match wore on, but we got a glimpse of how effective he can be under Fonseca.
Room to roam was a similar feature for Roma's other young star on the rise, Nicolo Zaniolo. Serving as the de facto trequartista, Zaniolo made his presence known throughout this match, working the wings, driving through the middle, pulling the strings and nearly linking up with Kluivert multiple times.
The Balkan boys also chipped in solid shifts, with Dzeko scoring a goal and contributing two key passes while Kolarov continued his set-piece wizardry from last season.
What Went Wrong
Jesus, Juan. Florenzi, Alessandro. Mancini, Gianluca. Fazio, Federico. Roma's defense was in shambles tonight, exhibiting poor spacing, less than ideal communication and questionable (at best) decision making. Roma have about a week before the transfer window closes to address this.
The Derby della Capitale next Sunday against Lazio.