With so many injuries plaguing his squad, particularly in attack, Paulo Fonseca was up against it today when Roma welcomed Sassuolo to the Stadio Olimpico. With two disappointing draws to start the season, the shorthanded Roma were presumably desperate to register a victory, and were facing the red hot Domenico Berardi, who was fresh off a hat-trick prior to the international break. It wasn't an insurmountable task, but when you couple the injuries with Berardi's form and Roma's troublesome defense, the chances of disaster were quite high.
Making matters worse, the fates seemed to conspire against Roma almost instantly. With Justin Kluivert taken down in the box and awarded a penalty, a delayed VAR review (correctly) nullified the call, but with goals hard to come by (and posts aplenty against Lazio), it was an inauspicious start for Roma.
They wouldn't wait long before taking matters into their own hands...
Bryan Cristante: 12th Minute (Roma 1, Sassuolo 0)
Now that's a set piece: beautifully delivered from Lorenzo Pellegrini, whose ball met Bryan Cristante at the near post, who then calmly headed it home. Great work from both Italian internationals—it was a fitting payoff for the best 15 minute stretch we've seen from Roma under Fonseca thus far.
Sassuolo nearly pulled one back less than five minutes later but fortunately the goal was called off, but the action didn't stop there...trust me.
Edin Dzeko: 19th Minute (Roma 2, Sassuolo 0)
Another beautiful pass and finish here, as Aleksandar Kolarov played a perfect out-swinger from the left flank to find the virtually unmarked Dzeko for the goal. Roma were absolutely taking it to Sassuolo at this point—this was the Fonseca football we were salivating over this summer. Brilliant. Great chemistry between the two Roma vets, one gets the feeling we'll see this many more times before the season is through.
Roma would score again two minutes later
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 22nd Minute (Roma 3, Sassuolo 0)
MKHITARYAN MAKES IT 3-0!— RomaPress (@ASRomaPress) September 15, 2019
A debut goal for the Armenian!
Another great set-up from Pellegrini, this time in the run of play, as his calm little layoff found the streaking Mkhitaryan perfectly in stride. From there, the new man beat Consigli with a low shot at the near post. Beautifully setup and superbly taken; the angle on that goal was incredibly tight. Three-nil. Given the disparity between the two sides through 25 minutes, it felt like Roma would score every time they got in Sassuolo territory.
And it wouldn't stop there...
Justin Kluivert: 33rd Minute (Roma 4, Sassuolo 0)
Another sensational pass from Lorenzo Pellegrini on this one, who found a streaking Justin Kluivert with acres of space, leaving the Dutchman with an easy one-v-one against Consigli. 4-0 and that's a wrap. Props to Jordan Veretout for his pass to Pellegrini as well, under duress and while sliding. Told ya he would make a difference.
Believe it or not, Roma almost grabbed two more goals before the stroke of halftime, but a well placed foot or two stopped Edin Dzeko from adding to Roma's total.
Roma nearly scored twice within the first 90 seconds of the second half—with Kluivert setting up Dzeko only to be called offside, while Pellegrini's deceptively slow effort from 18 struck the woodwork. That would have been 6-0, which is remarkable enough, but moments later Dzeko struck the woodwork (the eighth time Roma have done so this year) in the 50th minute, which would have made it 7-0. SEVEN-NIL.
The good times would take a pause in the 53rd minute when Domenico Berardi curled a free kick past Pau Lopez from some 25-yards out—it was right in the upper 90, so there wasn't much Lopez could do.
Gianluca Mancini almost pushed the lead back to four when his low headed effort...you guessed it...hit the post, the NINTH time this year. Unreal. Nevertheless, it was a good sign from Roma; they kept right at it after Berardi's splendid set piece goal.
The match would remain wide open past the hour mark, but Berardi woudl strike again in the 73rd minute, cutting Roma's lead to two goals. It wasn't a remarkable goal, but Roma's back four was remarkably complacent, marking with no sense of urgency whatsoever.
A four-nil lead became four-two with roughly 20 minutes to left. You were right to be scared; we've seen this movie too many times.
In the end, Roma were able to hold off Berardi and Sassuolo down the stretch, claiming their first victory of the season, and an exciting one at that.
What Went Right
Well, with four goals in the first half, it's no secret; Roma's offense was scintillating tonight, and much of that was due to Lorenzo Pellegrini's remarkable performance. Sitting in the hole between Mkhitaryan and Kluivert, Pellegrini was instrumental in Roma's resurgence today, taking over 60 touches, completing nearly 81% of his passes and handing out three assists in the first half. He'll likely continue to shuttle between holding and attacking roles, but he was quite convincing as Roma's chief playmaker tonight.
Roma nearly had six or seven goals in this one and received great runs from Dzeko, Mkhitaryan, and Kluivert, but Pellegrini was the key man tonight.
What Went Wrong
The defense. Enough said. They have to sort this out before it brings them down again.
Roma jump back into the Europa League when they host Istanbul Basaksehir on Thursday the 19th before heading to Bologna on the 22nd.