Roma kicked off 2020 with a relatively easy fixture against 11th place Torino, a side that was all over the map in their prior handful of matches. With victories against Brescia, Genoa and Fiorentina offset by losses to SPAL and Inter, Torino weren't exactly entering Round 18 calm and collected. But, as is so often the case, fixtures against struggling sides can quickly turn into 90 minutes of frustration for the supposed superior club.
With both sides knocking off two-weeks worth of rust, there was bound to be a lack of fluidity in this match. No matter how hard they went in training, this was the first taste of real football in weeks, so the transition back to actual football was bound to be awkward.
The pity for Roma is that when you're the side that thrives on synchronicity and dynamism, that dis-fluency inflicts greater damage on your final product. That damage is doubled when your opponent doesn't even bother to play football. Torino's clutching, grabbing, and Rinconing made Roma's misery worse.
Despite all that, Roma had no problem winning and maintaining possession throughout the match, but they struggled to make much of anything with the ball. With Torino effectively removing Edin Dzeko from the match, Roma had no other choice but to work the wings and play the overlap, very often pumping in haphazard crosses into the well-marked Dzeko.
And so it went. With Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Zaniolo and later Henrikh Mkhitaryan unable to work give and goes in the center of the area or check the ball back to the center, they were essentially a one trick pony. And even though they won the corner kick battle by a wide margin, their usual luck on setpieces just wasn't there this evening.
I don't want to sell Torino short, though. One simply cannot say enough about their defensive effort tonight; they completely and utterly removed Dzeko from this match. In 90 minutes, Dzeko didn't put a single attempt on goal and was on an island for nearly the entire match, functioning as neither the finisher or facilitator.
If you've watched Roma for any decent amount of time, you're probably familiar with this equation:
Missed chances + Compact and efficient defense = Disaster.
We can augment that equation with pitch conditions and referee indiscretion, but honestly I'm not sure if that's a variable or a constant.
There are many unknowns in our elegant universe, but eventually math always wins out, and tonight was no exception.
The inevitable disaster did happen at the end of the first half. After Jordan Veretout was booked in the 45th minute, referee Marco Di Bello added one additional minute to the half. Following a poor Alessandro Florenzi cross at roughly 46:20, Andrea Belotti scored an incredible goal, “shaking off” three Roma defenders, who inexplicably allowed him space in the first place, beating Pau Lopez by mere centimeters.
Roma really weren't able to alter their fortunes in the second half either—even after switching to an attacking 4-4-2—and weren't able to capitalize on the few genuine chances they created, including one span in which they had three attempts within the six yard box but failed to make Sirigu sweat.
And that was really all she wrote. It was a classic Roma Happens match with a classic Roma Happens finish.
Roma faces the other team from Torino next Sunday when they face Juventus at home.