It’s getting to be a thing now isn’t it? It’s hard to begin any Giallorosse piece without mentioning how dominant Roma were on the ball, and yet how much they lacked that killer instinct in front of goal. Truth be told, yesterday’s draw at Inter didn’t even need a killer in front of goal, but just someone who wanted to put the ball in the back of a sometimes wide-open net. For one moment at the end of the first half, that player was Annamaria Serturini.
Roma’s opener was Serturini’s 20th goal in Roma colours, maintaining her position as the club’s topscorer. And though we spoke about Serturini’s on-going challenge to prove herself a permanent Roma starter in a very competitive squad, during our 4th episode of Across the Romaverse, it’s easy to forget that Serturini is also the club’s record appearance holder; yesterday’s game meant she became the first Roma player to make 50 appearances in the giallorosso shirt... out of a total 51 possible club games since this team began.
As OptaPaolo would say: Consistency.
But the main star of yesterday’s game was a name we’re happy to get back to praising here at CdT, as we go through this past weekend’s Sinners and Saints.
Manuela Giugliano (feat. Andressa)
We saw the first glimpse of Giugliano getting back to her best form last week against Verona, and now Manu has confirmed it with a dominant performance at the heart of Roma’s engine room yesterday. When Roma’s number 10 plays like this, she is the best player in Serie A.
Giugliano chose to come deep between Roma’s centre-backs often to participate in the build-up. She began the game trying to shock Inter cold with her usual long-balls over the top but, realising the need for change just give minutes into the game, began stringing passes to put Roma on the front foot down both flanks, whenever the occasion called for it. And yet it didn’t stop at just playmaking for Giugliano.
Where Roma needed extra bodies from midfield to gamble up front and attack the space, it was Manu pushing up onto the right flank to play a big part in Roma’s opening goal. When Roma were pegged back to 1-1, it was Giugliano who decided to crack a venomous, looping 30-yard shot that Inter’s Aprile was forced to tip onto the crossbar. And her ball-winning remains at such a high level that Inter rarely had chances to get out of their own half.
Together with the ball-winning ability of Andressa, the two vice-captain Roma midfielders are a big reason why Roma are the league’s third-most dominant team in terms of possession this season. We wouldn’t be surprised if Roma just shot up to second in that category after yesterday’s performance. Truthfully, if Giugliano is going to be the one coming deep for the ball so often, then we could do with seeing more of Andressa pushing up to use her ability on the ball to dribble past opponents and open up sides who park the bus.
Hopefully that will come with a greater understanding between the two. But it was Giugliano who tried absolutely everything to bring the three points home for Roma, carrying the rhythm and confidence of this Roma team on her shoulders.
A surprise inclusion at right-back ahead of Kaja Erzen, perhaps Angelica Soffia was rewarded with the start for her good showing at left-back last week against Verona. And she definitely repaid back the faith shown in her against Inter.
Last week, we saw that Soffia figured out how to make sure she gets fouled and win a free-kick whenever she runs herself into trouble. She could have just stopped there, called it “good enough” and settled for being the squad’s utility player. But what we saw yesterday was Soffia’s roots as a midfielder showing at right-back, with some inventive, first-time, long balls dropped in behind Inter’s backline over the top. Soffia was also a constant threat down the flank, with her overlapping runs beyond Roma wide-forward Lindsey Thomas becoming a regular feature of yesterday’s game.
When Roma couldn’t find joy down the left and needed a different solution down the right, Soffia provided it. She’s not yet the physical dribbler who can ride challenges all the way down the flank, like Elisa Bartoli is on the left side. But Soffia has used her time at Roma to come on leaps and bounds into more than just a Roma prospect right now. She could be a starter on this form.
We couldn’t leave the game’s only Roma goalscorer off the Saints list, could we? It’s hard to write much about Serturini because she does comparatively little, but she does it to a very high standard that often has the biggest say on the result.
Almost like an Arjen Robben of Serie A Femminile, you just know that Serturini is going to try and run at you and threaten to cut inside on her stronger foot whenever she gets the chance. She didn’t get much joy trying to run at Inter’s Martina Brustia down that left flank yesterday but, once Roma realised they had to use the right flank to get upfield instead, it was none other than Serturini that popped up on the far side of Inter’s goal to tap in for Roma’s opener.
50 games under her belt, 20 goals and counting. The sniper Serturini holds a near 1 in 2 scoring right from wide forward. Enough said.
We’ve said we’re not fans of singling out players for just one key mistake in otherwise-good performances, but with Roma being such a dominant team that keeps tripping up on the scoreline, Bartoli’s momentary lapse is just one chapter of a wider storyline afflicting the team’s league campaign.
It was nothing but route one stuff from Inter keeper Roberta Aprile, trying a hopeful long-ball straight down Inter’s right flank, that ended up putting Inter forward Gloria Marinelli (fresh off the subs’ bench at the time) behind Roma’s backline and through on goal.
Marinelli still had to pull out an odds-against finish, by smashing the ball between the near post and the roof of the net for Inter’s equalizer. But it was an avoidable goal had Bartoli read the danger ahead of time.
I mistakenly wrote, against Verona last week, that we hadn’t gone a matchday without listing Lazaro among Roma’s Saints. Actually we haven’t gone a matchday without listing her among either the Saints or Sinners, and this weekend continues that trend of alternating performances.
Lazaro really is quality, but when you see the game playing out with Inter parking the bus down the middle, then you know chances will be at a premium, and you’d better take them when they come your way. Lazaro’s second-half miss from point-blank range yesterday was baffling.
As Bren mentioned on the podcast, there was a nonchalance about it that typifies Roma’s lack of focus in the final third. This is a theme that runs much wider than just Lazaro herself, who’s shown a lot and contributed a ton in unlocking opposition defences for Roma already this season. In fact, just the technique and touch on the ball she showed in the first half, to evade Inter’s defenders and try to open up the middle lane for Roma, was exactly why Lazaro has be a starter in this team.
But it was easier to score than miss the chance Lazaro did yesterday. Had the Spaniard put Roma 2-0 up at the time, we’re talking about a different game and different final scoreline, easily. Them’s the breaks.
Roma stay on the road next weekend, travelling east to the microstate of San Marino to face Serie A’s basement side. Even though San Marino began this season by conceeding cricket scorelines, Roma still can’t afford to take next Saturday’s game lightly as San Marino gradually begin to find their resolve in this league.
Betty Bavagnoli signed off this weekend admitting she’s “a little angry and disappointed” about Roma’s lack of killer instinct in front of goal. The coach has cycled through six attackers in that elusive search for the dominant scorelines that would match the performances on the pitch. Between Serturini, Lazaro, Thomas, Bonfantini, Corelli, Landa and even Roma’s outcast number 9 Maria Zecca - will anyone answer the call?
Personally, my money’s on Andrine Hegerberg, who has a knack for racking up braces with her runs into the box from midfield, and has been warming up that left foot for a couple of games now. But stick with us through Roma’s search for goals this coming Saturday.