Today’s game kicked off with Paulo Fonseca in an all-black mafioso suit and tie combo, and an ESPN mention of there being a “death in the family” with Francesco Totti’s recent family bereavement. On the opposite subs bench sat the familiar face of Filippo Inzaghi, who’s still finding himself as a coach but can be proud of what he’s put together so far at Benevento. Anyone expecting an easy game hasn’t seen Benevento’s swashbuckling football to date, let alone the fact the away side began this game higher in the table than Fonseca’s Roma.
There were no surprises in either starting lineup, other than Bryan Cristante starting as Roma’s libero centre-half, in a sike-i’m-going-to-be-listed-as-a-centre-back-but-not-really-play-there move that Roma hoped would stun Benevento into oblivion. Meanwhile, Marash Kumbulla was dropped to the bench.
The game kicked off as expected, with Roma tentative in trying some forays into Benevento’s half but allowing an equal exchange of possession. Unfortunately, Benevento’s share of the ball would take only five minutes before former Roma forward Gianluca Caprari scored one of the flukiest goals you’ll see this season.
5th Minute: Gianluca Caprari (Roma 0, Benevento 1)
Follow@SBLMedia for more goals. This account will be banned.— Follow @SBLMedia (@FollowSBLMedia2) October 18, 2020
Roma 0-1 Benevento - Gianluca Caprari 5' pic.twitter.com/7d4fJAQgdL
Roma immediately looked to hit back on the scoreline, with Spinazzola threading Henrikh Mkhitaryan through deep at the left byline, before Miki cut the ball back into the back. Pedro stepped over it, and Roma contrived to meekly tap the ball wide of the far post. But at least Roma threatened, and Benevento were evidently rattled as Gianluca Slapadula went down with a delayed reaction to Gianluca Mancini slapping him De Rossi-style in the face. The referee decided Lapadula getting slapped once per Roma game is Serie A tradition by now, and the VAR replays came to nothing as the game was allowed to play on. But the main problem for Roma started to make itself evident from ten minutes onwards.
Roma were simply too slow getting players forward. Dzeko, Pedro and Mkhitaryan were sometimes joined upfield by Spinazzola and Pellegrini, but the support from Veretout and Santon was not there and Benevento were happy to defend with two or three extra men behind the ball each time. Roma’s four corners to zero told the story, as the Witches were happy to clear any danger from the home side out to touch. Meanwhile, Lapadula found time to once again dive under a Mancini challenge at the other end, but it was wasted effort as Lapadula was ruled offside.
Roma threatened Benevento minutes later, with Dzeko coming deep on the left wing before switching the ball to Pedro on the right side of Benevento’s box, but the Spaniard’s final curling effort was well wide of goal. There was also another move from Dzeko dropping deep, before sending a long ball over the top to meet Pedro’s overlap. The Spaniard would cross into the box for Mkhitaryan to head it against a Benevento player, and calls for handball ensued yet turned away by the VAR referee. But Roma’s increasing threat was a warning of what was to come on the half hour.
31st Minute: Pedro (Roma 1, Benevento 1)
Spinazzola, Pellegrini y zurdazo de Pedro para el 1-1. Daje, Roma. Se puede y se debe. pic.twitter.com/tT3QCJ72KM— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) October 18, 2020
With Gianluca Mancini robbing Benevento off the ball on the halfway line, that let Roma start off one of the few first-half attacks where Benevento had just the one man advantage this time. Pedro and Dzeko combined to flick it wide left to Mkhitaryan, who was joined by Spinazzola on the overlapping run, and the Italian wide back would cut it back into Pellegrini for a blocked shot on goal. On the rebound at the second chance, Pellegrini slids a shot pass to Pedro in the middle of the box, and the Spaniard didn’t hesitate to put his left foot through the ball for Pedro’s second goal in the last two games. Roma equalize 1-1, game on!
And that was the beginning of Roma playing merciless football for the next stretch of play.
35th Minute: Edin Dzeko (Roma 2, Benevento 1)
Y lo dimos vuelta! Gran saque de Mirante, mejor visión de Mkhitaryan y perfecta definición de Dzeko. El primer gol del capitán en el torneo. Y el 2-1 de Roma a Benevento. Nada de brujerías. pic.twitter.com/Sw8laG1axP— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) October 18, 2020
It took just a few minutes before Mirante clutched onto the ball in his own box, but the Italian keeper didn’t flinch for a moment before releasing a long ball to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, this time on the right flank, and partned by Edin Dzeko for a 2 vs 2 situation running onto Benevento’s goal. Pedro eventually joined the attack for an off the ball run, but a flawless Mkhitaryan through ball to Dzeko was met with an equally sublime finish from Roma’s number nine striker. Full marks from Mirante, Mkhitaryan and Dzeko on this goal. All three showed quick thinking and perfection execution, putting Roma 2-1 up on the scoreline.
It could have been 3-1 before half time, with Cristante putting Mkhitaryan on goal to finish for 3-1, but Spinazzola was ruled offside in the build up.
The second half found a tentative pace once again, before Benevento tried an effort from distance that saw Caprari make Mirante scamble towards the right far side of his goal. But the threat was snuffed out to nothing. Unfortunately, Jordan Veretout decided he hadn’t had enough of Benevento getting goal chances for the day, with the Frenchman stamping on a Benevento player’s foot inside the Roma box just minutes later. Penalty given, and Benevento on course to level the game.
55th Minute: Gianluca Lapadula (Roma 2, Benevento 2)
Mirante made the 17th penalty save of his Serie A career, but unfortunately parried his save right into penalty-take Lapdula’s path for the second-chance at scoring. Benevento equalize and we were back to 2-2.
It took a few moments for Roma to collect themselves, but they eventually bombed forward men down the left flank, only the chance came to nothing as Dzeko pulled back and shot the ball right against an offside Lorenzo Pellegrini in the box. It looked like it was the beginning of Benevento dropping deeper and playing for the draw.
But not so as, minutes later, Roma’s defence was all over the place and badly sliced apart by Benevento playing Lapadula through on goal. A last-ditch save from Mirante and a goal-line block from Ibañez on the rebound save the Giallorossi bacon on that play. This game was wide open once again. Maybe it was time for substitutions, Paulo Fonseca?
Then came controversy, as Pedro and Santon combined beautifully down the right half-space to win a corner that arguably came off Santon last. Lorenzo Pellegrini curled in an exquisite corner that found Dzeko with a free header from point blank range, but the Bosnian headed it off target. It would have been a talking point had Roma taken the lead once again from that chance. But Roma wouldn’t wait long before getting through on Benevento’s goal moments later.
Dzeko played a through ball from deep to put Pedro free one-on-one with keeper Montipò, who’s known not to be great at coming out of goal, and Pedro made sure just to nudge the ball before colliding into Montipò’s outstretched arm. Montipò did get a touch on the ball before bringing down Pedro, so a Roma penalty was a
wrong harsh decision on the Witches’ keeper. Jordan Veretout was anxious to make up for his earlier error at the other end, and stepped up to take this one.
69th Minute: Jordan Veretout (Roma 3, Benevento 2)
Gol! Veretout cambió por 3-2 el penal que le hicieron a Pedro (que tremendo jugador) y la Roma vuelve a estar arriba. Daje! pic.twitter.com/uldUaz0J6L— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) October 18, 2020
A straightforward penalty-goal this time, as Roma’s Veretout sent Montipò the wrong way to finish low and left into the bottom corner. Roma once again took the lead in this see-saw game. Despite the goal, it was an uncharacteristically subdued performance from Jordan Veretout on the whole, who was subbed off for maestro Gonzalo Villar. Fellow substitute Bruno Peres also came on for Davide Santon.
The double substitution almost immediately backfired, as Roma were denied at point-blank range by a Montipò save from Dzeko off a Roma corner, before Benevento immediately counted and blew past Bruno Peres on the flank. But the resulting Benevento shot from the middle was dragged just wide of Mirante’s post. Perhaps rattled by Benevento refusing to lay down and die in this game, Roma struck back up the other end.
77th Minute: Edin Dzeko (Roma 4, Benevento 2)
The close-control from Villar is ridiculously good to beat Benevento’s makeshift midfield, and the Spanish playmaker waits till the very knife-edge of a Benevento offside trap to play Mkhitaryan through and give Roma a laughable advantage with three Roma forwards running impeded on Montipò. Mkhitaryan is spoilt for choice but eventually passes it across to Edin Dzeko for a finish that would have resurrected the Maicon reaction GIFs if Edin had missed this one. 4-2, baby! Roma with breathing room in this game, finally.
Minutes later, Mkhitaryan had a chance to make it 5-2 on the night, after Dzeko and Pedro combined to put the Armenian free with a chance on the left side of Montipò’s box. But Mkhitaryan was leaning back and hit his first-time effort well over the bar. The Roma superiority was enough for Fonseca to see fit in subbing Edin Dzeko off to whatever passes for a standing ovation in a closed-doors stadium right now.
To be honest, Dzeko made mince-meat of my analysis that he’d have to start playing as an out-and-out striker again. The Bosnian was superb in dropping deep as a false nine, and putting Roma’s other forwards through on goal time and time again. Debutant Borja Mayoral come onto the pitch, and it was no small task to fill in for this Dzeko performance on the night.
Fonseca later completed his set of substitutions by bringing on Kumbulla for Ibañez, while Lorenzo Pellegrini came off for Carles Perez. And it was the latter that would create the best goal of the night with a virtuoso solo effort.
89th Minute: Carles Pérez (Roma 5, Benevento 2)
Carles Perez with an INSANE goal to make it 5-2 for Roma pic.twitter.com/5Ul1IoGYQb— minny (@YorhaMinhaj) October 18, 2020
Beautiful stuff from Cristante in deep midfield, shuffling his feet before feeding the ball to Perez on the halfway line. But from then on, it’s all Perez as he dribbles past three Benevento players, cuts inside to the middle of the box and lets rip with a left-foot effort past Montipò for 5-2. Thrilling stuff.
To be honest, Roma were really back to playing Fonseca’s 4-2-3-1 here. So let’s just abandon all pretense that “three at the back” is bringing out the best of everyone. You pretty much saw the same performances from Spinazzola et. al tonight with a back four and deep midfield two that you did in a 3-4-2-1.
Lorenzo Pellegrini in particular did a good job of linking up Roma’s deep midfield with the attacking midfield department, along with Dzeko still dropping deep but doing a better job of making space for Pedro and Mkhitaryan to do their Mancini and Taddei impression overlapping beyond Dzeko from deep, and you could see the general aim that Roma wanted strength in numbers in every area of the pitch.
That brings us to another point: Dzeko proved his complete forward role dropping deep can work in the same eleven as Pedro and Mkhitaryan’s runs beyond him, so I’ll swallow that piece of pre-match analysis whole along with my pride. But for how long can that last with Miki and Pedro’s ageing legs? We may never have to find out, as Roma showed the same promising strength in depth from the bench, thanks to incisive performances from wonderkids Villar and Perez in particular.
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