We’re underway at the Stadio Olimpico, and me arriving late to tune into matches is a trend by now. Roma kicked off today against one of the most impressive Fiorentina sides I’ve seen the Viola put together in years, and evidently Beppe Iachini feels that way about his players too, as Fiorentina insisted on playing the ball out the back on the ground. Apparently this lead to some early dominance of possession for Fiorentina, but I wouldn’t know as I missed the opening fifteen minutes and the first goal.
Thankfully for Roma though, that goal came for the home side.
Leonardo Spinazzola: 12th Minute (Roma 1, Fiorentina 0)
Just a simple collect of a loose ball from Spinazzola here, after his initial attempt at passing into the box was blocked. Leo does well to immediately react, picking up the ball inside the box on his favored right foot, and slotting it home past the keeper’s near side. Fiorentina may have dominated the numbers up this point, but Roma put themselves ahead in the category that counts.
With Roma ahead on the scoreline and now standing off their opponents even more than usual, it would take a further five minutes before the Giallorossi broke up the left flank, before working it into Edin Dzeko, who immediately relayed the ball across to right ringer Pedro. The Spaniard stopped the ball on the edge of the box, to tee himself up for a left foot shot that flashed across the Viola goal and wide.
Then came the surreal sight of Antonio Mirante being warned by the referee for potentially timewasting, with the Italian keeper clutching onto the ball in the 24th minute for what seemed like an age. But Roma worked the ball up the left flank, once again, where Spinazzola was robbed of the ball at the very last minute before he could dribble into the Viola box. From the resulting corner, Lorenzo Pellegrini put in yet another excellent delivery that someone should have connected with, yet left Cristiano Biraghi protesting his innocence against any handball claims.
Moments later, Pedro did get Castrovilli to commit to the crime of bringing Pedro down on the break, earning Fiorentina’s number 10 a yellow card. Then the ball was sent back to Lorenzo Pellegrini, who floated a beautiful long-ball over the top to connect with Pedro’s run behind the Fiorentina backline. However, Pedro checked back and tried to play a pass to Dzeko instead of running onto goal, and the Spanish forward was ruled marginally offside anyway.
Play only took a few more minutes for Lorenzo “Beast Mode” Pellegrini to once again show some inventive play through the middle, first stepping over a ball to let Edin Dzeko run through the middle channel, and then moments later Pellegrini fed in a quick through-ball on the edge of Fiorentina’s area that had the Viola panicking. From the loose ball off that sequence of play came a first time shot from Rick Karsdorp, and another shot on Fiorentina’s goal from Henrikh Mkhitaryan that collectively brought out repeated saves from Dragowski.
And that was arguably the best moment of play for this half, which later saw a moment of mercy from the referee for Castrovilli at the very end, after the Viola number 10 did a CQC takedown on Henrikh Mkhitaryan that was whistled for the blatant foul it was, yet Castrovilli was spared a double booking.
You could see what Fiorentina were trying to do this evening: Playing with more width than Roma, the Viola wanted to try and switch the ball from either flank, and try to make Roma run. Luckily for Roma, however, Fiorentina just weren’t very good at it.
The Viola long balls were sloppy, their play was labored and easier for Roma to close down than it should be. That meant a first half where Fiorentina actually demoralized themselves, as Roma grew into the game and even shaded possession with 51% by half-time, as well as three times as many attempts on goal as Fiorentina. The home side were well worth the lead here, but Roma’s final passes in the last third of the pitch were missing that little something extra if the Giallorossi were to build on this one-goal lead.
Back underway and Beppe Iachini immediately recognized Castrovilli was lucky to still be on the pitch, subbing him off for ball-winning midfielder—and a guy with three lungs and energy to burn at that—Erick Pulgar. Then a few minutes went by before the referee sarcastically asked Mirante if he could play the ball from a goal kick or not.
A strange decision from Mirante to run down the clock today, but hey maybe there’s some method behind that thinking. What Roma really needed was a scoreline befitting of their increasing dominance in this match.
Unfortunately the shadow side of Lorenzo Pellegrini emerged in the 52nd minute. The Italian midfielder has always been a diver who takes the easy way out at the slightest contact, and chose to go down way too easily under pressure from Caceres in the Fiorentina box. No one was buying it, despite Edin Dzeko’s protests that the referee should consult VAR. Yeah... let’s move on.
Perhaps balancing out his defensive substitution from the beginning of the half, Iachini then chose to bring on hothead striker Dusan Vlahovic for midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura.
Vlahovic was greeted by a game that got deadlocked into a midfield battle for the ball, before Henrik Mkhitaryan changed gears and decided to run through the Fiorentina defense all on his own. But the Armenian was toe-poked off the ball at the death, before Miki could put any final touch past Dragowski. A few more minutes of play went by, until Jordan Veretout was shoulder-barged from behind at high speed by Franck Ribery, leaving Roma’s own Frenchman collapsing to the ground against his former club.
Fiorentina used that moment to bring on Christian Kouame for Jose Callejon. Seriously, how many great young talents does this Fiorentina side have? And how are they playing so below-par with such good players? I’m not complaining here on the day as, so far, it’s all Roma’s gain. And the Giallorossi would make that emphatically clear just a couple of minutes later.
Pedro: 70th Minute (Roma 2, Fiorentina 0)
La visión, ejecución y precisión de Veretout es la mitad del segundo gol de Roma.— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) November 1, 2020
El control de Dzeko es clave. La asistencia de Mkhitaryan justa. Y Pedro llegando de 9 decoran una contra perfecta. pic.twitter.com/ZZAs6eg7RC
Roma’s veteran front-three all link up here, as Edin Dzeko starts off the move by carrying the ball to the edge of Fiorentina’s area before making a pass to Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the right. Miki doesn’t hesistate to then play the ball back across the face of Dragowski’s goal, where it’s just waiting to be slotted in by Pedro, who himself ghosted in behind Amrabat to perfection before Pedro doubled Roma’s lead. Fiorentina tried to claim offside, but no chance.
The movement by Pedro couldn’t be more lethal. Just great stuff for this third goal in Roma colours, and apparently enough to earn him a rest as Paulo Fonseca immediately subbed him off for Carles Perez for the final twenty minutes, while also subbing off a (surprisingly good) Rick Karsdorp for Bruno Peres at the same time.
Would there be any danger of Roma relaxing in a game where Fiorentina had long since faded away? In the 76th minute, after the ball went dead for a moment, Fiorentina quickly resumed play with Amrabat wasting no time trying to cross into Vlahovic for an uncontested header in the Roma box, but Vlahovic couldn’t even get his effort on target. Meanwhile, Paulo Fonseca subbed off Lorenzo Pellegrini to let oncoming sub Bryan Cristante harass Fiorentina into submission for the final ten minutes of the game.
The substitutions didn’t end there, as Fiorentina brought off Franck Ribery and Sofyan Amrabat for Patrick Cutrone and Alfred Duncan respectively.
The final moments of the game saw Fiorentina given time to go back to their overriding tactic of trying to spread the ball from side to side as much as possible, trying to get Roma to run. But cutting out Fiorentina’s square passes was too easy for this well-drilled Roma side, who first released Edin Dzeko and pals into a 4 vs 3 situation on the break, where Dzeko failed to spot Miki’s run into space and instead tried to feed into to Carles Perez on the near side in an effort that was cut out.
And then came even worse trouble for Fiorentina, as Roma once again won the ball back to feed Edin Dzeko in the middle of the pitch, before the Bosnian was brought down by a two-footed, studs up challenge from Fiorentina’s Argentinian centre-half Lucas Martinez Quarta; it was a challenge that earned Quarta a straight red card, reducing Fiorentina to ten men and finishing this game as a spectacle.
Added time saw enough action for Cristante to collect a booking, while Bruno Peres fed a cross into Dzeko that the Bosnian chested down, before immediately scooping a shot into the waiting arms of Dragowski from close range. Roma used their one-man advantage to simply hold onto possession and wait for the final whistle to blow.
Results like this are crucial to the kind of headlines you’ll be trolled by over the week to come.
If Roma had dropped points in this game, you’d find sports sites digging out the kind of patterns to justify headlines like “Roma go through a long spell of draws and dropping points” etc. But when Roma an (unofficially) unbeaten run as long as this one with a win like today’s, you’ll instead read speculation about how long this Paulo Fonseca side can continue to go undefeated. And isn’t that great, indeed.
Thanks to Roma’s victory today, the Giallorossi are now temporarily in 7th place in the table. The Lupi are above Lazio by rights, and level on points with Inter Milan and Napoli, while still being just five points off table-topping AC Milan.
Today’s game saw a slow Fiorentina side punished for too many square passes by a sharp Roma team, who capitalised on moments to break fast and string together the requisite moves needed to win 2-0 on the evening. That being said: When are we going to see a Roma side that actively looks to hold onto the ball and bring it to opponents, instead of looking to punish teams on the break? Not that the current style is anything but good, but you have to believe this Roma side will be pushed to find another gear in Serie A by the time winter really gets underway.
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