There was a time when 9 a.m. and even 6 a.m. kick-offs were the norm for us east coast Serie A fans, but it seems as though the league's increased international television exposure has caused those earlier kickoff times to go the way of the Dodo bird. But not today. Today was a 9 a.m. kickoff time, but just don't tell that to...well, me. Waking up at approximately 8:46 a.m., I was jolted out of bed with the sinking suspicion that I was forgetting something—the match!
Not only the match, but I forgot to put up our usual How To Watch piece, so you could imagine how out of sorts I felt as I was struggling to make my morning latte while hearing the Serie A anthem. And, as a result, my hands were a bit shaky and I let the milk picture dip all the way below the nozzle of the steam wand, resulting in tepid milk being blown all over my counter.
So...yeah, that was my Sunday morning. How was yours?
Fortunately, Roma suffered from no such morning sluggishness, putting this match beyond all doubt before that hastily prepared caffeine had a chance to awaken me from my Sunday morning slumber.
Parma actually did quite well through the opening 20 minutes or so of this match. Perfectly content to sit back in defense and absorb Roma's blows, the Crusaders flexed their counter attacking muscles through the wiry legs of Gervinho and Roberto Inglese, both of whom found space behind Roma's defensive line multiple times in the early moments of this match, but thanks to a few offside calls and Antonio Mirante's aggression, Parma's counter-attacking tactics went for naught.
While Roma were dominating possession, they were foiled by Parma's low block defense, but, in keeping with his stellar form this season, Leonardo Spinazzola played the role of locksmith, breaking down Parma's defense with a cutting run and a brilliant pass to give Roma the lead.
Borja Mayoral: 28th Minute (Roma 1, Parma 0)
Borja Mayoral scores for The Roma Project™️ but WHAT a ball this is from Spinazzola https://t.co/qPnuMjcs1J— Ranks FC (@RankSquad) November 22, 2020
Borja Mayoral was pretty much invisible to this point in the match, but he did a great job finishing off this sequence. Watch as Spinazzola drags the defense to his right before slipping a beautiful through ball to his left, matching the cutting run of Mayoral. This is football. This is the beautiful game. This play was so succinct, so well-timed and so perfectly executed that I doubt they could have done this any better on the training ground. Brilliant play from Spinazzola and Mayoral here.
Roma would double Parma's misery four minutes later...
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 32nd Minute (Roma 2, Parma 0)
What a strike from Henrikh Mkhitaryan pic.twitter.com/8jKjSXNiup— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 22, 2020
Spinazzola and Mayoral nearly combined to double Roma's lead in the 32nd minute, but their well diagramed play quickly became a moment of chaos. First off, fantastic work by Spinazzola to give the slightest body feint as he was receiving the ball, giving the Parma defender just enough pause to think that perhaps Spinazzola was going backwards. But then Spinazzola exploited the space in front of him, cutting in slightly and finding Mayoral at the edge of the area.
And with Mayoral fouled as soon as he was receiving the ball, this play could have easily been blown dead by the official, so kudos to him for playing the advantage, and great work by Mkhitaryan to not give up on the play. With Mayoral literally falling to the pitch and the ball lingering in the air, Mkhitaryan caught it on the bounce and fired it past the keeper.
What was nearly a perfectly orchestrated sequence between Spinazzola and Mayoral quickly became a read and react play by Mkhitaryan, who did well not to give up on the play.
But he wasn't done yet...
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 40th Minute (Roma 3, Parma 0)
Mkhitaryan scores his second goal.— Dee (@Dee_FTTV) November 22, 2020
Talk about a great cross. Rick Karsdorp hit this like an iron shot on the fairway: low, fast and accurate; he somehow kept the ball about three feet off the ground but played it fast enough and with enough swerve that no defender could turn it away, leaving Mhkitaryan with a gimme tap-in at the far post.
And that was that: Roma weren't really that frustrated by Parma's tactics and showed tremendous patience and persistence to break down the low-block before building up a 3-0 lead in the final 15 minutes or so of the half.
Roma continued their bullish performance over Parma in the second half, nearly pushing the lead to four-nil multiple times in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the half with Pedro and Jordan Veretout coming particularly close only to see their shots sail just wide, while Mkhitaryan continued to hunt for this second hattrick of the season.
There isn't really much need for analysis here: Roma had Parma under their thumb from the word go and didn't relent for the ensuing 89 minutes. The only real spot of bother we saw was Roger Ibañez picking up a minor knock early in the half, making way for Juan Jesus.
Fonseca's second substitution would see Mayoral make way for Carles Pérez in the 65th minute. He'd follow that up with a late triple swap, as Lorenzo Pellegrini, Amadou Diawara and Bruno Peres all came on in the 80th minute. It would have been nice to see one of the Primavera kids get some minutes, but Pellegrini and Diawara were both returning from bouts of COVID and probably needed some live action before a difficult set of fixtures next week.
But thanks to their 3-0 lead, the second half of this match was largely academic, though you wouldn't have guessed it from Roma's effort: they continued to control the tempo of the game and had multiple chances deep in the match to increase their lead even further.
While it would have been nice to see Fonseca empty the bench with some Primavera kids, Roma continued their fine form today, making quick work of a decidedly inferior opponent and furthering their claim for a top four spot.
Today's victory pushes Roma's point total to 17 through eight matches, good enough for a temporary grasp on second place, behind league-leading Sassuolo (yup, you read that correctly). And depending on how this evening's tit between AC Milan and Napoli turns out, Roma could retain a share of second place but should, at worst, settle into third place (or tied for fourth) at the conclusion of round eight.
You have to consider the level of the opponent here—Parma were in 15th place after all—but Paulo Fonseca's men played to perfection today: the passing was crisp, the chances were finished and the defense was swift and decisive.
Roma's stadium dreams remain a nightmarish hell-scape of bureaucratic red-tape and kickbacks, but nearly everything else in the organization is trending upwards at the moment. With six wins in their last nine fixtures in all competitions, the Giallorossi are among the hottest teams in the league and look like legitimate contenders to finish in the top four. And given how wide open the table seems this season, perhaps they can dream just a bit higher than that.
Bask in today's victory because it's back to reality this coming week as Roma travel to Romania to take on Cluj before they head south to Napoli next Sunday for a critical domestic fixture.
Roma face Cluj in the Europa League on Thursday the 26th of November.
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