AS Roma and the Genoa Cricket and Football Club have faced off over 100 times over the past 90 years, and for much of that history, the Giallorossi have come out on top, winning nearly 50% of those contests, including three of the past six fixtures dating back to the fall of 2017. With Genoa mired in 17th place and Roma fresh off a 5-0 beatdown of Cluj in the Europa League, Roma's domination of the Griffins seemed primed to carry on for another matchday.
Sure, Roma didn't score in the first minute like they did against Cluj, but when Henrikh Mkhitaryan found acres of space down the left flank in only the fifth minute, it seemed like Roma were destined for another prolific afternoon. But, in testament to how frustrating the early portions of this match were, Mkhitaryan's final product didn't match the effort required to produce it as his shot sailed harmlessly into the side netting.
Apart from Roma's sterling white kits and their early attacking advances, the biggest headline of the first half was the state of the pitch at the Luigi Ferraris. With several sizeable patches and skids carved out on the grass, it didn't take long for the loose turf to impact play, claiming its first victim in the 15th minute when Leonardo Spinazzola was subbed off with an apparent leg injury.
Despite winning the battle on the stat sheets, Roma created little more than a few half chances in the attacking third but nearly found a breakthrough in the 20th minute. With Mkhitaryan carving out a little space at the edge of the area, he unleashed a cracking left-footer, forcing Mattia Perin into a leaping save. It was easily Roma's best chance of the first half, but Perin plucked it out of the air with ease.
The ensuing 20 minutes were dreadful. No chances, little movement and too much passivity from both clubs. But then in the 44th minute, Pedro sprung Borja Mayoral into the six yard box with a lovely pocket pass, but Mayoral's effort wasn't up to snuff, as he clipped the ball with his heel, completely wasting the chance—it was horrific technique from a kid who looked so dangerous on Thursday against Cluj.
With one minute of stoppage time before the halftime whistle, it seemed like Roma were content to regroup at half time, but they count every second in this sport for a reason.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 46th Minute (Genoa 0, Roma 1)
Mkhitaryan scores a goal for Roma in the end of the first half pic.twitter.com/cS9fwcyPEe— Lyndio Sport (@LyndioSport) November 8, 2020
With the match on its knees and begging for the halftime break, Roma stunned Genoa with this last ditch effort. There's nothing terribly special about this, just a great corner from Jordan Veretout and some poor marking by Genoa, but job well done by Mkhitaryan to head it home.
Roma started off the half like a buzz saw, dominating possession and testing Mattia Perin several times, but as we moved past the half hour mark, the match hit a definitive lull as both sides were visibly effected by the horrible pitch conditions and neither seemed able to muster a credible or consistent threat in attack.
Still, despite the watching paint dry level of excitement in the first half, the smart money was on Roma finding a breakthrough sooner or later, and thanks to Mkhitaryan's free header, Roma received the boost they needed as they headed into the change room.
Thanks to a rather unexpected goal to close out the first half, Roma were given a bit of a reprieve from their poor finishing and seemed primed to build on that lead and put the match beyond all doubt in the second half, but the home team actually drew first blood in the second half.
Marco Pjaca: 50th Minute (Genoa 1, Roma 1)
With the second half barely under way, Roma surrendered the lead nearly as quickly as they claimed it. We can pick apart Roma's defense here (Karsdorp turned it over to begin with, Smalling may have kept this onside and Ibañez was beaten), but this was really just a brilliant sequence from Genoa, who strung together a beautiful four pass move to stretch Roma's defense laterally before exposing a seam at the back, which Gianluca Scamacca exploited by finding Pjaca some 25 yards out from goal and step past Roger Ibañez. From there, it was just a simple one-v-one against Lopez, who didn't stand a chance given how quickly everything unfolded in front of him, though he remained firmly planted on the goal line.
Fonseca would make an immediate change to his side, pulling off the largely ineffective Mayoral for Bryan Cristante, shifting the formation into a striker-less look with Pedro serving as the defacto false nine.
Roma had another missed opportunity in the 63rd minute when Peres was played into space in the left edge of Genoa's 18-yard-box. But rather than playing the shot for power and perhaps picking out the far post, Peres tried to finesse the shot past Perin at the near post and, suffice it to say, it didn't work.
Peres would atone for that error moments later, though.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 67th Minute (Genoa 1, Roma 2)
Taking a sensational long ball from Ibañez, Bruno Peres wasted little time in converting those efforts into an easy assist. With a simple toe poke, Peres played the ball to Mkhitaryan, who was charging into the are from the edge of the 18, beating Perin with ease to restore Roma's lead.
A 2-1 lead is seldom safe, so Roma were right to press for a third goal and should have had one in the 74th minute when Lorenzo Pellegrini played a killer through ball to Bryan Cristante from midfield. The ball was perfectly weighted and angled, sending Cristante into the area with no one to beat but the keeper and, well, Cristante blew it, sending the shot well wide of the mark. Egregious is the only way to describe it. This would have put the game beyond all doubt and somehow Cristante inexplicably blew the chance.
But, Roma would get their third goal in the 85th minute thanks, once again, to Mkhitaryan
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 85th Minute (Genoa 1, Roma 3)
I'm not sure why Genoa saw fit to leave Mkhitaryan unmarked once again, but let's be glad they did. After Cristante's horrid miss, Roma quickly corrected course here when Pedro found Mkhitaryan alone in the box for a textbook volley. There was a good bit of possession cycling at the edge of the box before the goal, too. Spectacular effort all around.
Genoa quickly countered when Mattia Destro slipped behind Roma's defense, scoring a goal from the seat of his pants, but one which was ultimately judged offside. It likely wouldn't have altered the final outcome, but it definitely would have made for an anxious ending to this match.
As it stood, Roma walked away 3-1 winners.
Facing the league's 17th place side on the road under horrible pitch conditions, this match had trap written all over it; a branding that became brighter with each Roma miss early in the first half. Roma did well to maintain their focus, scoring the first goal seconds before the half time whistle and did even better to bounce back after Pjaca's 50th minute equalizer.
But the story of this match was all about experience; specifically Mkhitaryan's experience. It's sort of been boiling underneath the surface all season long, but for the first time in several years, Roma are making hay on experience rather than promise or potential, with savvy vets like Mkhitaryan, Pedro, and Edin Dzeko leading the charge. And the man from Armenia may have just authored the best individual performance of the Fonseca era.
In 90 minutes, Mkhitaryan was FLAWLESS, earning a perfect 10 match rating from WhoScored. In addition to his three goals, Mkhitaryan had six shots, four on target shots, five key passes, four successful dribbles, five tackles and three aerials won. To which I ask once again, why did Arsenal let him go?
Mkhitaryan's banner day was a boon for Roma's life on the table, too. With this victory, Roma now have 14 points and have vaulted ahead of Inter Milan, Atalanta and Juventus (yes, Juventus) on the table and currently sit in third place, pending the outcome of the Napoli and Verona fixtures later today. And with their appeal of the Verona points deduction set for Monday, Roma could potentially pick up another point on the table, which would secure third place heading into the international break.
Roma have a few minor concerns here and there, but they are absolutely rolling right now.
The dreaded international break.