After riding one of the hottest streaks in the league into the final month of the year (eight wins in ten matches), Roma suddenly found themselves on the downswing, dropping points in three of their last four matches, including a 4-0 defeat to Napoli and Thursday's 3-1 loss to CSKA Sofia in the Europa League.
The Napoli defeat could be chalked off to the emotions of the moment while the Sofia defeat didn't matter as Roma had already won their Europa League group, but with the top of the table as compact as ever, the Giallorossi needed to get back to their winning ways to keep pace with Napoli and Sassuolo in the fight for fourth place.
With the sun glinting off the brick tower at the Stadio Dall’Ara, Roma fans were in for a beautiful afternoon of football, but it didn't exactly start off that way. In only the second minute of the match, Rodrigo Palacio, the perpetual thorn in Roma’s side, tested Pau Lopez before the match had a chance to breathe. Working a give and go with Mussow Barrow, Palacio fired off the game's first attempt, forcing Lopez to come off his line to snuff out the chance.
It was an inauspicious start to the match for Roma, but things would soon change...dramatically.
Andrea Poli: 5th Minute OG (Bologna 0, Roma 1)
Gol! Spinazzola tiró pared con Mkhitaryan y luego mandó el centro picante para el gol contra de Poli. Dzeko estaba para empujarla. Daje Roma. pic.twitter.com/RuoUbXvGuN— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) December 13, 2020
Roma received a bit of good fortune here as Andrea Poli redirected the ball into the back of the net, but the groundwork for this goal was neat and tidy. Following a give and go between Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Leonardo Spinazzola, Roma's wingback got loose down the left flank and played a perfect low cross into the area, meeting Dzeko stride for stride at the far post. And while Poli's gaffe actually created the goal, Dzeko was in a prime position to tap it in with his knee.
But Dzeko wouldn't be denied again...
Edin Dzeko: 10th Minute (Bologna 0, Roma 2)
Ahora sí, Edin. Golazo de Dzeko, con enganche (Danilo todavía sigue frenándose) y buena definición. Roma llega y lastima. Buen pase de Pellegrini también. pic.twitter.com/t3iCmKWmYb— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) December 13, 2020
After some spectacular build-up play through the midfield, Edin Dzeko is sprung into the area by Lorenzo Pellegrini and then proceeds to drive the ball towards the penalty spot before pumping the brakes and switching the ball to his left, cleverly beating the keeper with a shot back towards the right. Dzeko's broad shoulders and tall stature have always belied his true skill, but this was an exquisite goal scored by a sublimely skilled striker. Well done, Edin!
With two goals in under 10 minutes, it seemed like Roma were setting themselves up for an easy Sunday, but they wouldn't stop there.
Lorenzo Pellegrini: 15th Minute (Bologna 0, Roma 3)
Hoy sale todo bien y era hora. Lorenzo Pellegrini apareció: asistencia en el 2-0 y dueño del 3-0 (lindo pase de Spinazzola). Roma no perdona al Cagliari. Y no, no hay que perdonar a nadie. pic.twitter.com/h6xpnv4DfV— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) December 13, 2020
Moments after setting up Dzeko's goal, Pellegrini grabbed one of his own thanks in part to a pretty large assumption made by the Bologna backline. It's not often that you see a player fed into that much space, but Spinazzola's lofted ball was perfectly timed to spring Pellegrini into a veritable one-v-one with the keeper from 20 yards out, and with Bologna waiting for the flag that never came, Pellegrini slotted the ball home without batting an eye.
With three goals in only 15 minutes, this match was bursting at the seams, but Roma would soon happen as Bryan Cristante inadvertently scored a goal for Bologna.
Bryan Cristante: 24th Minute OG (Bologna 1, Roma 3)
I guess it wouldn't truly be a Roma match if everything went according to plan, so kudos to Cristante for keeping our spirits in check. The worst part of this own goal was that Roma weren’t really under that much pressure; Barrow was pretty well marked and didn't have a clear passing lane back towards the middle, but his speculative flick was enough to provoke a response (a bad one) from Cristante. But, Roma were already up 3-0 at this point, so Cristante's error wasn't exactly damning.
I'd love to say that things calmed down after this point, but Roma kept knocking on the door and could have been up 5-1 at this point, as Dzeko missed two near sitters before the half-hour mark, but this was without a doubt the craziest first half we've seen all season.
Jordan Veretout: 35th Minute (Bologna 1, Roma 4)
Veretout es completo, siempre lo digo: motor, llegada y gol.— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) December 13, 2020
Interesante jugada que inicio Karsdorp, aguantó Dzeko, tocó Pellegrini y asistió Mkhitaryan.
Roma ya le hizo cuatro al Bologna en el Renato Dall’Ara. pic.twitter.com/jDqEYU3K9B
I'm not sure what got into Roma this afternoon, but this was another example of up-tempo, purposeful, and tidy buildup play producing yet another easy crack at goal from Roma. You can't see the entire run of play in this clip, but this does show the quick, triangular passing/movement between Pellegrini and Mkhitaryan, which was finished off by a perfectly timed run into the box from Veretout. Words can hardly do this play justice—it was perfect.
And please stop me if you've heard this one before, but Roma still weren't done...
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 45th Minute (Bologna 1, Roma 5)
— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) December 13, 2020
Mkhitaryan, tras desborde y pase de Karsdorp, hizo el quinto de Roma. Entran (casi) todas. Daje! pic.twitter.com/PYzIfqVcWj
This goal was all Karsdorp, who blew past his marker down the right flank and wisely continued his run towards the end line, sucking in the final defender in the process, before playing the ball back to the point of the six-yard box where Mkhitaryan was wide open for the gimme goal.
Believe me when I tell you, it was practically impossible trying to recap this first half in real-time. Every time I'd finish describing one goal, Roma seemingly scored again. With nine attempts on goal in the first half, six of which were on target, and an 84% passing rate, Roma were absolutely lethal in the first half.
With a handful of changes to start the half, Bologna looked better organized at the back and more dangerous coming forward and forced Roma into a few hasty challenges to start the second half, and probably should have had a penalty called when Roger Ibañez clipped Rodrigo Palacio's legs in the area, but VAR didn't deem it a penalty-worthy offense. Palacio would keep at it, forcing Pau Lopez into a kick save moments later.
Palacio continued to make his presence felt as the match crept towards the hour mark, nearly setting up a goal for Nicolas Dominguez, whose shot deflected off Cristante's out-turned shin to beat Pau Lopez, but the goal was ultimately disallowed due to an offside call spotted by VAR. Can you imagine two Cristante own goals in one match? Yeesh.
Nevertheless, Bologna looked much sharper in the second half, and had they played like this from the jump, we might have had a game on our hands. But as things stood, Roma maintained their four-goal lead with half an hour to play.
Roma nearly made it six when Pellegrini was let loose into the final third by an Edin Dzeko flick. While Pellegrini put a lovely chipped effort into the back of the goal, he was quickly ruled offside by referee Gianpaolo Calvarese.
The final 20 minutes of the match were about what you'd expect given the score: Bologna, to their credit, kept hunting for a goal while Roma took a gentlemanly approach, riding out the clock with a respectable effort rather than humiliating Bologna. They did, however, nearly make it 6-1 (again) when Karsdorp played Borja Mayoral into space from deep in Roma's area, but with the Bologna keeper coming WAY off his line (like, in midfield), Mayoral was forced to shoot from an acute angle on the right, but still struck the post with a curled effort.
There was a late VAR challenge for a straight-red given to Dominguez, which was then changed to a yellow, but apart from that, the closing moments of this match played on without issue.
5-1, what more is there to say? Bologna are about as mid-table as a club can get, and were missing a few regular pieces to their lineup, but Roma left no room for doubt in this match, passing circles around their hosts in an absolute rout. With a few more twists and turns, this match could have easily ended 9-2; it was that wide open and free-flowing.
While they let up a bit in the second half, this was an incredibly convincing, top-down dominant effort from Roma this afternoon; one that occurred while the manager was suspended, so top marks to Nuno Campos for getting the job done while his boss was in the press-box.
After similar victories over Cluj and Benevento earlier this year, this marks the third time in which Roma has found the back of the net five times. And sure, they could have had more, but with seven of fifteen shots on target, Roma were clinical this afternoon, so you won't catch us complaining.
With this victory, Roma now sits in 5th place on 21 points, one point behind Sassuolo and two behind Napoli, who narrowly defeated Sampdoria 2-1 earlier today.
Roma host Torino on the 17th before traveling to Atalanta on the 20th.
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