Yesterday was the rare day in the Romaverse where nearly every fan in sight was beaming with joy at the news of Dan Friedkin's impending takover of the club. After nearly ten months of negotiations, James Pallotta and the Friedkin Group agreed to a €591 million deal for the 93-year-old club.
That tide of glad feelings sort of masked over the more immediate concern: Roma's Round of 16 fixture against Sevilla. What was once a standard two-leg tie was re-conceived as a one-off match on a neutral ground thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic shuttering the original schedule.
Nevertheless, with the fanbase beaming at last night's news, expectations were high for today's Europa League match against Sevilla. Even without the sale, Roma were ride a positive wave, toppling Juventus on the road for the first time since 2011 and pushing their unbeaten run to eight matches.
We weren't necessarily predicting a dream run to the final in Cologne, but Roma were peaking at just the right time. However, when it comes to European play, Roma seldom take the road more traveled.
This match was painted as Roma's shot at revenge against Monchi, but the real tale may have been one of rest. Sevilla's La Liga season wrapped up on July 19th, a span in which Roma played not one, not two, not three, BUT FOUR MATCHES. Roma may have had the continuity advantage, but Sevilla were definitely the more relaxed side. And it showed almost immediately.
In only the fifth minute, Lucas Ocampos fired a shot at Roma's goal, which was narrowly parried over the cross bar by Pau Lopez (don’t get used to that sentiment, FYI). Sevilla would test the laws of physics once more in the 12th minute when Jules Kounde's header struck that very same cross bar.
The match barely had a chance to breathe, but Sevilla already had Roma on the backfoot. Beating them to loose balls, passing quicker and with more purpose and generally looking more interested and energetic.
All that good will soon paid off on the score sheet as Sevilla exposed Roma's defense for what it was: disorganized and confused.
Sergio Reguilón: 22nd Minute (Sevilla 1, Roma 0)
We should be quick to blame Pau Lopez here—he was beaten five-hole relatively easily—but this whole play was a disaster from start to finish. After Reguilón received the switch of play on the left, he quickly darted around Bruno Peres (who was either simply late or took a horrible route to the ball) and had a virtually unobstructed path towards the 18-yard-box. From there, he just charged right at the goal, and with Ibañez in no position to cut off the run or even make the angle more acute, Reguilón had Lopez on a virtual one-v-one and beat him right between the legs.
This goal was a perfect encapsulation of the match to that point: Sevilla were quick, aggressive and had a clear plan of attack—exploiting the wide areas—while Roma were flat-footed, confused and lacking inspiration.
Roma's lack of precision and pace continued throughout the remainder of the first half. Having more energy is one thing, but Roma literally just finished their season a few days ago, so logic would dictate they'd play with more fluidity and purpose, not Sevilla, the team coming off a two-week break. Yet the Spanish side looked like they just left La Liga while Roma were slowly going through the motions, as if this were an ICC friendly in Dallas.
Things would open up a bit for Roma in the 35th minute when a loose ball in the box fell to Nicolo Zaniolo, but his effort (which was quite a hit) was deflected up and over the bar by the Sevilla defense.
Roma's lack of cohesion and execution would bite them in the ass once more.
Youssef En-Nesyri: 44th Minute (Sevilla 2, Roma 0)
Another front-to-back disaster did Roma in here. With Lucas Ocampos streaking down the right flank, Ibañez (who had help behind him) decided to make a haphazard slide tackle at the edge of the area, leaving Ocampos with a clear shot at Lopez, albeit from a tight angle. While Lopez came off his line, his dropped save attempt was too late and Ocampos found En-Nesyri at the far post practically unmarked for an easy goal.
It's easy to second guess, but I'm not sure Ibañez's slide tackle attempt was necessary. He had Kolarov's support behind him (and he's certainly fast enough to run with Ocampos) but by ceding the ground, Ocampos then had a clear path towards the area, forcing Lopez to charge off his line parallel to the end-line. Should Lopez have been able to stop that cross? Yeah, maybe, but instead of Ibañez on his back, Kolarov coming across the box, and Lopez hugging the near post, Ocampos had no pressure on him, Lopez making an awkward run, and En-Nesyri at the ready for the tap in at the opposite post.
Just like the first goal, this was a microcosm for the match to that point: Sevilla were playing football, Roma were waiting for the half-time whistle.
The whistle mercifully came moments later, but Roma dug themselves quite a hole and would need a miracle to reverse their fortunes.
As much as I'd like to say that Roma flipped the script immediately in the second half, well...
Roma with an early foray forward, Dzeko passes on a shot plays it out wide to Spinazzola,who promptly dribbles right into multiple defenders and concedes a goal kick— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) August 6, 2020
Sensing a lack of speed and simple bite in his attack, Fonseca made two early subs in the second half, swapping Zaniolo and Diawara for Carles Perez and Lorenzo Pellegrini, respectively. Diawara had a quiet but steady first half while Zaniolo was noticeably frustrated with his inability to get in the flow of the match.
Roma would have a couple of half-chances early in the second half, one through Henrikh Mkhitaryan and another through a turn and hit effort from Dzeko that sailed wide and high. But outside of that, the story remained the same: Sevilla won all the individual battles, played with more energy and a clearer idea how to attack Roma, who continued to look listless, lost and lackadaisical.
And that was really that. Despite this match dragging on into the 97th minute, Roma never mounted a credible threat at Sevilla's back line, while Monchi's squad continued to hunt for a third goal, beating Roma to nearly every loose ball, probing the back line and playing with a swiftness and sense of desire we haven't seen from Roma in god knows how long, even during their recent uptick.
There's no dodging it: Roma were awful today. After their thrilling win over Juventus to end the season and all the positivity from the Friedkin takeover, this was perhaps the most bitter pill we could have taken to end the season; there were absolutely no positives to take from this match.
Would this matchup have played out differently over two legs? Given how thoroughly dominant Sevilla were, I severely doubt it, but that's really academic at this point. With Wolves, Manchester United and Inter Milan all remaining in the competition, Roma's odds to win it all were probably always long.
Still, given how quickly Fonseca turned things around after the three-match losing skid at the beginning of the restart, it was nice to dream.
And with that, we'll put a pin on our 2019-2020 matchday coverage.
We've got a Pallotta postmortem roundtable, a Friedkin expectations roundtable, two season review roundtables, positional reviews, Serie A Femminile previews, men's U23 countdown, women's U23 countdown and so much more coming at you over the next two weeks.
And once again, a heartfelt thank you to everyone for reading, sharing and commenting throughout this insane season. Better days are ahead!