If it seems like we've talked a lot about squad rotation during our Europa Conference League coverage, there's good reason: no one was entirely sure how the bigger clubs would approach this new tournament. The natural assumption was that the more well-renowned clubs in UEFA's newest international club tournament, clubs like Roma and Spurs, would treat this third-tier competition as a petri dish for squad rotation and lineup experimentation.
However, for the most part, José Mourinho has trotted out a mix-and-match lineup to provide some measure of rest for his regulars while also ensuring that Roma dominated their Group C opponents. But not today. Today, with a trip to the Arctic Circle on the docket and Napoli waiting in the wings on Sunday, The Special One dug deep into his bench, giving rare starts to players like Gonzalo Villar, Bryan Reynolds, and Ebrima Darboe, among others.
And that choice would come back to haunt Roma sooner than any of us could have possibly conceived. In only the third minute of the match, midfielder Patrick Berg played a perfect through ball into the box—one that could have easily produced a simple tap-in goal—but Rui Patricio had a beat on it, calmly collecting the ball before Bodø could inflict any damage.
Despite Patricio's sweeping up at the back, this was a signal of intent from Bodø: they were coming for Roma. The Giallorossi responded in kind, working a lightning-fast break down the right flank through Bryan Reynolds, but the young Texan's final ball, while well placed, went wasted as the Bodø defense collapsed around the 18-yard-box, snuffing out the chance before it really took root.
After the initial settling in period, Bodó drew first blood with a beautifully orchestrated sequence at the edge of the box.
Erik Botheim: 8th Minute (Bodø/Glimt 1, Roma 0)
Bodø Glimt take the lead over Jose Mourinho's Roma pic.twitter.com/IyGPklMNEc— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 21, 2021
Unfortunately, there was no real secret recipe to this goal. Despite Roma's defense swarming around the left edge of the box, Bodø's quick and precise passing and movement opened up enough space for Botheim to follow up his pass with a quick diagonal run into the box. Rui Patricio could have done a bit better with the end product, but with at least three free runners into the box, he really had no choice but to guess when/where the shot was going to be placed. But this was just a brilliant sequence here from Bodø, who did well not only to catch Roma off-guard but to draw multiple defenders out of position with the initial ball and to keep them off-kilter with multiple forwards running at Patricio.
Given how quickly that play unfolded, you could almost forgive Roma's momentary lapse of concentration, but the match continued to play into Bodø's hands as the first half progressed. With Roma struggling to find their footing on the artificial surface, the Giallorossi struggled to mount any consistent attack down either flank, as final ball after final ball went wasted on the plastic surface, running past its intended targets.
Meanwhile, Bodø continued to find a surprising amount of space in the final third and continued to pepper Patricio with shots, including a quick flurry of chances around the 15-minute mark. While Patricio was able to thwart those attempts, he had no such luck in the 20th minute.
Patrick Berg: 20th Minute (Bodø/Glimt 2, Roma 0)
FROM NORWAY WITH LOVE, WHO SAW THIS COMING?!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 21, 2021
A STUNNING STRIKE FROM PATRICK BERG, ROMA HAVE WORK TO DO pic.twitter.com/xpb9gz5a4R
No, this wasn't the same clip sadistically run on repeat. Working a series of quick give and goes, Bodø once again kept the Roma defense at sixes and sevens, only this time, instead of a swarm of yellow shirts bombarding Patricio in the box, Patrick Berg fired from the edge of the area, beating Patricio high and to the left to double Bodø's lead.
Shock doesn't begin to describe the emotions at this point. Seeing Bodø grab an early goal wasn't the end of the world, but the confidence with which they were playing through the opening 20 minutes seemed to take Roma by surprise. Bodø wasn't content to clutch and grab their way to a scoreless draw at home, instead wresting the initiative from Roma from the word go and seldom relenting as the first half wore on, attacking in waves down both flanks while doing well to keep Roma hemmed in at the other end.
But sooner or later, Roma’s depth was bound to find a breakthrough.
Carles Pérez: 28th Minute (Bodø/Glimt 2, Roma 1)
Roma may have been down 2-0 at this point, but what a way to score the first foal of the match. The forgotten Amadou Diawara reminded us all of perhaps his greatest attribute: long passing. Diawara served this ball up on a platter from midfield, finding Pérez in stride in the middle of the pitch, leaving the Spaniard with little more to do than taking one touch, and with a simple little flick of his left foot, Pérez pulled Roma back into the match. And even better, his goal seemed to lift Roma's spirits, fueling the Giallorossi's best stretch of the match, where Mourinho's men displayed more energy and purpose than at any other point in the match.
While Roma certainly looked the part in the waning moments of the half, with Stephan El Shaarawy nearly scoring directly from a corner and then, moments later, finding Borja Mayoral in the box, the Giallorossi couldn't find a first-half equalizer and came inches away from going down 3-1 just before the stroke of halftime when Amahl Pellegrino's free header sailed over the crossbar.
Despite the surprising scoreline at halftime, Roma did just enough in the final 10 minutes to provide hope for a second-half comeback, but would Bodø comply?
No. No, they wouldn't. In fact, Bodø got that elusive third goal. And a fourth. And a fifth. And yes, even a sixth—the most ever scored against a José Mourinho-managed team—embarrassing Roma in an overwhelming display of attacking football.
But it didn't start out that way. With a one-goal deficit to erase and his team ending the first half on a relatively high note, Mourinho went all out by the hour mark, bringing on Bryan Cristante, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eldor Shomurodov, Tammy Abraham, and Lorenzo Pellegrini by the 60th minute.
Despite Mourinho going full-tilt with attacking changes, using all five of his substitutions by the hour mark, Roma couldn't make a dent in the Bodø backline. And whatever faint hope Roma had of catching up with and overtaking Bodø in the second half was completely dashed by the hosts, who overwhelmed Roma in nearly every facet of this match.
Erik Botheim: 53rd Minute (Bodø 3, Roma 1)
THIS IS NOT WHAT JOSE MOURINHO AND ROMA EXPECTED, A THIRD GOAL FROM BODØ/ GLIMT pic.twitter.com/yV4FbHQncO— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 21, 2021
Botheim's name wound up on the scorer's sheet here, but the real credit should go to Alfons Sampsted, who did incredibly well to split two Roma defenders while keeping the ball inbounds and then was able to outmuscle Diawara on the end line before finding Botheim in the box for the tap-in.
While this goal was the proverbial nail in the coffin for this match, Bodø wasn't done yet—not by a longshot.
Ola Solbakken: 71st Minute (Bodø 4, Roma 1)
IT GETS WORSE FOR ROMA, IT IS 4-1 AND A CHEEKY FINISH TO MATCH pic.twitter.com/sDgkgJxBwF— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 21, 2021
Marash Kumbulla will shoulder the lion's share of the blame for this goal, and he was definitely no match for Solbakken's pace down the right flank, but just look at how much space Bodø was afforded throughout this entire sequence. From the very beginning, way back in their defensive third, Bodø encountered little resistance from Roma and had ample time and space to set up Solbakken's goal, with Morten Agnes Konradsen threading a through ball right in front of Kumbulla to find Solbakken bursting down the right flank.
At this point in the match, the CBS production crew decided not to beat a dead horse, sparing us all the heartache of watching replays Bodø's fifth and sixth goals—including the final piece of Botheim's hat-trick—so we'll follow suit and spare you any further trauma.
Considering the hangover from the contentious defeat to Juventus last weekend, the long trip to Norway, the frigid weather, and Roma's looming fixture against Napoli on Sunday, you could almost forgive Roma conceding one, and possibly even two, early goals against Bodø. But what was most impressive from their perspective, and troubling from ours, is how thoroughly dominant Bodø was this evening.
With 53% possession and twice as many attempts on goal, including nine on-target attempts, this was no fluke win for Bodø, they were better in every conceivable way; more organized in defense and quicker and far more efficient in attack. This was quite simply a complete undressing of José Mourinho and AS Roma.
With this defeat, Roma now sits in second place in Group C, one point behind Bodø. The group stage victors go straight to the Round of 16 while the runners up have to face one of the third-place clubs from the Europa League, so Mourinho will likely have added incentive to play his regulars when these clubs meet again on November 4th, and perhaps in the subsequent matches against Zorya and CSKA Sofia.
What happens next is anyone's guess. Will Roma forget about this match and focus all their energy on Napoli this weekend, or will this disaster haunt them in the Derby del Sole?
Roma hosts Napoli in a top-of-the-table clash on Sunday.