Lost in all the hype surrounding the matches against Juve, Napoli, and Milan—three of the premier sides in Serie A—Roma absolutely needed to claim all three points against Cagliari, who were bottom of the league going into the match.
With Mourinho suspended due to a red card picked up in the Napoli match, Joao Sacramento, Mourinho’s right-hand man, was on the touchline for this one. A scoreless first half had the air of yet another 0-0 draw, but two second-half goals were enough to see Roma come from behind and claim a vital three points.
Although Roma started out with the same starting eleven as the match against Napoli, there were no signs of fatigue to start, with the Giallorossi taking control from the outset and looking to draw first blood right away. The nature of tonight's game was clear from the outset, with Cagliari content to sit back and cede possession to Roma while looking to hit on the counter.
To Cagliari’s credit, their strategy nearly bore fruit, having the best chance of the opening 25 minutes or so, when Raoul Bellanova unleashed a shot that rattled the crossbar and back into play, where it was subsequently cleared. Unlucky for Bellanova on that one, but conceding here would’ve been cruel to Roma, who had been looking dominant the entirety of the match up to that point.
Roma, on the other hand, for all their possession, could not find the final pass in order to break the deadlock, with their opening 30 minutes of play defined by playing through Zaniolo, who displayed the same level of intent and threat that he has shown the last few matches. I’ll be honest, I love the idea of playing through Zaniolo as much as possible, but given that he’s not far removed from his two ACL injuries, I am beginning to worry about his usage, considering the scare against Juve and especially if he goes on to start against Milan as well.
Roma’s best chance of the half came at the 35th minute when Viña whipped a ball into the box that nearly found the back of the net, following Cragno parrying the cross into Abraham, with the rebound narrowly going wide.
The final five minutes or so of the half saw Cagliari begin to come out of their shell and force the issue a bit more, making for a nervy final few minutes, but Cagliari never looked likely to score. A brief Mkhitaryan injury scare and an audacious shot from distance by Zaniolo aside, the rest of the first half concluded without much fanfare, with both sides seemingly content to enter the break level.
For as much as Roma dominated possession with 61% of the ball and nearly double the number of total passes as Cagliari, while also outshooting Cagliari 7 to 1, neither side registered a shot on target in the first half, illustrating that there was still plenty of work to be done for the Giallorossi.
With what initially looked like a minor knock given that he returned to the field to close out the first half, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was replaced with El Shaarawy to start the second, so it remains to be seen whether the substation was done out of necessity or precaution.
The second half started out similarly to how the first ended, with both sides trying to create opportunities to break the deadlock. Roma looked to create via their dominance in possession, while Cagliari continued to look dangerous on the counter, Leonardo Pavoletti in particular. And it wasn’t long before the Cagliari man eventually punished Roma.
Leonardo Pavoletti: 52st minute (Cagliari 1, Roma 0)
CAGLIARI TAKE THE LEAD OVER ROMA pic.twitter.com/n4AR6iQz4e— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 27, 2021
Roma finally were made to pay for their inability to break the deadlock, when a cross into the box was narrowly missed by Viña and found itself bouncing off Bellanova and right to the feet of Pavoletti, who was able to get just enough on the ball to get it past Patricio.
Not much Vina or Patricio could’ve done on this one, you’d expect better from Ibanez and Mancini in closing out Pavoletti, especially given that he had been threatening throughout the match.
As usual with this team, conceding seemed to give the Giallorossi a little bit of a spark, instantly looking more alive on offense and pushing to get the equalizer. However, the Giallorossi forcing the issue in order to equalize began to leave them vulnerable at the back, narrowly resulting in conceding a second goal, by virtue of Pavoletti scuffing his shot.
As the second half wore on it felt increasingly likely that Roma would equalize, with Zaniolo narrowly scoring from a header, Pellegrini hitting the crossbar following a wonderful ball in from Karsdorp, and Mancini nearly scoring from a corner kick.
You’d be forgiven at this point for wondering if Roma would ever score, however, a wonderful save from Patricio on a diving Pavoletti header was quickly followed up by Zaniolo winning a corner, resulting in a moment that would allow all of us to finally exhale...
Roger Ibañez: 71st minute (Cagliari 1, Roma 1)
IBANEZ HEADS IT HOME TO PULL ROMA LEVEL pic.twitter.com/aZmzxkOG1T— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 27, 2021
Roma were finally rewarded for their dominance in possession with a well-deserved equalizer, with Ibanez rising highest to meet Pelligrini’s cross and head the ball onto the post and into the back of the net.
The equalizer fully shifted the momentum back over to Roma, who immediately began to push for a second goal, and it wasn’t long before the Giallorossi took the lead in the match.
Lorenzo Pellegrini: 78th minute (Cagliari 1, Roma 2)
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC. LORENZO PELLEGIRINI. WHAT A FREE-KICK pic.twitter.com/SKIAil0Eii— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 27, 2021
Il Capitano!!! What an absolute gorgeous free-kick from Pellegrini, who hit it into the top corner and gave Cragno no chance to save it. Roma’s captain comes through for them once again, and as the former president of the anti-Pelligrini society, it’s been great to see the improvement in his free-kick ability, something that used to frustrate me to no end in seasons past.
The pace of the match slowed considerably following Pellegrini’s goal, with both fatigue and a desire to simply see the game out resulting in a much more cautious Roma, and Cagliari unable to do much whenever they saw the ball.
The six minutes of injury time were dominated by Cagliari, who were desperate to equalize, but Roma saw enough of the ball to see the game out without much fanfare, other than a late Pavoletti penalty shout, and claim a well-deserved three points.
I think we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief after this one. Personally, even after going a goal down, I wasn’t particularly worried about the outcome of this match, Roma had shown enough up until the first goal that I had no doubt they would have their opportunities to equalize and subsequently take the lead. The defending on Pavoletti’s goal was poor, and Cagliari had their fair share of chances to further punish Roma, but you take the three points here and shift your focus to the Milan match. If Roma is going to continue to struggle to beat the top sides in Serie A, despite an improvement in their performances, they absolutely have to beat teams like Cagliari, so at the end of the day, the three points is all that matters.
Aside from the goals and the win, Afena-Gyan’s Serie A debut was another wonderful moment. The youngster looked lively from the moment he got on the pitch and had a couple close opportunities to score that would’ve been a lovely way to mark his debut, you hope he can build off this start and get a few more appearances under his belt in the weeks to come.
Roma host Milan in a Halloween clash at the Olimpico.
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