Roma's victory over CSKA Sofia in the final group stage match of the inaugural Europa Conference League was, in some ways, reminiscent of a classical three-movement concerto. However, rather than alternating fast-slow-fast sections, Roma started slow, then steadily increased the tempo before finishing their score with a near-devastating decrescendo, nearly giving the match back to Sofia in the waning moments.
Roma were able to avoid disaster last night in Bulgaria, and with a little help from their friends in Zorya, they walked away from the snowy Stadion Vasil Levski as the proud winners of Group C, narrowly edging out their new nemesis, Bodø/Glimt.
So, as we put a pin in the Giallorossi's first-ever taste of the Europa Conference League group stages, let's take a look at all the sinners and saints from yesterday's 3-2 victory.
Might as well start with the obvious one, right? With two shots and two goals, Abraham was practically perfect yesterday and did a phenomenal job exploiting space in the box, particularly on his second goal where he used a stutter step to create space and throw off the keeper's timing. In addition to his two strikes, Abraham completed 73% of his passes, won three of four duels, and drew three fouls in 67 minutes.
More of that please, Tammy.
Not far behind Abraham in the Man of the Match polls, Karsdorp was instrumental for José Mourinho last night. In 90 minutes, the Dutchman assisted on both of Abraham's goals, completed 77% of his passes, chipped in three key passes, cleared three balls, intercepted one pass, and completed two tackles.
Making his first start in a Roma shirt, the 19-year-old Roman turned in 57 impressive minutes against CSKA. In addition to looking as good as anyone possibly can in that shade of yellow, Bove completed 81% of his passes, won six of eight duels, completed one of one crosses, two of two long balls, and set up one shot—a big chance according to SofaScore.
It's a shame Mourinho pulled him from the match before the hour mark, but there is a lot to like about this kid; the early returns have been quite promising.
The Spanish striker's days in Rome are numbered—he's likely gone come January—but he turned in a vintage “Mayoral dominates small European clubs” performance yesterday. In 68 minutes, Mayoral fired four shots on goal (two on target, one goal, two off target, one chance missed) while scoring a beautiful side of the boot/backheel goal in the 34th minute to give Roma a 2-0 lead. Mayoral managed to complete 88% of his passes, win two of three duels, and complete two of three long balls.
As one of a handful of regular starters to play from the jump yesterday, Cristante's name on this list is pretty damning. In 90 minutes, Cristante completed 81% of his passes (four points below his season average), won only two of eight duels, and registered only one clearance, one tackle, and one interception. Setting the stats aside for a moment, Cristante was complicit in Hamza Catakovic's 75th-minute goal, as he failed to close down the space in the box, moving at a snail's pace while the CSKA striker settled the ball—which popped up a good four feet in the air before actually controlled it.
You take the good and you take the bad with Cristante. We just got a little too much of the latter last night and not enough of the former.
Another regular starter, Mancini makes another surprise appearance on our list of sinners. However, as is typically the case when he lands here, the story is more about what he failed to do rather than any glaring transgression. In 90 minutes last night, Mancini was nowhere to be found, clearing only one ball and blocking one shot.
With 1,600 minutes under his belt in all competitions already, performances like these may be fatigue-induced, something Roma can theoretically manage better with the recent return of Chris Smalling.
As much as it pains me to put him here, there's no denying it: Fuzato wasted a chance to impress Mourinho last night. While there wasn't much he could do to stop CSKA's first goal, his reading/approach on their second was laughable; like, literally. He so poorly misjudged that ball, he almost dove right past it. Couple that with his 59% passing, which included a pitiful 22% on long passes, and not even his three saves in the box could take the stink off Fuzato last night.
I still have faith in his ability to become a starter, but he has to take advantage of the meager chances given to him, something he failed to do yesterday.
Stuck In Between
- Jordan Veretout: Some good (two clearances, two tackles, one shot on goal), some bad (19 times losing possession, only 80% pass completion—eight points off his normal clip), and some questionable setpiece attempts. Consistency has not been his friend this season.
- Marash Kumbulla: Completed 90% of his passes, cleared three balls, and intercepted two more, but, I mean, did you even notice him out there? He seems to be gaining confidence lately, though. So no news is good news, right?
- Matías Viña: Was steady with the ball and set up one shot but failed to complete a single cross (0-5) and won only three of nine duels.
- Gonzalo Villar: Three-for-three on dribbles, won six of eight duels, and chipped in two clearances and two tackles in 33 minutes. Pretty good.
- Roger Ibañez: Four clearances, 94% passing, and even one dribble. An effective albeit quiet evening for Ibañez.
- Eldor Shomurodov: Didn’t really play long enough to warrant sinner status, but failed to really impress in any particular area over 22 minutes last night. That near €18 million price tag looms larger and larger with every passing blasé appearance or night wasted on the bench.
- Ebrima Darboe/Nicolo Zaniolo: Only 28 minutes between them.
We'll see you back here after Roma's Monday Night Calcio clash with Spezia, a club Roma has struggled mightily against recently.