In their last two trips to the Renato Dall’Ara, Roma was nearly flawless, crushing Bologna by a combined 7-2 scoreline, with everyone from Aleksandar Kolarov to Jordan Veretout joining the fray. Shoot, with a Bryan Cristante own goal last December and a Nicole Sansone penalty in the fall of 2019, Bologna hadn’t managed a goal in the run of play against Roma since September 2018. So, when taken with Roma's three-match winning streak, there was ample cause for optimism yesterday.
And once the match began, Roma wasn't exactly playing well but that faith wasn't entirely misguided, as both clubs struggled to find a groove yesterday in Bologna. However, as is so often the case, with missed chances piling up and the defense gradually coming loose, it was only a matter of time before the supposedly inferior squad drew first blood, which is precisely what happened thanks to Mattias Svanberg's splendid 35th-minute strike.
Roma and the referees didn't exactly see eye-to-eye, but in the end, the Giallorossi were done in by equal parts poor finishing and Bologna keeper Lukasz Skorupski simply having the game of his life, another Roma Happened mainstay.
But it wasn't all bad for the men in yellow last night.
It's been a happy return to the pitch for Roma's 32-year-old defender, who made his second consecutive start (and fourth appearance in the past 10 days alone) last night in Bologna. And what a night it was. Smalling was back to his usual pre-injury self yesterday, playing with the intuition, intelligence, and poise we've come to expect since his arrival in 2019.
Going the full 90, Smalling took 73 touches and completed 93% of his passes while winning three tackles, picking off two passes, clearing four balls, and blocking one shot. Smalling also won six of seven duels, including all three ground-based contests.
Not too shabby. When the going gets rough, which we hope it isn't, you need level-headed veterans like Smalling to calm the club's collective nerves.
Karsdorp had a rather ugly ending to his evening, getting booked in stoppage time while tussling with Roberto Soriano, but apart from that, the tattooed Dutchman took Lorenzo Pellegrini's mantle as Roma’s chief creator. In a full shift last night, Karsdorp completed 83% of his passes, provided two key passes, pumped 16 balls into the final third, completed two of four crosses and three of five long balls. The 26-year-old right-back was equally active in defense, clearing four balls, intercepting two passes, completing two tackles, and winning two of five duels.
If Tammy Abraham was able to convert his first-half header, which Karsdorp put on a platter, he could have been the star of the show, but even without that, he was one of the few bright spots for Roma.
Stephan El Shaarawy
El Shaarawy was an unfortunate victim of Roma's injury bug, leaving the match after only 51 minutes, but still managed to make a mark in limited action. With two key passes, two successful dribbles (out of three attempts), and one shot on goal, SES made the most of his limited time on the pitch. We can't say for certain if the outcome would have changed had El Shaarawy played the entire match, but Roma was worse off without him.
We see these types of performances from Veretout periodically. He wasn't atrocious per se but struggled to find a steady rhythm last night. In 63 minutes, Veretout completed only 76% of his passes and contributed little more than three tackles while being dribbled past twice, and his decision to chase a runner up the pitch created the void into which Mattias Svenberg stepped up to unleash his match-winner.
While it's been nice to see Diawara on the pitch again, it's tough to shake the feeling that we're witnessing his Roma swan song. He may have started the match, but he was unceremoniously yanked at halftime, leaving him with a rather subdued stat line: two tackles and two duels won, though he did complete 95% of his passes, which has always been a strength of his.
José Mourinho was quick to come to his defense with respect to last night's officiating, but Zaniolo needed more than a pat on the shoulder after his performance last night. Much like Veretout, his transgressions were more about a failure to make an impact than genuinely ruining the product on the pitch. In 90 minutes, Zaniolo fired three shots on goal but only put one on target while failing to create any scoring chances and losing possession 12 times in 36 touches.
Normally, we might say he could use a night off to clear his head, but with all the injuries and suspensions clouding Roma's immediate future, they don't really have that luxury.
Stuck In Between
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan: He was certainly aggressive (four shots, two on target) but the steak didn't match the sizzle, as he failed to register any key passes or attempt any dribbles, while three of his four shots came from beyond 20 yards.
- Gianluca Mancini: Pretty quiet night for Roma's vice-captain, but Mancini still managed three clearances, one blocked shot, and one interception
- Tammy Abraham: If he buries that header, he's the talk of the town. Despite that miss, he still put 50% of his shots on target, created one key pass, and pulled off one dribble while completing almost 90% of his passes.
- Roger Ibañez: Much like Mancini, Ibañez had a solid albeit quiet night. Ibañez had two clearances, two interceptions, and one tackle while completing 89% of his passes with a game-high 109 touches.
- Eldor Shomurodov: In 49 minutes, he had one key pass and one incredibly well-read interception to break up a Bologna scoring chance. You can see it in the way he moves and the look on his face when he comes on, he so badly wants to be a star for Roma. And they certainly need him to be.
- Carles Pérez: Coming in after the half-time break, Pérez had one dribble and two tackles while completing 83% of his passes.
- Rui Patricio: Wasn't really called on much and few keepers on earth could have saved Svanberg's shot.
- Bryan Cristante: One key pass, one tackle, and two clearances in little more than 20 minutes. Solid return.
- Matías Viña: One interception, one clearance and one almost-perfect long ball to Zaniolo late in the second half.
We'll see you back here on Saturday. Cross your fingers for an upset.