It's a tale as old as...well, not time necessarily, so let's say 1927. Yes, Roma has been around for just shy of a century, and whenever they come face to face against a team prone to parking the bus, frustration quickly ensues. With as many as 10 men behind the ball yesterday, Benevento took a page from the well-worn playbook “How to Beat AS Roma for Dummies.” Ceding 71% possession and 11 shots to their visitors, Benevento likely read that book backwards and forward, cover to cover; their passive display of “football” worked to perfection.
So, while we may be frustrated by the result, we have to at least respect the hustle. Benevento knew they couldn't run with Roma on merit, so they strangled the life (and entertainment value) out of Sunday's match...and it worked.
Unfortunately, given the putrid performance on the pitch, our Sinners & Saints player reviews won't be as pleasant as last week's victory over Braga.
Borja, ¿dónde estuviste ayer?
Borja went the full 90 yesterday but you'd be hard-pressed to recall any significant contributions from Roma's young Spanish striker. Mayoral took 21 touches, completed only 63% of his passes, and managed only two off-target shots. We can chalk a small percentage of Mayoral's disappearing act up to Roma's absent attack, but with his side begging for someone to make an impact, Borja failed to deliver.
The stat sheets would have you believe Peres was one of Roma's best players yesterday, and while he turned it on in the second half, he provided next to nothing in the first 45 minutes, looking slow, uninspired, and ineffective as a makeshift left wing-back. There's nothing he can do about that, but Peres still managed three successful dribbles, two tackles and completed 87% of his passes. Not bad, but one gets the feeling we're seeing Peres swan song with Roma.
One tackle, two interceptions, three clearances, and 92% passing. Not too bad for his first league appearance of the season.
Stephan El Shaarawy
El Shaarawy played less than 10 minutes yesterday and didn't really do much to directly affect the outcome of the match, but hear me out. It wasn't how much he played or how many touches he took, but rather how he looked while taking those touches. Whether he was flitting past defenders like a water strider on the surface of a pond or drawing the penalty that wasn't, El Shaarawy reminded us all of his greatest gifts: agility and sheer audacity.
There comes a point in any season where a football club needs someone like El Shaarawy; a player who can produce a moment of magic through an enticing amalgam of pure physical skill and simple self-belief. Those traits didn't move the scoreline yesterday, but it won't be long before they will.
Okay, let's end this on a positive note...
There weren’t many silver linings in yesterday’s scoreless draw, but Mkhitaryan was the lone ray of light in a Roma shirt. Playing 81 minutes, Mkhitaryan managed two shots on goal (one on-target), chipped in three key passes, pulled off one successful dribble, drew three fouls, completed five tackles, and won nine ground duels. He didn’t factor on the scoreboard, but Mkhitaryan did a little bit of everything yesterday and did it well.