We previewed this match on our podcast by debating whether Roma should try to out-Braga their opponents and play the possession game, or whether Roma should focus on their usual style of play to get an early goal and kill this tie. Fonseca’s man instead killed the debate by doing both against Braga this evening.
The first half was made entirely of Roma passing the ball around their opponents, passing it into space wherever the opportunity presented itself, even if it meant passing it backward. Braga grew visibly dispirited as the half went on, and the opening goal scored by Edin Dzeko—after a lovely curler from Stephan El Shaarawy hit the post before Dzeko dispatched the rebound—did a lot to kill Braga’s spirit on that front. By half-time, the tie was already dead, and all that was left was for Roma to stay focused.
A slew of substitutions made up the second-half affairs, but no substitute was more impressive than the resurgent Carles Pérez. Pérez defended and attacked in equal measure, while dancing around opponents with his close-control, winning a penalty for Roma, scoring a goal himself, AND coming up with a secondary assist for Borja Mayoral’s goal (and Roma’s third on the night) in stoppage time. All we can ask is: Is Roma’s squad really this good or was it just down to Braga giving up the game?
A noticeable flaw in Roma’s football, all season long regardless of personnel, is the Giallorossi’s inability to really move up and down the pitch as a team. The Diawara-Villar combination in midfield didn’t do much to solve this problem, as the Roma midfield and defense often collapsed upon themselves. There was also room for a Bryan Cristante own-goal and a Lorenzo Pellegrini penalty-miss to be forgotten, all thrown into the final 3-1 scoreline on the night.
Roma now advances to the Europa League round of 16, where the draw will be held tomorrow in view of the first leg on March 11th.