You could choose to look at Roma’s starting lineup for this match from a number of perspectives. On the one hand, none of Bryan Cristante, Jordan Veretout, or Gonzalo Villar are really that good at defending nor covering for their backline. On the other hand, the 3-5-1-1 formation makes for a fluid Cristante and Mkhitaryan moving between all three lines. That could be a deliberate ploy to create space behind Juve’s young wide men Chiesa and Mckennie in a bid to pin back Juventus and keep Roma on top of the possession.
As it turned out by the final whistle, both were true.
Roma immediately attacked the game through a Leonardo Spinazzola cross, which was met on the far side with a tame, looping header that nestled into Szczesny’s outstretched hands. No sooner was that move finished than Juventus went up the other end and won a dead-ball situation at the byline, but my stream decided to cut out for several minutes by then. It came back up just in time for me to see Giorgio Chiellini throw himself to the ground inside of Roma’s box, but evidently, everyone decided to ignore him as Roma had a corner at Juventus’ end in the 8th minute.
That led to Cristante playing several cross-field balls across the face of Juventus’ box to Rick Karsdorp, but Roma couldn’t string the final pass together inside of Juve’s box to get any meaningful chance on goal. A few minutes of play went by before the most likely man to score on the night already got on the scoresheet for Juventus in the 13th minute.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 13th Minute (Juventus 1, Roma 0)
Bryan Cristante found himself closing the gap behind Rick Karsdorp on Roma’s right flank, but his half-hearted shoulder-to-shoulder with Alex Sandro meant Sandro turned Cristante and earned way too much space to slip the ball into the box for Morata. Three Roma defenders tried to shut off Morata’s options, but the Spanish striker was aware enough to pass the ball back on the edge of the box to a completely free Cristiano Ronaldo. The 36-year-old phenom made no mistake, using his left foot to slot the ball right into the far corner and give Juventus the 1-0 lead.
Roma tried to get up the other end immediately, with Gonzalo Villar finding the ball at his feet inside Juve’s box. But Villar falling to the ground under the slightest pressure from Adrien Rabiot was unconvincing, to say the least, and the moment was lost. That being said, Juventus began to sit back on their lead and Roma were excellent at finding space in between Juve’s lines, but still missing that final pass to really give Szczesny any work to do.
Bryan Cristante tried to change that fact, moments later, with a first-time volley on the edge of Juve’s box from a loose ball, but the chance curled wide. In the meantime, Juventus simply showed Roma how goal-chances are done. Alex Sandro held the ball up on the flank, before feeding Morata down the half-space once again. The same Juve trio that linked up for Juve’s opener did so here, as Morata dinked a cross-field pass to Ronaldo inside Roma’s box, and the subsequent CR7 shot blasted onto Pau Lopez’s crossbar with the aid of a sliding Max Kumbulla deflecting the shot. Disaster averted for now.
In the 26th minute, Roma won a corner that Veretout curled near the six-yard area. Unfortunately, Gianluca Mancini clattered his leg into the back of Juventus player before he could connect with the pass, so the chance came to nothing. On the half-hour, once again Leonardo Spinazzola held onto the ball for too long. Once again Roma won a corner from the action, once again Veretout sent it into the box, and once again Juventus were first to clear the ball.
The RAI commentator reminded us that Juventus have won their last five games in all competitions, scoring 11 and conceding just one goal in the process. That pattern didn’t look like getting reversed tonight so far. Coming to the 35th minute, Roma were playing the ball across the face of Juventus’ box but lost possession. Roma’s defenders were second-best to every ball in Juve’s counter, forcing Gianluca Mancini to take out Adrien Rabiot on the break and the referee into booking Mancini. But the move came to nothing, and Roma won the ball back to feed it to Spinazzola again.
Again Spinazzola held onto the ball like he had all the time in the world. Again Roma won a corner from Spinazzola getting closed down. Again the Veretout corner came to nothing. I might need a hotkey that types out those last three sentences for me on automatic if Roma were planning for this to be their only route to Juve’s goal all night.
In the 41st minute, Juventus caught Roma by surprise after a false restart from a dead-ball situation let the Bianconeri float the ball over the top to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese legend brought out a decent save from Pau Lopez to keep the score at 1-0, while Roma immediately surrounded referee Daniele Orsato to demand why Orsato was up to regular Orsato things.
At the very end of the half, Villar picked up the ball deep in Juve’s half while giving an opponent the turn. No foul was given, leaving Villar free to cross the ball in a move that was cut out for a Roma corner. One of Juventus’ coaching staff took issue with Orsato for ignoring a Juve player going to ground in the middle of that move, and Orsato promptly sent the guy off.
That left Roma with another corner right before half-time. Would the Veretout corner come to anything? You bet your house it went straight into Szczesny’s hands to end the half.
Paulo Fonseca’s men were 1-0 down on the night, and needed some other attacking ideas in the second half, besides being over-reliant on a slow and pondering Leonardo Spinazzola down that left flank. To be fair to Spinazzola, however, on the few times Roma tried to attack down the right side, Borja Mayoral was found wanting for the right touch and control of the ball needed to threaten Juventus in those tight spaces.
A couple of minutes went by before Jordan Veretout (or maybe Henrikh Mkhitaryan?) did a spin and falling pass on the ball that was brilliant, sending two Roma players into space on the right flank. Finally, Rick Karsdorp was allowed to run onto Juve’s backline but was closed down at the very last moment inside the box before he could deliver it across the face of goal. Roma won back-to-back corners from that action but, yet again, no Roma player was close to winning the first ball and Juventus cleared it.
A few minutes went by before Edin Dzeko got up off the bench to start warming up on the sideline. Could club legend and deposed-captain Dzeko come on to save Paulo Fonseca in spite of him, like Francesco Totti did in spite of Luciano Spalletti five years ago? The question could turn out to be immaterial if Roma’s centre-backs keep getting booked, like Max Kumbulla chose to when he hauled down Morata by the shirt to stop a Juventus break through the middle.
Gianluca Mancini began to freshen up Roma’s attack ideas by playing direct, vertical passes from the backline in a bid to find Borja Mayoral early up front. Most of those passes failed to connect, but at least Mancini was bringing something new to the table. Almost as if Leonardo Spinazzola heard me typing those last sentences out loud, the Italian left wingback decided to pick the ball up on the opposite flank, dribble inside and try a speculative effort into the far corner of Szczesny’s goal all by himself. It sailed over.
But in the very next sequence of play, Mkhitaryan beat a Juventus player and rank up the right side of the pitch before slotting the ball perfectly to Villar’s feet on the left side of Juve’s box. Villar was free to shoot, but dallied on the ball a tenth of a second too long and saw his shot blocked. Mayoral tried to get on the rebound but was judged offside. But the chemistry of the match was changing; Juventus were looking tired now, the match was getting stretched and space was much easier for Roma to find through all three lanes.
That led to Mayoral feeding Mkhitaryan into space in a very similar move to the one that found Villar in the same position moments earlier, and two consecutive efforts on goal from Miki at least brought out saves from the Juve goalkeeper. Mancini also outmuscled Ronaldo on the ball and it looked like Juventus badly needed fresh legs, but it would be Roma coach Paulo Fonseca to make the triple sub just past the hour mark.
On came Amadou Diawara, Edin Dzeko, and Carles Perez to replace Gonzalo Villar, Borja Mayoral, and Bryan Cristante respectively. Pirlo responded with a couple of subs of his own, bringing on Kulusevski for McKennie and Cuadrado for Morata. All the while, Bryan Cristante handed the Roma captain’s armband to Gianluca Mancini. Not a bad choice for captain, that one. Not a bad choice, at all.
Minutes later, Fonseca’s subs began to show their threat as Roma played an early ball in the air to Dzeko, who knocked it down for Carles Perez to flash a shot on target that forced Szczesny into a low, diving smother of the ball. Juventus still looked flat and way too content with playing for the 1-0 win at this point. But their conviction (if that’s the right word) was rewarded moments later, when a through-ball met Dejan Kulusevki’s run beyond Roma’s backline to put him free on goal.
Roger Ibañez: 69th Minute O.G. (Juventus 2, Roma 0)
Cuadrado a Kulusevski y.... Autogol de Roger Ibañez pone el 2-0, Juventus afianzándose en la tercera posición de la Serie A. pic.twitter.com/tSIiSyCjB4— Noticias Juve FC ☆☆☆ (@NoticiasJuvefc) February 6, 2021
Kulusevski used the acres of space to pull the ball back across the face of Roma’s six-yard area, and Roger Ibanez tried to cut out the ball but merely ended up sliding the ball into his own goal to put Juventus 2-0 up on the night. This was looking like a customary loss away to Juventus by now; one where Roma had the majority of everything except the most meaningful statistics, like chances on goal and goals scored.
Moments later, Edin Dzeko ran out wide to the left flank to create space for Roma’s midfielders to work the ball in on goal through the middle. Miki tried a blocked shot that rebounded to the feet of Veretout, but the Frenchman’s resulting shot on goal went well over. Roma made another substitution by bringing on Bruno Peres for Rick Karsdorp. Peres immediately got in on the action by winning a ball back for Roma, who saw more and more of the ball but still lacked that real threat on Juve’s goal to make the hosts worry about anything.
With ten minutes left in the game, Juventus had registered over three times as many chances on Roma’s goal than the Giallorossi had done at the other end (though only two of Juve’s efforts were actually on target). To try and move the needle of that front, Bruno Peres curled in a lovely cross from well-out wide that just evaded the outstretched foot of Edin Dzeko on the far side. Leonardo Spinazzola then flashed an effort across the face of goal from the resulting play.
Juventus made another substitution, bringing on one barcode for another barcode. I’m pretty sure it was Federico Bernardeschi coming on for Federico Chiesa, but Juventus players all move in the same robotic manner, anyway. Leonardo Bonucci tried to put an end to my robot conspiracy by clutching his leg and calling for a substitution to prove there is humanity in that side, so Juventus scanned another barcode onto the pitch in the form of Matthijs De Ligt. Just your standard €75 million substitutions with five minutes of normal time to go, then.
Roma kept working the ball into Juventus’ final third, but I’d be lying if I said the Giallorossi look convinced about their decisions made on the edge of Juve’s box at any point in this match. Leonardo Spinazzola used a moment to cut in on his right and send a low shot at Szczesny, but it was an easy save.
There was one heartening moment left in this game, where Ibanez both dominated and dispossessed Cristiano Ronaldo late in the game. But that didn’t change the scoreline on the evening. The rest of injury time went largely without incident before Daniele Orsato blew the final whistle on a Juventus win that sees the Bianconeri leapfrog Roma in the Serie A table with their sixth consecutive win in all competitions.
This first week of February could be the moment Roma begin to stare at Juventus’ heels in the league standings from here on in if Juve don’t race ahead and disappear from sight completely. Unfortunately, this game had all the signs of what we’re used to seeing happen at the Allianz Arena by now.
The away side saw more of the ball and expended a ton of nervous energy in their build-up play towards the final third, while the home side expended comparatively little energy on the break. That same home side used that conservative energy to create what the away side could not: Clear, open chances on goal and finishing those chances with 100% accuracy. And that’s a textbook loss away to Juventus, in a nutshell.
Roma host Udinese on Sunday the 14th.
What one thing would you buy for Roma to actually win games like this one?
This poll is closed
Better decisions in the final third
The strength to win the first ball at corners