Given the state of Roma's defense, not to mention the fact that this was their sixth match in February, I'm not sure many Giallorossi fans were brimming with confidence heading into yesterday's match. But with Milan suffering their own February fatigue, Roma didn't necessarily seem destined for defeat. After all, Roma did put three goals past Milan at the San Siro during their draw in late October, so the two Italian giants seemed on level pegging despite Milan being higher on the table.
But our confidence was quickly shattered as Milan had Roma on the run almost from the word go. With a flurry of chances and a couple of disallowed goals early in the match, Milan's objective was clear: put Roma away early and often.
Despite being under Milan's thumb early in this match, Roma clawed back time and time again and put up a good fight until the bitter end when Pedro and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had last gasp attempts turned away deep into stoppage time.
It was a wild one, so let's separate the wheat from the chaff, the marshmallows from the rest of the Lucky Charms, and the sinners from the saints.
After turning in a decent performance against Benevento last weekend, which was incredibly his first Serie A start of the season, Captain Caveman had a horror show last night. Fazio did some nice things against Milan—winning a few aerials, completing nearly 90% of his passes, and somehow completing a dribble—but the rest of his evening was either inert or completely volatile, typified, of course, by his penalty on Davide Calabria.
Was it a fair call? You be the judge:
By even attempting a challenge at the edge of the box, Fazio was walking a razor's edge here. But whether you agree with the call or not, he should have had better positional awareness to know where he was, to not even tempt fate. Besides which, even without attempting a tackle, Fazio was likely still in position to stop the play, or at the very least alter it enough to where it wouldn't have produced a genuine chance on goal.
I'll always be a Fazio fan, but his days with Roma are likely numbered.
Despite completing 95% of his passes and chipping in one key pass, Villar was practically M.I.A. against Milan. Stats aside, Villar just didn't pass the eye test yesterday, providing little more than idle passing in midfield and offering no creative energy going forward.
There have been many...many...matches in which we've marveled at Villar's rapid ascension but today was a reminder that he is very much a raw and inexperienced player prone to fluctuations like these.
With his side begging for an impactful performance from its striker, Mayoral came up woefully short for the second-straight match. In 79 minutes, Mayoral took 34 touches and managed only one shot, which was blocked.
While words are great, Mayoral's evening is perhaps best captured by this image:
If Mayoral wants to be Roma's striker of the future, he needs to do better against Roma's toughest opponents—disappearing acts like this won't cut the mustard.
Now, don't go accusing me of bias here (besides, just wait a few dozen words) but as great as Lopez was yesterday, he still sprinkled in moments like this: brief blips of imprecision and inattention that nearly cost Roma dearly. This wasn't even the worst possession-based error we've ever seen from Lopez, but it drives home an essential point: no matter how many saves he makes, you never feel completely safe in his hands.
Wait...what!? No, your eyes don't deceive you. For the first time ever, we have a dual sinner/saint! Truly a landmark moment here at CdT.
While I was tempted to put Pau in the Stuck In Between category (that's what it's for after all), the difference between the good and bad yesterday was too stark to ignore. Lopez's errant clearance did lead to Ante Rebic's sensational goal, but it didn't directly lead to it; Milan still had a bit of work to do. And besides, Roma's defense didn't do Lopez any favors.
And just imagine where Roma would have been without Lopez's eight saves, five of which were in the box and none of which were as outstanding as this:
I'm not sure what the future holds for Pau Lopez at Roma but even I, one of his most vocal critics, can admit that he's been much better in 2021. Milan absolutely peppered Roma's backline yesterday and Lopez was up to the task more than he wasn't.
One can't help but wonder if this match would have been any different if Fonseca didn't pull Veretout from the match in the 78th minute, but the Frenchman put in another outstanding shift yesterday. In those 78 minutes, Veretout took two shots (both on-target), scored Roma's only goal (his 10th of the year) with a beautiful side-footed shot past Gianluigi Donnarumma, all while covering more ground than a FedEx driver.
Ol’ Spinny just barely made the saints list but Roma's left wing-back extraordinaire did just enough to remain in our good graces. In 90 minutes, Spinazzola put his only shot on target, chipped in one key pass, completed four dribbles, and hit on an impressive five of seven long-ball passes.
Yesterday was a pretty dispiriting loss for many Roma fans, but if you looked closely enough, there was some good. With two eminently winnable matches this week (Fiorentina on the road and Genoa at home) hopefully we'll have more halos in our future.