Paulo Fonseca and the rest of Roma's players said all the right things heading into the second leg of their Europa League Round of 16 matchup against Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk. Sure, Roma had a three-goal advantage in the bag and could've practically moonwalked into the quarterfinals, but in their pre-match pressers, Roma's reps were adamant that they were playing to win. There would be no sitting back and no waiting for 90 minutes to tick away; Roma were treating this just like any other match.
But then the game began and Roma took the opposite approach. At various points in yesterday's match, Roma bequeathed nearly 80% possession to Shakhtar. Content to play the waiting game, Roma's seemingly lax defense actually did a remarkable job limiting Shakhtar's actual chances. Yeah, they dominated the ball and passed as they pleased, but with only eight shots in the entire match, most of which were from beyond the area, Shakhtar struggled to take advantage of Roma's passive approach.
And as luck would have it, the Giallorossi still put two goals past Shakhtar to win the match and push the aggregate score to a lopsided 5-1. Roma were rewarded for their efforts with a quarterfinal matchup against Ajax.
However, before we worry about that, let's pass out some halos.
Talk about a kid who needed this performance. After a rough stretch through late February and early March, Mayoral bounced back in dramatic fashion yesterday. With four shots (three on target) and two goals, Borja was Roma's biggest threat yesterday in Kyiv. In addition to his brace, Mayoral completed two successful dribbles and completed two of three long-ball passes.
With those two goals, Mayoral is now the leading scorer in this year's Europa League; a performance he'll need to continue if Roma can advance to the semis.
Mayoral's compatriot busted out of his own slump yesterday. In 90 minutes, Pérez had three shots (one on target), one assist, five dribbles, two interceptions, one tackle and was a perfect two-for-two on long-ball attempts.
Stuck In Between
Pedro: One shot, one key pass, two dribbles, three shot-creating-actions, and one goal-creating-action. A decent run from a player who has been all over the map in 2021.
Gonzalo Villar: 92% passing, one key pass, four passes into the final third, three dribbles, and 7-8 on long-ball passes. A quiet and steady performance from Villar.
Bryan Cristante: Two key passes, three shot-creating-actions, two tackles, three clearances, and 5-13 on long-ball passes. Another solid performance from Cristante in defense.
That's it for this edition of S&S, we'll see you on Sunday after Napoli!