You can recognize the sense of foreboding that now follows Fonseca’s Roma in crunch Serie A games. There’s the passive start to the game, there’s the repeat giveaways of the ball to the opponent, and there’s the diminutive frontman from Napoli scoring the opening goal from a direct freekick.
Lorenzo Insigne did it to Roma in the reverse league fixture this season, and now it was Dries Mertens’ turn. Mertens’ opener was no less than Napoli deserved, as the Partenopei were all over a timid, passive Roma from kick-off until virtually half-time. Despite this, there were some flash moments from Roma at the other end of the pitch, but they were all undone by poor decisions from experienced players.
Pedro has spent this season playing for Roma like you would have forgiven Tommaso Milanese for doing instead: over-eager to hog the ball, making nonsense runs to overplay it in dangerous areas of the pitch, and getting robbed of possession for all Pedro’s effort. Meanwhile, Edin Dzeko turned up in the kind of mood to take speculative, long-range shots on goal rather than pass it to his wide-open teammates. So there’s that.
Napoli compounded Roma’s miserable performance by grabbing a second goal before half-time, with former Roma academy player Matteo Politano reminding his hometown club what teamwork looks like by setting up Dries Mertens with a wide-open goal at the far post. Mertens didn’t hesitate to bury the chance, just as Roma would shake off their hesitation to actually play and get up in Napoli’s half in the second 45 of this match.
By then it was all immaterial, however. The more entertaining aspect of this game was figuring out what Gianluca Mancini has done to be on the wrong end of the ESPN lead commentator’s bias. Meanwhile, the match result leaves Roma sixth in the league table and five points adrift of the top four. It also has Paulo Fonseca drunkenly leaving the bar with the Europa League on his arm tonight, asking if it’s ok to call it the Champions League instead.