Yesterday's 1-0 win over Genoa wasn't the most entertaining affair we've ever seen, but it did let Roma put on their Juventus pants for one afternoon. After all, how many times have we seen Roma trail a bigger and better opponent (like Juventus) by one goal early, only to be held at arm's length for the rest of the match, even though the bigger and better club was playing like garbage?
Too many times to recall, but that feeling of frustration is so incredibly infuriating it never really leaves you. Why can't we beat these guys, they're playing like shit! Oh come on, you gotta be getting me! How did that not go in!?
We've all experienced this version of football fan hell, but for once Roma was finally on the other end of the equation, denying Genoa at every turn even though the Giallorossi weren't exactly operating at peak efficiency.
This is no way to live every weekend, but it was nice to see Roma tease an opponent with their mediocrity and still come out on top.
But, don't let that notion dissuade you, there were some solid performances from the men in red yesterday.
There is still an awful lot to like about this kid, but there's no denying that he's hit a bit of a rough patch as winter slowly fades away. For the third consecutive match, Roma's 23-year-old striker pulled a disappearing act. In 86 minutes yesterday, Mayoral managed two shots (both blocked) and chipped in one key pass, but apart from that, there wasn't much to write home about. He completed only 63% of his passes and lost possession nine times despite taking only 25 touches.
It's not that Mayoral was bad per se, but we gave him a pass last week, and, well, he turned in pretty much an identical performance. He's certainly capable of a lot more and has proven that he can score in bunches, so let's hope for a turnaround—Roma can't survive without a genuine threat up top.
I'm going to give my keyboard a rest and let Squawka do the talking for me:
Lorenzo Pellegrini’s game by numbers vs. Genoa:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 7, 2021
7 ball recoveries
6 duels won
5 chances created
3 fouls won
He has now been directly involved in 10 Serie A goals this season. pic.twitter.com/E7ILGapWLj
He did all that and yet people still complain that he tried to go underneath the wall on a free-kick—remarkable. Pellegrini is quietly living up to the enormous promise he started showing back in his Sassuolo days.
Hey, if it worked for Pellegrini, why not Smalling?
Bossing performance from Chris #Smalling in RomaGenoa— AS Roma Data (@ASRomaData) March 7, 2021
90 minutes played
95% pass accuracy (54/57)
2 shots off target
5 long balls (62.5%)
3 aerial duels won (100%)
1 foul won
As dull as yesterday's match was at certain points, the return of Smalldini was all the good news Roma fans needed. This was the same Smalling we saw last season, the one Roma bent over backward to sign permanently from Manchester United: quick and precise; no mucking about, just get the job done and lead by example.
Between Smalling's return and Bryan Cristante's transformation into a 21st-century libero—not to mention the continued growth of Roger Ibañez and Marash Kumbulla—Roma's defense is going to be quite formidable for the foreseeable future.
No Twitter embeds this time. Mancini continued his maturation into a club leader yesterday, scoring the game's only goal with a 24th-minute header off Pellegrini's corner kick, and a textbook one at that; Mancini attacked the ball, rose above the defenders, and headed it home with aplomb. All told, Mancini had three attempts on goal, one key pass, and completed 97% of his 77 pass attempts—oddly enough, his attacking numbers were better than his defensive performance. Go figure.
Part Leonardo Bonucci, part Franz Beckenbauer (okay, not really), Cristante was the picture of poise for Roma's defense yesterday. Cristante took a match-high 94 touches against Genoa, completed 92% of his passes, including 67% of his long-ball passes, while also doing a bit of sweeping up at the back: three interceptions, three tackles, and five ground duels won.
We still don't know if this new role will remain a permanent adjustment once Roma’s defense is 100% healthy, but after bearing the brunt of criticism from Monchi's misfires, it's just nice to see Cristante playing well. And I'd dare say he's gone from being spare parts to an essential piece of the puzzle.
We're staring down the barrel of another multi-match week, so check back with us on Thursday after Roma's Europa League match with Shakhtar Donetsk.