Today's Matchday 38 fixture against Spezia had a definitive air of finality to it. Not only was this the final match of the 2020-2021 Serie A season, but it was also Paulo Fonseca's last game in charge of Roma, not to mention Serie A's final broadcast on ESPN. And with nothing to play for other than a spot in the UEFA Conference League, this match almost felt like the last day of high school: nothing really matters, your motivation disappeared weeks ago and you're just anxious to move on with your life but you can't completely phone it in or tell your teacher to take a long walk off a short pier because you still need that diploma.
Throw in Roma's gaggle of injured players, the ones playing their final match with the club, and the few who are keeping an eye next month's Euros, and the Giallorossi were pretty much on auto-pilot from the word go. And it wouldn't take long for that apathy to bite Roma in the ass. After a brief feeling-out period, Spezia quickly made Roma suffer for their lack of energy and interest.
Ebrima Darboe has been a revelation of Roma's past two matches, showing a level of poise and composure that belies his 19 years, but today was a lesson in patience for the young midfielder. In a span of roughly 90 seconds, Darboe committed two turnovers, both of which produced Spezia attempts on goal. While Darboe was able to recover from his first gaffe, racing back to actually erase M'Bala Nzola's attempt, he had no such luck the second time around, gifting Daniele Verde a sixth-minute goal—one Fuzato had no chance of stopping.
And, as one might expect given everything you just read, Roma didn't exactly respond well to that turn of events—and neither did we...
These next 85 minutes are going to be agonizing— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) May 23, 2021
Oi...just blow the final whistle now, please.— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) May 23, 2021
I wish there were more positive news to report from the first half of this match, but it's been a long time since we've seen a Roma side so desperate to throw in the towel and head home. Daniel Fuzato did well to deny Spezia multiple times, but Roma's defense pulled another disappearing act late in the first half, giving Tommaso Pobega a free pass to score off a Daniele Verder corner.
Through the first 45 minutes, Spezia absolutely dominated Roma in nearly every facet. Things were looking bleak for Paulo Fonseca in his farewell match.
As the kids say, I'll keep it 100 with you. This first half was so incredibly dispiriting that it felt like a fitting end to an incredibly long and trying year, both on and off the pitch for the club, me, and I would imagine for many of you as well. As such, this review is a little light on nuance, so please accept my apologies.
The second half was barely more passable than the first: Stephan El Shaarawy jumped on a loose ball in the box to pull a goal back in the 52nd minute but Roma's efforts would wax and wane for the ensuing 30 to 35 minutes before Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored an equalizer in the 85th minute, one that Spezia keeper Rafael woefully misjudged if we're being honest, but that's the nature of the beast. After slogging through 80 minutes of the match, Roma finally caught a bit of a break when Rafael miss-timed his attempted save.
And what a break it was. With this draw, Roma finishes the season with 19 victories and 62 points, even with Sassuolo but the Giallorossi will take part in the first-ever UEFA Conference League next season after they edged out the Neroverdi on goal differential.
Hey, if nothing else, this match was a fitting encapsulation of Roma's two years under Paulo Fonseca, so we wouldn't really have it any other way, would we?
Look for our season review coverage, including our official goodbye to Fonseca, all next week.
The men's season may be over, but I implore you to tune in next Sunday when the women take on AC Milan in the 2021 Coppa Italia Femminile finale!