The flurry of goals was bound to end sometime, right? After six and five goal affairs in back-to-back matches, in addition to Udinese getting hammered 4-0 by Napoli in their previous game, you’d be forgiven for expecting a healthy amount of goals this one. Unfortunately for the viewers expecting a similar scoreline, Roma weathered a second-half flurry from Udinese to win the game 1-0, quite the departure from recent score-lines.
From the lineup announcement to the opening 10 minutes of the match, it was clear that the edict from Mourinho was to erase the bitter taste of defeat from the Verona match, and the Giallorossi started off very much on the front foot, taking the game to Udinese from the opening minute and threatening on numerous occasions, most notably on an early Mkhitaryan chance at the top of the box.
Despite a flurry of chances from the hosts early on, Udinese began to grow into the game following the opening 10 minutes and began to threaten themselves, giving the Roma defense headaches on several occasions. Credit to Roma, as they weathered the response from Udinese to maintain control of the match, dominating the possession and looking for that incisive pass hoping to break the deadlock. Udinese were seemingly content ceding possession to Roma and looking to hit on the counter.
I have to say, at this point in the match, almost a half-hour in, this is the exact response you wanted to see from the squad following the Verona defeat. Sure, Roma hadn’t yet scored a goal, but the level of confidence on display, right from the outset, was very encouraging. We’re probably harsher on the Fonseca era in hindsight than we should be, but I don’t think we see this response from the squad after a momentum-killing defeat last year.
Despite this period of dominance, Udinese showed hints of being a threat, notably a 35th-minute cutback into the box that thankfully met the foot of a Roma player. Almost as if this near chance flipped a switch for the Roma squad, they immediately responded, with a blistering run by Calafiori, who beat his man to find Abraham, who was able to tap the ball in with the outside of his boot to give Roma the lead.
Tammy Abraham: 36th minute (Roma 1, Udinese 0)
Tammy Abraham gets the scoring started in Rome pic.twitter.com/zH9HQDLAMu— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 23, 2021
What a run by the youngster! That’s about as good a run as you’ll find from a left-back, credit to Calafiori for battling through the contact and having the awareness to find Abraham. Credit to Abraham for being in the right spot at the right time, it’s great to see his energy and work rate rewarded with a well-deserved goal.
The first half concluded with Udinese pressing the issue a bit more (teams tend to do that once they concede), but ultimately Roma maintained the same level of control of the game that they exhibited throughout the half, maintaining their record of not conceding a goal in the first half this season.
The opening of the second half was almost a carbon copy of the conclusion of the first, in that Udinese continued to press the issue in search of an equalizer, with Roma looking relatively comfortable and maintaining control of the match. The chances were few and far between for both sides in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, with the best chance falling Udinese way in the 61st minute, a strike that went narrowly past the post. Roma certainly looked far less crisp than they did in the first half, whether that was complacency being 1-0 up, or fatigue following Sunday’s match it was hard to tell, but you began to wonder when Mourinho would turn to his bench and inject some fresh legs into the match.
It was a 61st minute Udinese chance that narrowly went over the crossbar that preceded the first change of the match, with Chris Smalling coming in for Calafiori, which shifted Ibañez out wide on the left. Despite the addition of Smalling to the defense, Udinese began to dominate possession and look increasingly likely to find an equalizer, with Deulofeu forcing Patricio into a fine save. It didn't take long for Roma’s second sub of the night to come on, as El Shaarawy came on to replace Zaniolo. Yet another pedestrian outing for Zaniolo, I’m officially starting to get nervous about my podcast prediction that the Lazio game will be the game he finally breaks out.
The El Shaarawy sub seemingly gave Roma new life, as the Giallorossi almost immediately began to retake control of the game and look particularly threatening on the counter, with El Shaarawy nearly being on the receiving end of several quality opportunities.
A Shomurodov sub for Abraham aside, the game seemed destined for an uneventful conclusion, however, a 90th minute Pellegrini red card following a second yellow meant Roma had to hold on tight for the four minutes of extra time awarded. The red means that Pellegrini will miss the derby on Sunday, a crushing blow for the squad to lose your most in-form player in what will be the biggest game of the season up to this point.
Despite Pellegrini’s red, Roma dominated possession in the four minutes of extra time and comfortably held on for the win, bouncing back from the Verona loss and setting up a massive showdown with Lazio on Sunday.
It wasn’t pretty by any means, but we’ll take it! As I mentioned previously, Roma’s first half is exactly the response you wanted to see following the Verona defeat. The work rate and intensity right out of the gate wasn't necessarily a surprise given the strides we’ve seen the team make this season in terms of their mentality, but you still tip your hat to the players and Mourinho for getting the approach right.
The second half, in which Udinese more or less dominated the run of play, continues a worrying trend of coming out flat at the start of the second half, but you’re going to have to win some ugly games if you want to qualify for the Champions League, and that’s exactly what Roma did today. Of course, Roma may not be so fortunate against some of the better sides in Serie A, but securing the three points is probably all that matters to Mourinho following the Verona result.
Roma “travel” to Lazio on Sunday for the first Derby della Capitale of the season.
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