We’ve seen this show too many times before in the last handful of years. Roma putting in a disgraceful performance against a fellow top side has become the norm rather than the exception. After a masterful performance in Bergamo bucked the trend just a few short weeks ago, the Giallorossi’s holiday hangover doomed them at the San Siro.
Normally, a 3-1 loss to Milan at the San Siro wouldn’t be that far out of the realm of possibility given the Rossoneri’s table position. But, this time around, Milan entered this match without at least five of its regular starters available. That’s what makes this heavy loss to a top side ever more frustrating.
It wasn’t Kjaer and Tomori who stifled the Roma attack. It wasn’t Kessie and Bennacer who won the midfield battle. And it wasn’t Zlatan who did the damage in attack. It was Maignan—who was superb in goal, Theo Hernandez, and Sandro Tonali, along with a bunch of reserves and the referee who got the job done for Milan.
So, with that in mind, was there anyone on the Giallorossi side of the pitch who was good enough to be canonized after this one?
Gianluca Mancini & Rick Karsdorp
I’ll be the first to admit that I love the fire that players like Mancini and Karsdorp play with. I’m especially drawn to the hard-nosed, no nonsense style of Mancini. It’s the reason that Daniele De Rossi is my favorite player to don the Roma shirt and Mancini is up there on this team. However, yesterday, that fire turned into a disaster for these two.
It was almost a given that Rick would see red after two confrontations with Milan players shortly before halftime. It eventually came halfway through the second half when he received his second yellow of the match for an ill-timed challenge on Theo Hernandez. Hernandez had him beat, but with Chris Smalling positioned in the box, he should’ve let the Englishman take his chances with the Milan left back rather than risk expulsion.
The same goes for Mancini. Two yellow cards from the player wearing the captain’s armband in a less than 10 minute span is inexcusable. I get that there’s a lot of anger at the referee for the second card considering the no call for a similar shirt tug by Tonali in the first half. But, with the game done and dusted at 3-1 in stoppage time, Mancini has to be wise enough to pull out of the challenge.
Now, Jose Mourinho will have to deal with Juventus without the right side of his defense on Sunday. Knowing the ref was awful and Juve is looming Sunday, these two should’ve played just a bit smarter after their first cards.
For all the talent that Ibañez possesses, he can be maddening at times. Yesterday was one of those days. Like we’ve seen in other big matches, the Brazilian had a brain freeze moment that cost Roma a goal. If falling behind on a poor penalty within 10 minutes wasn’t bad enough, Ibañez compounded Roma’s miseries by giving away the ball for Milan’s second goal—slotted home by Junior Messias—in the 17th minute. It’s moments like this that hold Ibañez back from blossoming into a truly elite defender.
It was a frustrating day at the office for Zaniolo. The young Italian got his usual rough treatment from opponents as the referee turned a blind eye—most notably on Tonali’s shirt tug in the box. However, aside from that he was far from his best. Zaniolo was dispossessed four times and misplayed another five touches. Additionally, his passing percentage was a dismal 48.1%. Roma will need better from him on Sunday.
Jordan Veretout & Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Roma’s lack of true defensive mid came to light again in this one. Mourinho opted to leave Bryan Cristante on the bench, trusting Veretout and Mkhitaryan to patrol the midfield. And it was an utter failure.
Maybe the Portuguese tactician thought it would be enough against a weakened Milan side, but Sandro Tonali dominated the center of the park against these two. The young Italian was able to receive 93% of balls played his way (best of any non-defender), while generating three shot creating actions and completing seven progressive carries. Meanwhile, his 11 ball recoveries were almost as many as the two Roma midfielders combined (13).
There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it: Roma was atrocious yesterday. However, Chiffi and his partner on VAR, Aureliano, were worse than any player on the pitch. From Abraham’s ghost handball to the no penalty or even review of Tonali’s contact on Zaniolo and Ibra’s on Ibañez to the call against Mancini, the refereeing was horrendous.
The performance even earned Chiffi a suspension. We can’t pin the loss squarely on Chiffi, but how many times this season will we have to deal with inequitable refereeing that swings a match? And yet another suspension post-match speaks to just how bad these officials have been in Roma’s matches.
Stuck In Between
- Lorenzo Pellegrini: The Roma captain returned from injury and put in a decent shift. He earned the assist on Roma’s only goal, completed 4/5 dribbles, and recovered 11 loose balls. His passing percentage was low (61.5%), but it was good to see him back on the pitch.
- Tammy Abraham: Abraham scored his seventh league goal with a deft deflection of a Pellegrini shot and forced another big save from Maignan. He was hard done on the handball call for Milan’s penalty. He contributed his usual work rate on the defensive end as well with four blocks.
- Rui Patricio: It’s easy to blame the keeper when he gives up three goals. But, none of the three were on Patricio. And he even saved Ibra’s penalty to keep the match 3-1.
- Chris Smalling: Smalling was the only center back to save face on Thursday. He has seven clearances, four blocks, and nine recoveries. He got beat for pace on the Leao goal, but nobody would’ve keep up with the Poruguese attacker with the way the ball broke to him on the run.
- Matias Viña: Viña was a borderline sinner in this one as he had his usual defensive lapses. Nevertheless, some credit must be given for seven tackles, four interceptions, two blocks, and seven recoveries.