We’ll have to start coming up with a nickname—WWE tag-team style—for Paulo Dybala and Chris Smalling after the pair got on the scoresheet for the second consecutive match and powered the Giallorossi to their second straight 2-1 league win. The contest had a little bit of everything, so much so that it felt a bit like Peter Falk’s Grandpa describing the highlights of The Princess Bride to entice a young Fred Savage to hear out the story. But ultimately securing the three points is all that matters, and the Giallorossi did just that, beating 10-man Lecce to climb up to fifth in the league.
It didn’t take long for the action to kick off in this one, as just six minutes into the contest Roma won a corner and found the ensuing attempt cleared out by Lecce, only for the ball to find its way to Matías Viña, who passed the ball out to Lorenzo Pellegrini on the far side. As we’ve seen with some frequency this season, his pinpoint ball into the box found Smalling at the back post, who made no mistake and scored yet another header, his third of the season.
With Lecce being near the bottom of the table, you’d be forgiven for thinking that following the goal, Roma would put four goals past the opponent and cruise to victory. But Lecce are no slouches, as they came into the fixture on a three-match unbeaten run and even took points from league leaders Napoli. Fortunately for Roma, their task became easier in the 22nd minute, when Lecce’s Morten Hjulman received a red card following a VAR review after Hjulman went in on a studs-up challenge on Andrea Belotti as both went for a loose ball in an action that was initially left uncalled by the ref.
Sure enough, the red card shifted the tide even further in Roma’s direction, who took a stranglehold of the game, making it a matter of when, not if, they’d score again. Of course, as we’ve all learned in following this team that we love, nothing is ever easy for the Giallorossi.
As the first half was closing, Lecce finally found their footing and began looking to get back in the game. A corner opportunity for the visitors saw the attempt fall in the box and bounce off Samuel Umtiti—who was making his debut for the club—and land in the path of Gabriel Strefezza, who made no mistake and buried the equalizer for the visitors.
With the game going into the break level at 1-1, José Mourinho opted to make some changes to start the second half, putting on Tammy Abraham and Leonardo Spinazzola in place of Nicolo Zaniolo and Viña, respectively. And Tammy wasted no time in making his mark, drawing a penalty in the 47th minute that Dybala cooly buried to give Roma the lead for the second time of the night.
Unfortunately, the bad news came instantaneously, as Dybala pulled up and grabbed the back of the leg just moments after converting the penalty. He ultimately had to come off immediately, with Nemanja Matic replacing him.
Although Roma ultimately saw the rest of the game out to claim all three points, they did make it a nervy affair. They failed to put the game to bed, with Nicola Zalewski having his shot saved after finding himself 1-on-1 with the goalie, while Andrea Belotti missed a header that narrowly sailed over the bar, and Tammy having his header miraculously saved by the keeper—to name just a few of the missed opportunities.
Roma got the victory, and we should celebrate the win. Still, the Giallorossi need to find their shooting boots with a massive rematch against Real Betis on Thursday in the Europa League.
In case you missed any of the action, enjoy the highlights below. If you want a deeper look, here is the extended highlight package.