Say it a million times, and you still haven't said it enough: Paulo Dybala is worth his weight in gold. No matter the price, no matter the contract length, no matter the hidden bonuses, Roma's investment in the 28-year-old Argentinian attacker was worth the cost. With four goals and two assists in his first eight appearances for his new club, Dybala is already paying dividends.
And in what is quickly becoming a weekly occurrence, Dybala pulled Roma's feet from the fire last night at the San Siro, leveling the match with a stunning left-footed volley in the 39th minute, giving the Giallorossi the boost they so desperately needed heading into the second half.
While we can practically pencil Dybala's name into the Saint's column every week, La Joya wasn't the only Roma player to put on a show last night.
We'll start with the man of the hour, who seems to have picked up Italian on the sly over the past few years. In his 300th league appearance (Premiership and Serie A), Smalling turned in a now-standard Smalling performance: quiet, calm, efficient, and effective. But cometh the hour, cometh the man. With Roma chasing an upset victory, Smalling rose to the occasion, bouncing a textbook header off the pitch and into the back of the net in the 75th minute, lifting Roma to victory at the San Siro for the first time in five years (against Inter).
But the 32-year-old defender was also the last line of the defense for the Giallorossi. In 90 minutes, Smalling cleared seven balls, including one off the line in the final moments of the match, while winning 60% of his duels and completing 93% of his passes.
Dybala has undoubtedly had more statistically profound performances in his first few months in a Roma shirt. Still, his class was on full display when he one-timed Leonardo Spinazzola's cross off Samir Handanovic's hands and into the top corner of the goal. There aren't many players in the world who could have converted that attempt, and Dybala proved once again that he only needs an instant to change Roma's fortunes.
With Roma's attack stuck in low gear for most of the match, Pellegrini's numbers won't bowl you over, but the captain was the Giallorossi's highest-rated player last night. In 81 minutes of action, Pellegrini completed 81% of his passes, including two of three long attempts, while creating one big scoring chance. He also chipped in two clearances, one interception, and two tackles for good measure—a quiet but effective night for the 26-year-old Roman.
We mentioned it a few weeks ago, but the Spinazzola of old is beginning to emerge little by little. With 56 touches, Spinazzola was among Roma's most active ball carriers, assisting on Dybala's equalizer while completing 78% of his passes, clearing three balls, completing one tackle, and intercepting one pass.
The Turkish full-back continued his steady climb up Mourinho's ladder with another solid all-around performance. Playing the entire match, Çelik provided three key passes, trailing only his countryman Hakan Çalhanoğlu for the high-water mark in the game while completing his only cross. Çelik also managed two clearances and two interceptions on the defensive side of the ball.
With no more halos to give out, it's time to sharpen the pitchforks...
Much like managers in nearly every sport, goalkeepers receive too much credit when things go right and too much blame when they don't. It's the nature of the position. When you make outstanding saves, you get praised to the rafters, but when you muff a shot like Patricio did in the 30th minute against Federico Dimarco, the jeers come hard and fast.
See for yourself:
Federico Dimarco gives Inter the lead— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 1, 2022
Rui Patrício will want that one back pic.twitter.com/7qH7H1uObU
Credit Inter with some lovely build-up there—they sliced through Roma's defense like a hot knife through Nutella—but Patricio was slow to react and stared helplessly as the ball trickled into the back of the net.
The job remains firmly in his hands, but performances like these could leave the door open.
While he didn't commit any game-changing errors like Patricio, Zaniolo is guilty of your classic sin of omission. In 86 minutes, Zaniolo managed 31 touches, lost possession 12 times, didn't manage a single attempt on goal, and won only two of 12 duels. He looked out of step for most of the evening, but he'll be fine.
And now it’s time to dip our toes in post-match purgatory...
Stuck In Between
- Nemanja Matic: He still looks slow as molasses and probably shouldn't start every week, but he was fine last night: two tackles, 92% passing, two blocked shots, one interception.
- Bryan Cristante: Practically identical to his midfield partner, Cristante managed three tackles while completing 89% of his passes.
- Gianluca Mancini: Two clearances, one blocked shot, three interceptions, and one tackle in 90 minutes.
- Roger Ibañez: Completed 88% of his passes while chipping in three tackles and three clearances while sporting his trademark megawatt smile.
- Tammy Abraham: A surprise non-starter, Abraham entered the match in the 58th minute for Dybala, who was laboring as the game approached the hour mark. He had one semi-clean look at goal but couldn't manage to convert from the seat of his pants, while his one-man breakaway nearly caught Handanovic off guard. Let's hope the goals start coming soon because Roma can't survive without Tammy Two Goals.
- Andrea Belotti: Seven touches and one key pass in 11 minutes. His effort and hustle make him easy to love, but let's hope he carves out a more significant role soon.
- Mady Camara: A master shithouser after barely 30 minutes under Mourinho, Camara remained flat on his back for nearly two minutes after colliding with Abraham—forcing the ref to stop action as Inter rushed forward—only to spring to his feet, sprint down the pitch and fire a 30 yarder moments later.
That's it for now. We'll see you Wednesday after Roma’s Europe League clash with Real Betis.