Don’t look now, but Roma have quietly gone five games unbeaten in league play, and have won three of their last four in all competitions since the restart. Going into their clash against Fiorentina, a victory for Roma would pull them three points back of Inter in fourth, so suffice to say this was a must win for the Giallorossi, and Paulo Dybala and Tammy Abraham certainly did their part, combining twice to propel Roma to a 2-0 win over Fiorentina.
Buoyed on by a packed Olimpico and with José Mourinho back on the sideline following his suspension, Roma began the match with a level of attacking intent that’s been missing since league action resumed. Fiorentina was certainly up for it as well, and the opening quarter of the match was a back-and-forth affair that was more than entertaining for the neutral. But with the Giallorossi struggling to put the ball in the back of the net, you hoped Roma wouldn't find themselves in a position where they had to claw back into the game.
Thankfully, Roma received a bit of good fortune in the 24th minute when Fiorentina’s Dodô went in on a reckless challenge against Nicola Zalewski, and having picked up a yellow earlier on in the match, the Brazilian was summarily given his marching orders - meaning Roma would have over an hour to capitalize on Dodô’s error.
With halftime quickly approaching and Roma eager to take advantage of their man-advantage before Fiorentina had the opportunity to regroup at the break, Roma continued their push for the opener, and in the 40th minute, Zeki Çelik was able to find Abraham at the top of the box, where Tammy deftly chested the ball down with Lorenzo Pellegrini and Dybala running in behind, and with Dybala positioned best to get onto the ball, La Joya hit the ball first time off the volley and the shot took the slightest deflection off Nikola Milenković, giving the Fiorentina keeper just enough pause for Dybala’s strike to find itself in the back of the net.
Much was made in pre-season about the potential firepower of the Giallorossi’s attacking options, and goals like Dybala’s show how potent Roma’s attack can be when everything starts to click with this squad. Of course, this also is just another example of Paulo Dybala doing Paulo Dybala things, creating a moment of magic like only he can.
With a man-advantage and a one-goal lead going into halftime, you had to feel good about Roma’s chances to put the game to bed in the second-half.
Going into the second-half, the ideal scenario of course would have been for Roma to get an early second goal to reinforce their lead, and then set up shop for the rest of the match and comfortably see out the win.
But, as we’ve seen so very often throughout this campaign, the Giallorossi seemingly enjoy playing with fire, and so despite the man-advantage, Roma were content to cede possession to Fiorentina and look to hit on the counter. And while that is this team’s bread-and-butter, it made for some nervy moments as Fiorentina pushed for an equalizer.
Eventually, the Giallorossi regained their footing and began to assert a level of control that their advantage warranted, coinciding with the introductions of Nemanja Matic and Benjamin Tahirović to reinforce the middle of the park.
And shortly after the latter’s introduction, Roma doubled their advantage as Bryan Cristante hit a ball over the top of the defense right into the path of Abraham, who timed his run to perfection and on his first touch in the box, hit a pinpoint pass across goal to an unmarked Dybala, who made no mistake and slotted the ball home for his second on the evening.
With the three points all but wrapped up, Mourinho was afforded the opportunity to hand a debut to new signing, Ola Solbakken, giving the Norwegian a brief cameo as Roma finished out the match.
It was a little nervy at times, but Roma accomplished exactly what it needed to in this one, winning at home and keeping pace in the race for top-four. The Abraham-Dybala connection was at its potent best, and getting an in-form Tammy for the second half of the season is quite the tantalizing proposition as Roma eye a return to the Champions League.
In case you missed any of the action, enjoy the highlights below. The official league highlights are available here.