After another disappointing performance in Roma's 1-1 draw against Servette on Thursday, José Mourinho didn't hold back this week, voicing his displeasure with his club's performance and questioning their commitment, calling their efforts "superficial." Later in the week, Mourinho directed his ire towards today's officials, claiming they didn't have the "emotional stability" to work at this level.
So, you know, typical Roma stuff.
With that melodrama lingering in the background, Mourinho and Roma hit the road today to face 14th-place Sassuolo, needing all three points to jump ahead of Fiorentina back into fifth place. Mourinho may have taken issue with some of his starters-turned-substitutes on Thursday, but that didn't stop him from reinserting players like Leonardo Spinazzola into the starting lineup.
In the match's early stages, Roma assumed the mantle of the big club, dominating possession, patiently trying to break down the Sassuolo defense while limiting their hosts to approximately 40% possession. Of course, there's nothing wrong with this approach, and we've seen it used against Roma numerous times, but the club's good intentions went for not in the 26th minute, when Sassuolo flipped this paradigm on its head.
After seizing possession in midfield, Sassuolo rushed headlong toward Rui Patricio's goal. While they benefitted from a lucky deflection that fell back to their feet, Roma stood slack-jawed as Sassuol passed circles around them, with Domenico Berardi picking out Matheus Henrique at the far post for a gimme goal—although that may have been a misplaced shot from Berardi, to begin with.
Suddenly struggling in possession and lacking cohesion, Roma couldn't find a breakthrough at the other end but came inches away from leveling when Dybala hit a one-timer from Romelu Lukau in the 41st minute. It's hard to find fault with Dybala's effort—he struck in beautifully—Consigli just made a stupendous save, diving to his right to deny Dybala's curled effort.
Mourinho responded with a pair of substitutions to start the second half, inserting Rasmus Kristensen and Sardar Azmoun in place of Rick Karsdrop and Edoardo Bove, respectively. And with three forwards now bursting through the ranks, it didn't take long for Roma to create a couple of clear-cut chances early in the second half. Unfortunately, neither attempt—a Lukaku one-on-one against the keeper and an off-the-ball run from Azmoun—found the back of the net, heaping further pressure on Roma as the clock crept towards the hour mark.
While they didn't score, Roma nevertheless caught a break shortly after the hour mark when Sassuolo midfielder Daniel Boloca was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Leandro Paredes. It took a VAR review to confirm, but the Giallorossi were eventually awarded a man advantage for the final 25 minutes.
Mourinho upped the ante in the 68th minute, bringing Lorenzo Pellegrini and Stephan El Shaarawy into the mix in place of Gianluca Mancini and Spinazzola, giving the Giallorossi more of an attacking bent for the stretch run.
Luck intervened for the Giallorossi again in the 76th minute when Kristensen was taken down in the box by Martin Erlic, giving Roma a precious penalty kick. While Consigli guessed correctly, he couldn't stop Dybala's stinging penalty from finding the back of the net, leveling the match at one apiece with approximately 15 minutes to play.
But Lady Luck still wasn't done with Roma, nor Kristensen himself. With the Danish full-back taking the feed from Dybala at the edge of the box, the former Leeds player acted quickly, redirecting the ball toward Consigli's goal. However, rather than finding the back of the net directly, the ball took a deflection, slowly arching from right to left over the 18-yard box before dropping neatly (and incredibly) into the upper left-hand corner of the goal.
Kristensen could repeat that exact sequence 100 times and miss 99.9 of them, but the capital club caught an unbelievably lucky break here, giving them a one-goal lead with 10 minutes left to play.
While Pellegrini nearly added a third goal in stoppage time, Kristensen's strike withstood the test of time, giving Roma three crucial points as they leaped back into fifth place.
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