By and large, March was one of the most successful of the EDF regime. After all, Roma went undefeated over the past 31 days, and the only thing that prevented them from collecting an entire month’s worth of points was their putrid display against Bologna, but thanks to Edin Dzeko (who will feature prominently this month), Roma was able to turn that embarrassment into a mere hiccup.
Alright, with that in mind, let’s take a look back at the month in which winter won’t die, March.
Story of the Month: Advancing to the Quarterfinals!
Lots of things happened during March, lots of good things, but none shone brighter than Roma’s 1-0 defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk. When Edin Dzeko’s strike bulged the back of the net, a city of millions (at least the red/yellow half) entered a state of elation not seen since the spring of 2008 when Roma somehow got past Real Madrid to meet Manchester United in the quarterfinals that year.
In some ways, that goal was emblematic of Roma’s entire Champions League campaign. For nearly an hour Roma threw faint body blows at Donetsk, giving them the vapors but in no way eliciting a knockout blow, but then Kevin Strootman, in the blink of an eye, flicked the ball with the outside of his boot and found Edin Dzeko streaking towards the goal. After a frustrating start, it was such an expected breath of life, much like Roma’s entire group stage campaign, which began with an excruciating 0-0 draw with Atletico then crescendoed when Roma put six past Chelsea in successive matches.
We have no idea what will happen in the quarterfinals, but simply advancing that far must be considered a success of the highest order for Roma at this stage in their development.
Hero of the Month: Edin Dzeko
Edin Dzeko has simply gotten on with it, this month. Any doubts about his footballing motivation to stay in Rome and play under Di Francesco are questions he is answering on the field. Roma’s number 9 didn’t waste any time starting off March as a difference-maker for his club, popping up with a headed goal at Napoli’s ground when found wide open by Florenzi and, later, doubling up with a brilliant left-foot curler past Reina to take the pressure off the scoreline.
A forced rest, sitting out the Torino game on a 1-match ban, left Dzeko fresh for the make-or-break Champions League knockout against Shakhtar. In a testament to his newfound will to keep going, Dzeko barely took any touches all game... except for the ones that mattered.
By most accounts, Dzeko was the man of the match against Shakhtar, finding the winning goal in the tie with the outside of his right boot, forcing Shakhtar’s defence into taking a red card to keep his sprints past their defensive line at bay and very nearly finding yet another curling finish to ice the cake that night.
A non-eventful match followed for his own individual glory against Crotone. Roma were expected to turn up and do a job, Dzeko duly delivered as a consistent pivot in the middle of the pitch for his teammates to get on the end of chances.
145 minutes out of a possible 180 minutes on international duty followed, with no goals, for Bosnia. The minutes racking up meant Dzeko sat out the first hour against Bologna, coming off the bench when his team needed to come up with a goal and avoid defeat. Dzeko duly obliged, stretching himself to be first to a headed goal, willing himself and Roma not to wind up on the losing side.
Headers, right foot, left foot finishes at the business end of the season... and still the only striker in the Roma squad that will bring you an average of 1 goal every 2 games. Other pretenders to his place in the team may have had their season blighted by injuries, but the gulf in class and experience is there to see - months like this make Dzeko irreplaceable for Roma.
Goat of the Month: Stephan El Shaarawy
As an unabashed fan of SES, this one is tough for me to write, and despite scoring a goal against Crotone, March saw a downturn from the Pharaoh, as he simply wasn’t able to muster any consistency across those five matches. While he was instrumental against Crotone, he was passive at best against Torino and virtually absent against Bologna, while receiving token minutes against Napoli and Donetsk. Now, mind you, El Shaarawy wasn’t terrible, but somebody has to wear this yoke this month, and for SES, it wasn’t exactly his best month in a Roma shirt. However, as we’ve said so many times, with SES you take the good with the bad.
Out of Context CdT Tweet of the Month
Goal of the Month: Edin Dzeko vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
GOAL! Edin Džeko scores a crucial goal for #Roma in #UCL. The timing of the run and the finish was top class! Dijamant. pic.twitter.com/1CMNbS5FzK— BIH SPORT LIVE (@BIHSPORTLIVE) March 13, 2018
From our original recap:
This goal was so completely unexpected, it almost seemed as if the only two men who noticed it were Kevin Strootman and Edin Dzeko. It was such an amazing yet nonchalant pass from Strootman, who covered nearly a quarter of the pitch with one little deft touch, finding Dzeko completely wide open, where all he had to do was slot it past the keeper.
Actually, now that I get a second look at it with a longer clip, this thing was far more premeditated than it seemed live—the build up to this was slow and methodical, but fuckin’ hell, Strootman’s pass was so unexpected; he used his instep to find Dzeko some 25 yards up the pitch in perfect stride. Remarkable.
While we’ve seen Dzeko score greater goals, perhaps none have been so valuable, literally and figuratively.
High Point of the Month: Roma 4, Napoli 2
While few would argue that Roma’s 1-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk in the second leg of their Round of 16 matchup was the most important victory of the season, I can’t think of a more impressive win than dusting off then first place Napoli 4-2 at the San Paolo. Heading into this match, Roma was coming off two successive defeats, a slim one goal defeat in Ukraine to Donetsk and a humiliating 2-0 loss to Gattusso’s AC Milan side at the Olimpico. It seemed like Roma were destined for a free fall and that first place Napoli, one of the game’s best attacking sides, would wipe the floor with EDF’s side, and after surrendering a sixth minute goal to Lorenzo Insigne, it seemed like that was in the cards.
But then Cengiz Ünder struck back the very next minute, followed by a brace from Dzeko and a capper from Diego Perotti. This was perhaps the statement match of the season. Roma didn’t tuck their tail between their legs when they went down, far from it, they came roaring back, striking a blow for Juventus in the process (ugh).
Low Point of the Month: Bologna 1, Roma 1
It is testament to what a fantastic month March was that our “low point” was a one-one draw on the road, but given all they accomplished prior to this match—beating Napoli, advancing to the quarterfinals etc—this was surely a let down. Roma was listless and punchless for much of this match. And sure, they had a few injuries to cope with, but Roma still won the talent battle walking away, but when the execution and focus aren’t there, what good is talent? Fortunately for Roma, Dzeko was there to rescue them from an otherwise ugly match.
Alisson Moment of the Month: Double Save vs Napoli
Roma’s Top Five Rated Players (Per Squawka)
- Aleksandar Kolarov
- Radja Nainggolan
- Kostas Manolas
- Edin Dzeko
Facts & Figures
- Roma took 13 of 15 possible points (all comps)
- 11 GF vs 3 GA
- 44 chances created, 49% shot accuracy
Volume III is in the books, again, if you have any suggestions or things you’d like included in these recaps, by all means let us know.