Roma In Seventh Heaven

Roma marched onto 7 straight league wins on Friday night with a win over Fiorentina that was far more comfortable than was expected. Although the Viola were outclassed by Tottenham in the Europa League, they held Napoli to a draw last week and were unbeaten in 7 coming into the game. In the end though, Roma scored 4 and could have had a couple more, while Fiorentina’s only goal was a disputed penalty.

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The first half was close to perfect, other than the penalty which was only awarded after discussion between Florence-born referee Massimiliano Irrati and his assistant behind the goal. As much as it was a soft decision though, Lucas Digne was guilty of diving in when he didn’t need to and inviting Cristian Tello to go to ground. Josip Ilicic confidently struck his spot kick past Wojciech Szczesny to score his fifth goal against the Giallorossi.

But it was a solitary moment in a half that was otherwise Roma at their very best. Miralem Pjanic orchestrated the play brilliantly in midfield (here’s to that form continuing through to the end of the season), while the movement between the front three of Stephan El Shaarawy, Diego Perotti and Mohamed Salah was outstanding. While Perotti dropped deeper, covering Fiorentina’s out ball to Tino Costa, El Shaarawy and Salah pulled this way and that to leave Facundo Roncaglia in particular chasing shadows (or, in the case of the third goal, simply standing still with his arm in the air – either vainly claiming offside or calling for a taxi to take him as far away from the Olimpico as possible).

Fiorentina were unable to live with Roma’s tempo in the first half and, although Salah was marginally offside in the lead up to the first goal, the Giallorossi were well worth their two-goal half time lead. The visitors briefly threatened in the opening minutes of the second half as Roma’s defence was put under some pressure really for the first time, but when Pjanic played a sublime ball for Salah to run on and slot home for the fourth, the fight really went out of the Viola and the rest of the game was a procession. It could even have been five if Francesco Totti’s late free kick had curled a fraction less but instead it clipped the outside of the post.

What was as pleasing as the performance was the general attitude of the players, who put in the sort of energy and determination that was missing for so long in the latter days of the Rudi Garcia era. Even in the final few minutes, when the game had long been up, Kostas Manolas had to calm Radja Nainggolan down after he had clashed with a Fiorentina defender as he jostled for position in the penalty area. The two were still remonstrating with each other as they left the pitch, and far from being a problem that sort of attitude is really what Roma need in the season run-in. Passion, determination and cattiveria will take Roma far. Whether it will be enough to take them past Real Madrid on Tuesday remains to be seen, but this was the ideal way to warm up for the second leg and warn Zinedine Zidane’s team that the Champions League tie is far from over.

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