Roma 3 - 0 Verona: Di Francesco's men cruise to comfortable victory against woeful Verona
Roma hit back after their defeat to Inter Milan, with an impressive 3-0 victory over Verona. Radja Nainggolan opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, and Edin Dzeko scored a brace, scoring a goal on either side of half-time.
Samuel Souprayen was sent off for the visitors in the 66th minute, as their miserable return to Serie A continues.
In truth, it was never really a contest. From the first kick, Roma seemed to dominate in every department. They were aggressive, direct, industrious, and (eventually) productive - all the things manager Eusebio Di Francesco had been looking for.
They started as they meant to go on. Stephan El Shaarawy, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and the under-fire Edin Dzeko all threatened in the opening 10 minutes, but, to no avail.
Roma seemed to have taken their foot off the gas in the period that followed. The Giallorossi still dominated possession, and youngster Cengiz Under smashed the post from a seemingly impossible angle, but the intensity had definitely dropped.
Eventually, Roma's dominance told. In the pre-match presser, Di Francesco had called on Dzeko to work harder for the team. It seems the Bosnian had been listening.
22 minutes in, and the world saw him dispossess a careless Verona defence on the edge of the area. He played the ball into the on-rushing El Shaarawy, who, with one touch, found Radja Nainggolan in the centre of the area. The Belgian dispatched it with an icy finesse.
Roma doubled their lead 10 minutes later, with Dzeko heading in from a delicious cross from the returning Alessandro Florenzi. The Bosnian should have made it 3 shortly after. Bizarrely, however, he played it to El Shaarawy, and the move came to nothing.
Roma's dominance continued into the second half. Under, El Shaarawy, and Dzeko all gave the Verona defence plenty to think about. Aleksander Kolarov, known for his ferocious free kicks, had a couple in the early knockings of the half. Neither troubled Nicolas in the Verona goal.
He did bag an assist, however. His low cross found a poorly marked Edin Dzeko on the edge of the area. With one touch, the Bosnian poked the ball into the bottom-left corner for his second of the evening.
"The goals and the chances will come", said his manager in the pre-match presser. He was right.
Things got worse for Verona 5 minutes later, as left-back Samuel Souprayen was sent off for his second yellow card of the game.
Oddly enough, Verona improved after Souprayen's dismissal. Substitute Giampaolo Pazzini had the ball in the net after a sensational chip over a helpless Alisson.
Sadly, for the Verona fan (and the romantic), the veteran striker was judged to be offside. Fellow substitute and Roma loanee Daniele Verde was also a nuisance against his parent club. But to no avail.
Roma could have extended their lead, with El Shaarawy guilty of squandering a couple of clear-cut opportunities. The impressive Italian also could have found himself on the scoresheet and Dzeko perhaps should have completed his hat-trick, but it mattered not.
Roma's much-needed victory sees them move up to 7th in the Serie A standings, while Verona remain firmly rooted in the relegation zone. A win for Benevento against Napoli tomorrow will see Verona move to the foot of the table.
Roma went for the jugular
This was an impressive performance from the Giallorossi. Some might argue that Verona made it easy for them. On some level, they'd be right.
Verona were hopeless last night, as they have been since the opening day of the season. They offered little going forward and even lesser in defence. But, Roma could only beat what was in front of them. And they did it. Resoundingly so.
I don't look all that closely at results in my post-match analysis. Results can be deceiving. I tend to focus far more on a team's performance.
More specifically, I focus on how congruent a team's performance is with its sense of self-identity, and on the resulting emotions felt by the manager, the players, and the fans.
In Roma's performance, I sought evidence of Di Francesco's pre-match expectations. He went into great detail about what he wanted from his team. He wanted goals. He wanted aggression. He wanted his players to be more incisive, more direct.
He wanted them to attack the opposition area with greater efficiency. Do those things, I assume, and Di Francesco would experience satisfaction, or pride, with his players - irrespective of the result.
Tonight, Di Francesco will be immensely satisfied, albeit, with slight frustration at Roma's inability to dispatch with Verona earlier in the game.
Roma were in total control, from the first minute to the last. They passed the ball well and created chances. They really 'got at' the Verona defense.
Were it not for Nicolas in the Verona goal, the scoreline might have better reflected Roma's dominance. And it's on that point that Di Francesco might be slightly frustrated.
Roma had plenty of shots. 30, in fact. While he'll be pleased with Dzeko's return to form, he'll also be concerned with the Bosnian's often indecisive touches in the final third.
It's no exaggeration to say that he could have scored 5 tonight. Deep down, that will bother his manager. So too will El Shaarawy's ineffectiveness in front of goal.
But on the whole, it was a solid performance from Roma, irrespective of the quality of the opposition. They travel south to play another newly-promoted side, Benevento, on Wednesday evening. Di Francesco will hope that this form continues.