Fourth-place penalty shootout: it's an ugly, dirty, mean Roma

As one of several Conference League opponents last year, Sampdoria was cold-shouldered and remained stunned throughout the match

Pellegrini shooting the decisive penalty in Marassi

Pellegrini shooting the decisive penalty in Marassi (GETTY IMAGES)

PUBBLICATO DA Daniele Lo Monaco
20 Ottobre 2022 - 14:36

Like one of several Conference opponents last year, Sampdoria was cold-shouldered and remained stunned for the entire match, frustrated in any offensive ambitions by an ugly, dirty and nasty Roma, testaccina would come to write, assuming and not conceding that especially younger readers master the reference as well as more adult fans. Three points were needed and three points came, a third consecutive victory and a solitary fourth place regained, all thanks to Pellegrini's penalty converted in the 9' of the first half and the subsequent defensive management, with a wall erected not in front of the goal but in the three-quarter of the field, never scratched by Stankovic's messy and blunt Sampdoria attack, despite the rotation of forwards and attacking midfielders on the offensive turfs. However, Rui Patricio remained inoperative the entire match. 

The penalty for the lead was practically the only offensive action of the entire first half, played by the two coaches as if on a tactical chessboard, very attentive to the oppositions on the field, little inclined to spectacle, much more to substance. So Roma soon settled for Pellegrini's goal from the penalty spot, awarded by Aureliano to Var, who signaled, with a couple of minutes delay to his colleague on the field, the usually sloppy Di Bello, a clear foul of Ferrari's hand on Abraham's assist toward Pellegrini himself. The Giallorossi captain's execution was perfect, high to Audero's right, frustrating even the suggestions of Villar, who had bothered to whisper in his goalkeeper's ear the expert advice as a former Roma player to neutralize the impending conclusion. Forgotten, for Lorenzo, was the mistake he made against Empoli (the third in his Giallorossi career, after the one last year with Juventus and two seasons ago against Braga in the Europa League). In the 9th minute, Roma thus found themselves ahead (almost four minutes passed between fouls and stoppage time) and practically stopped there. The rest of the half was a long control of the ball by Sampdoria (61 percent ball possession in the first half), without, moreover, Rui Patricio's gloves ever being soiled (five of the six shots fired toward the goal were lost far from the posts, the only one in the mirror was almost an outside pass from Rincon). 

Stankovic chose a strange changing lineup, with a very theoretical 442 and only in the pure non-possession phase. With the ball instead, Augello came up as a fifth midfield player, Leris stayed wide right, Bereszynski played the central third with Ferrari in the middle and Colley as left arm, so Djuricic could come out centrally, with Villar playing and Rincon as a supporting midfielder. In front of Caputo alongside Gabbiadini, poorly incisive and under served due to the highly effective defensive 352 confirmed by Mourinho, with Camara and Pellegrini intermediates of a three-man midfield with Cristante at the low top, the usual three-man defense, and the confirmation of Belotti at Abraham's side in front. In non-possession, Camara (and not Pellegrini, as he would have been with the 3412) had the task of getting up on Villar, a director particularly charged by the opportunity to confront the man who had rejected him at Roma, Mourinho: but the match, if anything, confirmed the Portuguese's shrewd choice.

Cristante never left his comfort zone in front of the defenders, so the generous Sampdoria often found itself on the three-quarter line a double defensive wall on which it slammed all the time, even if Roma then threw those stray balls forward again without a recipient, to produce continuous nervous and frayed duels, handled with little mastery by Di Bello. There was nothing serious to report for the notebook, except for a sleazy attempt by Colley to point to Abraham as the culprit for an alleged elbow at Ferrari only dreamed up by the Gambian defender with an English passport. Also, there were a couple of cautions for foul play (Ibañez and Rincon), a cross from Abraham that caught Pellegrini off-guard, and a single impromptu chance for Roma right at the end of the fourth minute of stoppage time, thanks to one of the very few balls not deflected but handled, specifically by Pellegrini, with a magnificent opening to El Shaarawy who, however, at the moment of the assist for Abraham slipped like so many of his colleagues throughout the evening.

Halftime served for the Sampdorian spectators at the Ferraris to realize that the hated president Massimo Ferrero had appeared in the stands, and before long the word was out, so someone tried to approach him in an unfriendly manner as the stadium switched to chanting rather hostile chants. And he soon left the stadium, escorted. Instead, Stankovic at the break tried to redesign his team with two immediate changes (Pussetto for Leris and Murru for Augello) and two more in the 14th minute (Quagliarella for Gabbiadini and Verre for Rincon). In between, Roma built a half-chance in the opening half (Mancini's deep cross for three Roma players who graciously scanned for each other, lined up Abraham, Pellegrini, and El Shaarawy) and a real one in the 10th minute, with a Dybala-like touch by Abraham for Belotti and the Gallo's hasty conclusion over Audero, with Pellegrini regretting in the middle of the box for the missed assist. A touch of El Shaarawy's arm not seen by the referee angered Stankovic (cautioned for protesting), but being outside the area it remained outside the Var's jurisdiction as well. So it went to 95 minutes without a shred of a shot in the mirror for Samp and a series of wasted chances by Roma especially after Zaniolo entered for Abraham. The only good one was taken away by the linesman: if Nicolò in the open field had started from his own half instead of half a meter ahead it would have been good. And in the end, the attacking pair was Zaniolo-Pellegrini.