Paulo Fonseca suffered his first European defeat as Roma manager on Thursday night, as controversy reared its ugly head once more against Borussia Monchengladbach.
The first meeting between the two sides had seen the Germans equalise via a penalty awarded for a Chris Smalling hand ball, despite the ball actually hitting his head – and this time there was more contention, as the ball went out of play in the buildup to the Federico Fazio own goal that gave Borussia the lead.
In the second half, Fazio put things right with another goal at the same end – this time in Roma’s favour. However, a late goal from Marcus Thuram condemned the Giallorossi to defeat.
Pastore improving final product
One player who has shown signs of improvement recently has been Javier Pastore. Often a frustrated figure last season, this time around he is working hard and staying healthy, which has allowed him to put together his longest run of successive starts in nearly half a decade.
The one thing that has been missing from his game so far has been a decisive end product. His flair has been clear to see, but has led to a limited impact in the opposition box. In Germany, though, Pastore started to show more confidence in his dribbling and tested opposition keeper Yann Sommer with a couple of dangerous shots. They were positive signs from the Argentine.
Lopez leaves it late
When Pau Lopez arrived as Roma’s new goalkeeper in the summer, a lot was made of his ability with his feet. However, against Gladbach, he took a few too many risks in that department.
Often, the Spaniard waited too long to play his passes, giving his opponents chance of closing him down, and leading to a few misplaced kicks. One of his predecessors, Alisson Becker, also used to wait on the ball, but exhumed an overall greater sense of confidence that he would not be dispossessed.
Lopez’s hesitancy did not lead to a Borussia goal – nor has anything he has done during his time with the club – but he could have been marginally safer.
Mancini’s midfield mishaps
Gianluca Mancini has settled into a new midfield role with reasonable confidence recently, but the Gladbach game was the worst of the five he has played there for Roma. The young Italian struggled with the intensity of the match, leading to a few fouls being committed.
Of course, he has done fairly well there in the other games he has played, but with Amadou Diawara replacing him as a substitute, the chances for him to play in the role again may be decreasing. Mancini remains a promising player, though, and it will all come with maturity.
Will Santon keep Florenzi out?
For the fifth game in a row, Alessandro Florenzi was left out of the starting lineup, with Davide Santon preferred at right-back. It seems that Fonseca is still weighing up the best position to use his captain in – having utilised him on the wing and at full-back so far.
While nobody would claim that Florenzi is the most technically gifted player in the squad, a captain would still be expected to play a larger role. Given the form of wingers Justin Kluivert and Nicolo Zaniolo, it seems unlikely that Florenzi will regain a place out wide for the game against Parma on Sunday. So, did Santon do enough to keep him out of the side?
In all fairness, it was not the former Newcastle man’s greatest game. He encountered similar problems to the ones Florenzi sometimes does, in terms of positioning and crossing. Perhaps Sunday will see the return of Roma’s captain.
Which of the next two EL games is the most important?
Following the defeat, Roma now find themselves third in the group, with two games remaining. If they win both, they will qualify for the knockout stages, but this group has thrown up its fair share of unpredictability.
Roma host Wolfsberger in their next group game, before facing Istanbul Basaksehir in Turkey. There are definitely points to be won from those games, but which will be easiest?
Wolfsberger have shown that, despite their minnow status, they can compete, having beaten Gladbach 4-0 away. Meanwhile, Roma recorded the same scoreline against Basaksehir, but the side from the Turkish capital have since gone 10 games undefeated in all competitions, meaning they now top the group.
If Roma can beat Wolfsberger next – and they will be expected to – it should rule the Austrians out of the running. But everything could still be to play for on the final matchday.
Player Ratings: Lopez 5; Santon 6; Smalling 7; Fazio 5; Kolarov 6; Mancini 5; Veretout 7; Zaniolo 6; Pastore 7; Kluivert 6; Dzeko 6
Subs: Diawara 5; Under N/A; Perotti N/A
Coach: Fonseca 5
Man of the Match: Veretout