Roma were in cruise control as they beat CFR Cluj 5-0 on Thursday to go top of their Europa League group.
The two sides went into the game both on the same number of points in Group A, but there was a large gulf in quality.
Roma took the lead inside the first minute courtesy of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, before Roger Ibañez headed in his first goal for the club.
Next, it was Borja Mayoral’s turn to get off the mark in a Roma shirt, as he smashed in from close range to make it 3-0 before half-time.
Paulo Fonseca made a triple substitution at the break, as Roma took their foot off the gas a little. Even so, they still managed to add two more goals.
Mayoral went one better than his first strike by controlling the ball and scoring with a powerful effort, showing newfound confidence having opened his account earlier.
Then, two substitutes combined for the final goal, as debutant Tommaso Milanese set up Pedro for a simple finish.
The result left Roma in a positive mood, but so too should the performance. The team are showing clear signs of development in Serie A, and this is now translating into Europe too.
One major theme that was apparent against Cluj was how Roma utilised their wide areas. Lining up in a 3-5-2 formation, a slight change to their usual 3-4-2-1, the onus was on the wing-backs to get forward even more than usual.
Leonardo Spinazzola and Bruno Peres were selected for the task, and both caused problems. For example, Spinazzola got the assist for the first goal with a left-footed cross for Mkhitaryan.
The former Juventus full-back has been one of Roma’s standout players so far this season. He is enjoying his football again, and a happy Spinazzola is a dangerous Spinazzola.
One of the best things about him is his ability to go either way when approaching a defender. Being right-footed, he likes to cut in from the left – but his assist showed he is a truly two-footed player.
Spinazzola can cause plenty of problems for defenders by keeping them guessing. He is a threat going either way, and showed he has the end product to deliver as well.Embed from Getty Images
He earned a well-deserved break at half-time, taken off for the first time this season. But he wasn’t the only player to make things happen out wide.
Peres also contributed, heading the ball down to assist Mayoral after it had looped into the air when the goalkeeper saved a shot from Jordan Veretout.
The Brazilian wing-back adapted quickly and knew the best thing to do was to help his teammate get off the mark. Mayoral made no mistake.
While it may not have been the prettiest goal, it was one of the most satisfying – especially because Mayoral needed a goal. He eventually got two, of course, and his overall performance deserved it.Embed from Getty Images
It was Peres who teed up Mayoral again for his second goal. Cluj could not clear the ex-Torino star’s cross, which fell into the Spaniard’s path. A quick touch and finish showed the kind of striking instinct that Mayoral will be hoping to develop.
But in the bigger picture, Roma had bamboozled their opponents by making use of the width of the pitch once again.
They were able to do so from dead ball situations as well. For example, Roma’s second goal came from a corner.
Scoring from set pieces hasn’t been too common in recent years, but Jordan Veretout got his deliveries spot on time after time.
The Frenchman’s inswinging cross was on a plate for Ibañez to attack. The defender duly got a deserved first goal for Roma – and Veretout’s set pieces could have led to more for his teammates.
It isn’t the first time this season that Roma have scored from a corner. Edin Dzeko headed home from a Lorenzo Pellegrini delivery in the draw with Milan recently, for example.
Hence, it looks like Roma are improving their work out wide, both from dead balls and open play. It can only add another element to their dangerous attack.