Roma headed into Christmas with three points under their belt after a feisty Derby Del Sole win over Napoli.
In terms of technical quality, many observers will move on quickly from this game; the main themes instead were tension and conflict.
But Roma came out on top with a 2-0 triumph, their first victory over Napoli in four years.
Here are three themes from the match – one starting with A, one with B and one with C.
A – Acrobatic opener provides Pellegrini confidence boost
One of Jose Mourinho’s main selection decisions was whether to start Edoardo Bove or Lorenzo Pellegrini in midfield. He opted for the former, and it could have been him to put Roma in front when he was denied a tap-in at point-blank range by Alex Meret following a set-up by Andrea Belotti.
Instead, it was substitute Pellegrini who provided Roma with the advantage – and in quite impressive fashion too.
With the ball bobbling around the box, the captain took it upon himself to take aim at goal with a swivelled finish. Back to goal (for a long time in the action), he caressed the ball into the vacant corner of the net.
Pellegrini has required some boosts to his confidence in recent weeks, but that was a finish lifted straight out of the textbook he wrote the bulk of on the pitch a few years ago.
B – Bookings galore but Roma finish with 11 men
Games involving Mourinho’s Roma have come to be expected to involve several cards – and not of the Christmas variety. Saturday’s encounter took things to the extremes.
But actually, this time it was arguably Roma who kept the (relatively) more level heads, since Napoli suffered two red cards and the Giallorossi concluded the match with a full complement of players intact.
It was a messy affair overall, though. Both teams had their coach booked, and a total of seven Roma players – including half of their outfield starters – saw yellow.
On the Napoli side of things, Matteo Politano and Victor Osimhen were sent off, and former Roma defenders Juan Jesus and Mario Rui were booked.
While it wasn’t the cleanest Roma display, they never allowed things to escalate to a degree that they would be reduced in number. It paid off, since they were able to double their lead via Romelu Lukaku in stoppage time at the end of an advantageous counter attack, flooding forward in vast space that would not have been possible if it was 11 v 11.
C – Champions kept at bay with clean sheet
Considering how dominant Napoli were in Serie A last season on route to being crowned champions, Roma did well to limit them to the extent they did (even if the title defence has so far been typified by disarray).
Only twice did the visitors muster a shot on target, neither breaching Rui Patricio’s goal.
It culminated in Roma’s first clean sheet in the league since the dreary goalless derby draw with Lazio on 12th November, and the first time they had prevented a defending champion from scoring against them in Serie A since Claudio Ranieri’s side beat Juventus 2-0 in their penultimate home game of the 2018-19 season.