Experience in attack and a revived Cristante help Roma beat Benevento

Roma recorded their biggest win of the season so far by coming from behind to beat Benevento 5-2 on Sunday.

Looking to pick up the pace after the international break, Roma managed to get all three points thanks to a number of impressive goals.

There were some nervous moments, especially when they went behind inside five minutes, but Roma eventually stepped up through the levels and outclassed their plucky opponents.

Paulo Fonseca reverted to a back four for this game after mainly using a back three in recent weeks. The flexible change of shape did not disrupt Roma’s momentum – rather, enhancing it.

Bryan Cristante stepped forward into his usual midfield position again, having covered at the back in recent appearances. And after showing promise back in the middle for Italy during the international break, he showed what he could do there at club level as well.

This was one of Cristante’s best performances in a Roma shirt. He demonstrated a good range of passing, and was unlucky to see a brilliant assist chalked off when his turn and pass for a Henrikh Mkhitaryan goal was ruled out for an earlier offside.

As Cristante helped to drive the play from the midfield, so did Edin Dzeko from attack. The striker hadn’t scored before the international break, but was back to his best upon the resumption of the league.

Dzeko played like an advanced playmaker, hovering between the midfield and attack to make a range of inspiring passes. The most important thing for him, though, was to return to the scoresheet.

He managed to do just that by getting Roma’s second goal of the game. After Antonio Mirante brilliantly picked out Henrikh Mkhitaryan with distribution from goal reminiscent of the days of Alisson Becker, the Armenian attacking midfielder threaded the ball between two defenders to pick out Dzeko.

While he had missed similar chances in previous games, Dzeko showed he has put all that behind him by producing a composed first time finish into the far corner. It seems he has come back from the international break with a fresh focus.

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Dzeko also played the long ball that led to the penalty that Roma won, with Pedro getting on the receiving end just in time to draw a foul from the keeper. It is clear by now that Jordan Veretout does not make mistakes from the spot.

Some sections of the fanbase had questioned Fonseca’s reluctance to use all his substitutes before the break. This time, though, he used the full complement – and two played their part in Roma’s last two goals.

First, Gonzalo Villar showed good dribbling ability before picking the perfect moment to send through Mkhitaryan, who for the second time of the night set up Dzeko for an easier finish.

Roma saved the best until last, though. Carles Perez, on as a late sub, received the ball from Cristante in his own half before embarking on a Lionel Messi-esque run, beating three defenders before scoring from the edge of the box. It is already a strong contender for the goal of the season.

Not just for its intrinsic value, it is the goal that Roma fans should be most excited about. Perez showed what he can do in patches after arriving in January last season, and has now given the best example yet of his talent.


With Pedro also impressing earlier in the game, Roma have two strong options to cover while Nicolo Zaniolo is injured. And with plenty of rotation needed in the weeks ahead, Fonseca now knows he has enough players he can rely on.

Overall, the experience Roma now possess among their squad shone through. At the age of 37, Mirante was excellent in goal, for example. He also saved a penalty from Gianluca Lapadula but was unable to keep out the rebound.

At the other end, the front three of Mkhitaryan (31), Pedro (33) and Dzeko (34) all combined to great effect. Pedro got a goal and won a penalty that led to another, and Mkhitaryan got two assists – both for Dzeko.

Roma’s attack is still fit and firing, and having experience in the final third – with more youthful players like Perez ready in support – will continue to benefit the team throughout the season.

The games come thick and fast now, with six to play before the November international break. With players like Dzeko and Cristante back to their best, Roma could build some momentum in both Serie A and the Europa League.

It is unclear yet how far Roma can go in either competition. But if there is any time for the squad to find their best form, it is now. With Juventus, Atalanta, Lazio and Inter all dropping points over the weekend, Roma managed to close the gap.

It may still be early in the season, but the important thing right now is to keep pace. If Roma can retain this form over the next few weeks, they should be able to do just that.

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