Roma v Real Madrid talking points: Fonseca wins first trophy in tree-mendous style

Paulo Fonseca’s first game in charge of Roma at Stadio Olimpico ended with an unusual trophy on Sunday night, as a penalty shootout win over Real Madrid earned them the Mabel Green Cup.

Roma had to come from behind twice (although Madrid’s second goal should not have stood, due to an offside), but were actually on top for large portions of the game.

Diego Perotti and Edin Dzeko got the goals in normal time, but both had been brought off by the time the penalties came around. Nonetheless, Roma scored all their spot kicks, with Marcelo’s miss meaning it was victory for Fonseca’s side – who got their hands on a lovely tree as a prize.


This was the penultimate friendly before Serie A kicks off in a fortnight’s time – with a match against Arezzo just being announced – so here’s what Roma can take into the new season from it.

Much more fluid in possession

In the last friendly, against Athletic Bilbao, Roma’s insistence on playing out from the back was at times problematic and dangerous. Against Madrid, though, they got it spot on. Starting from Pau Lopez, Roma were extremely efficient at keeping possession of the ball, both in their own half and in attacking areas. The players linked up very well, keeping the ball moving at all times. Edin Dzeko was vital to the process. Perhaps the better playing surface helped them, but all in all, there were positive signs that Roma are starting to play the way Fonseca wants them to.

The return of Zaniolo

He’s been inconsistent for the last six months, but Nicolo Zaniolo was back to his best against Real. In some ways, it was back to where it all started for the 20-year-old, who made his Roma debut against the same opponents in last season’s Champions League. He impressed even more than he did on that occasion, catching the eye with his assist for Perotti. Zaniolo determinedly powered down the right wing before expertly placing his through ball in between Raphael Varane and Eder Militao, and into Perotti’s path. It was eye-of-the-needle stuff.

Marking in the midfield

If there was one criticism of the display, it would be that the marking in the midfield wasn’t tight enough. Real’s first goal came from a splendid turn and pass from Luka Modric, before Marcelo beat Alessandro Florenzi and curled the ball past Lopez. Modric’s quality was no hidden secret – he’s the reigning world player of the year. It’s important for Roma to ensure they don’t give players of that level the time and space to create danger so easily.

Fazio in the final phase

Say what you like about his lack of pace, but when Federico Fazio recovers the ground, there are few better players in world football at last-ditch defending. The Argentine was a man of the match candidate thanks to his impressive blocks and interceptions, once again showing how well he reads the game. Roma are still looking to bring in a new centre-back, but Fazio will remain a good option in games where his teammates’ backs will be against the wall.

Options from the spot

Roma’s regular penalty takers, Perotti and Lorenzo Pellegrini, had been taken off before the shootout came around. It gave Fonseca a chance to analyse his other options from 12 yards out, and all five takers impressed. Aleksandar Kolarov and Leonardo Spinazzola’s penalties were both perfectly placed in opposite corners – the former’s being slightly more convincing than the latter’s – and Bryan Cristante, Cengiz Under and Mirko Antonucci’s efforts were equally impressive. Roma may find themselves in need of a hero from the spot in any of the three competitions they will be involved in this season, so it’s reassuring to know that those options run deep.

Player Ratings: Lopez 8; Florenzi 6; Fazio 8; Jesus 6; Kolarov 7; Cristante 7; Pellegrini 7; Under 8; Zaniolo 7; Perotti 6; Dzeko 8
Subs: Spinazzola 6; Diawara 6; Antonucci 5; Schick 5; Kluivert 6

Man of the Match: Dzeko

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