It hasn’t been pretty for AS Roma of late, but somehow they’re still right in the thick of things.
Daniele De Rossi grabbed a 75th minute goal to lead Roma past Sampdoria 1-0 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, pulling Roma within just a point of the top four.
Well before the late goal, goalkeeper Antonio Mirante was required in the 24th minute to stop a fabulous strike by Gregoire Defrel destined for the underside of the crossbar. That was one of just two shots on target for the hosts, who held 64% possession and ripped off 18 efforts but couldn’t find the net.
With 15 minutes remaining, De Rossi rose high to meet a corner, meeting it with his head and tucking the effort inside the far post for the lead. The headed ball was just out of reach of Edin Dzeko, but thankfully for Roma it snuck past goalkeeper Emil Audero as well. The goal was not just the winner for Roma, but also a big moment for De Rossi as well, as the 35-year-old bagged his first league goal of his injury-plagued season.
Sampdoria thrust forward in stoppage time looking for a late equalizer, and there was a penalty shout as Fabio Quagliarella went down under heavy pressure from substitute Juan Jesus, but replays showed little actual contact and the referee waved off the shout.
The victory for Roma saw them end a three-match winless run and pull within a single point of AC Milan in the final Champions League place. Roma also sits level with Atalanta on points, and while they still have a game in hand, that takes place Sunday with a visit to 3rd placed Inter.
Lorenzo Pellegrini may be playing next to a Roma legend like Daniele De Rossi, but the 22-year-old has been around Rome long enough to feel like it’s not a big deal.
In fact, back in Rome for a second-straight season following two campaigns at Sampdoria, he’s ready for a bigger role. Pellegrini was a big part of Roma nearly overturning Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League semifinal lead, and the taste is still in his mouth.
“Last year was my first year and it took some time to settle in a big team,” Pellegrini said, speaking to ProSoccerTalk ahead of the club’s International Champions Cup matches in the U.S.
“That’s normal, I know, but I really hope I can devote myself and do even better. The team did something incredible reaching the semifinal. It will be tough to do it, but this year we are more aware of our capabilities.”
“No one expected us we would go that far, and it just gives us more desire to keep on working and improving. We know now even better how to face certain games, like the first leg at Liverpool. We should’ve played a better game but all-in-all last season gives us the confidence to do it again.”
There’s a lot more work to do in the Roma midfield with Radja Nainggolan off to Inter Milan.
And after playing a season next to De Rossi, Pellegrini is prepared to shoulder more of the burden. After all, he spent some time with the club’s academy, looking up at players of De Rossi’s ilk.
“Daniele is a role model not only for me, but for any young football players,” Pellegrini said. “He is a top player and still playing at this level at his age. He’s a special player and professional. It’s easy to play alongside him. The stats are there. His career is there and he’s a good player to move forward.”
This summer, De Rossi remains cautious about over-promising anything, but the band has mostly stayed together. Alisson and Radja Nainngolan have left, but anyone else who played 1000-plus minutes is still there and the club also bought Justin Kluivert (Ajax) and Javier Pastore (PSG).
Now seven games from 600 appearances with Roma, De Rossi renewed acquaintances with PST ahead of the club’s International Champions Cup matches talking about the season that was, Juventus adding Ronaldo, and missing out the World Cup.
Roma plays Tottenham in San Diego on Wednesday before traveling to Arlington for a July 31 date with Barcelona. I Lupi then meet Real Madrid on Aug. 7 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
ProSoccerTalk: Daniele, when we spoke last year you were hesitant to declare AS Roma a contender given all the new pieces but had a good feeling about the club. Given how it came together, is that hope tank a bit fuller?
Daniele De Rossi: “I’m pretty confident with this team, with the coach, because it’s his second year and everything will probably easier because he is not starting from the beginning. He can count on a base of team, players who already know what he wants. It’s going to be easier to insert young players in the team.”
PST: What struck us about the manager (Eusebio Di Francesco) is how he was very calculated with how to respond to your side whether you had won 3-0 over Barcelona or fallen to Shakhtar in the first leg of a Champions League tie. It seems he carries some of the same characteristics as a coach that you do as a player. Did he impress you as a manager?
DDR: “Yes, and I’ve known him for a long time. I met him when I was 18 and he’s always been like this. Even as a player, he wanted everything. He wanted to do better as a player, and now as a coach. The job is different, full of pressure, but he’s a winner in his mentality and he’s trying to get it to the team as well.”
PST: You’ve spoken of Roma as a club and Rome as a city as classics, and that the team can reflect that. It seemed last year’s UCL run had the area buzzing.
DDR: “Last year we showed all the world what a city and a team like ours can do. We did something incredible and probably because of our talent, because of our organization, and even because it’s a club that the fans trusted us. Everything went very good. Even the relationship between us and the fans was something that we talked about last year. It’s something we found during the season at every step, much more than before.”
PST: Has that raised expectations for you?
DDR: (laughing) “Eighteen years that I’m hoping and trying to bring something to Rome. Very easy to say but very hard to get. We will try to do something unbelievable because the teams that reached the first and second position are even better than last year.
“Juventus bought one of the best players in football history and this is a sign. They are trying to make their team better but we are trying to do the same. Nothing in football is written. Even the last World Cup showed that things can go in different ways than you thought before a match, league, or tournament begins. That’s what we think, we hope.
“We are a good team. We are close to them. They are trying to win Champions League and make a big hole between them and the other teams, but we’re trying to fill it up.”
PST: Last year you showed the capability to beat teams like Barcelona and Liverpool by multiple goals, but also to find a way to win 1-0 when needed. Roma conceded just 28 times in the league, and that was in Di Francesco’s first season. Does this mean we may see even more variety in terms of tactics and approaches?
DDR: “The time can help the team to understand better, not just our coach but every coach needs time. We hope that what happened last year, so many matches where we scored a lot of goals but sometimes conceded as well. We tried to become a more balanced team, and it’s something you can achieve with more experience. It’s going to be better from this side, but it’s never written. We’re not gonna start from the semifinal of the Champions League, or third place in Serie A. We start on zero points, the same as Cagliari or Juventus.”
PST: You mentioned the World Cup earlier. Watching the tournament from home was something new for both you and Italy. What did you make of it?
DDR: “It’s been a weird tournament because a lot of teams we thought could reach the semifinals did not. Not because of them, but because the whole world is improving, the way to play football, the way to look and study football. Even the smallest team in the world, it’s not as 15-20 years ago where you can play against Panama and Costa Rica, and score 10 goals every match. Teams are going to be smarter than before because everybody sees a lot of football, with software and the Internet. Even the coaches are smarter than before. That’s some of the problems like Argentina or Brazil found in the last World Cup. At the end a big, big team still won the World Cup. It’s not so easy for every team.”
PST: So there’s hope for United States?
DDR: (laughing) “It’s not so easy for them as well, but I can’t talk because I’m on the same side as the U.S., the other side of the TV I’m watching the World Cup and it’s so sad.”
From the field to the board room, AS Roma is raging with Slovenian referee Damir Skomina after he denied multiple penalty shouts before granting one in stoppage time of Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg between Liverpool and the Italian hosts.
“It changes everything,” said Roma director of sport Monchi. “We conceded a goal that was offside in the first leg, here we had two penalties not given, one of which was a clear red card. … It’s time to raise our voices, not just Roma either, as Juventus suffered the same against Real Madrid. Italian football has to raise its voice, because what we saw tonight was shocking.”
Monchi points out that he’s spent the majority of his career in Spain, so this isn’t just pro-Italian refereeing. He’s going to find allies (!!!) in Juve, who grew enraged with English referee Michael Oliver after Real Madrid’s late penalty against the Turin powers.
The biggest gripe is with Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s handball block of a goal-bound effort, though Roma went on to score two more goals on the day including a penalty kick for a less clear handball against Ragnar Klavan.
And it went all the way to the top: American owner Jim Pallotta was enraged with Skomina.
“It’s absolutely clear that VAR is needed in the Champions League, because you can’t let stuff like this go,” Pallotta told reporters in the mixed zone, via Football Italia.
“You can all look at it yourself. Dzeko wasn’t offside, got taken down for a penalty. At the 65th minute, there was a handball that was obvious to everybody in the world except those on the pitch. In the 67th minute Schick gets taken down in the box, I mean it’s just… I know it’s difficult to ref, but it’s really embarrassing when we lose on aggregate like that… By the way, it should’ve been a red card, so would’ve been 10 men from the 63rd minute.
“Again, congratulations to Liverpool, they’re a great team, but if we don’t get VAR in the Champions League, stuff like this is an absolute joke.”
“We’ve seen we’re not so far behind the others, so we must start thinking that Roma should have a Champions League semi-final once every three years, not once every 30. The club will work to make the team even stronger, the fans have followed us so passionately and something has been recreated with the fans that I haven’t seen since I was a child. Now we are all as one, we are united with the fans, and we can achieve great things together.”
Daniele De Rossi was already a Roma legend; After a goal and assist in a monumental comeback win over Barcelona, i Lupi’s captain is gonna get himself a statue
Edin Dzeko and Kosta Manolas and AS Roma also scored in the 3-0 win over Barcelona, turning the tie on its ear by advancing via its first leg away goal in a 4-4 draw over two legs in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.
Dzeko scored the goal in the first leg.
Barcelona loses a monumental lead one year after its glorious comeback against Paris Saint-Germain.
Roma nabbed a quick lead, with De Rossi opening up the top of the Barcelona back line and Dzeko delivering a sixth minute goal.
And the roles were reversed, in a sense, when Dzeko earned a penalty out of Gerard Pique and De Rossi converted his chance to make it 4-3 on aggregate. Another goal without answer would put Roma through on away markers.
Manolas then flicked a header home off a corner kick to send the Stadio Olimpico into ecstasy. It would need to hold Barca scoreless for eight more minutes.