Roman was coming off a disgruntled 0-0 draw to Sampdoria over the weekend. Yesterday it was a midweek fixture at the Stadio Olimpico Roma continued their Europa League campaign. The Italians having gathered four points from the first two games and were in Prime position to make a statement in the group with an emphatic three points. Bundesliga leaders Borussia Monchengladbach battled Roma yesterday night in wet and rainy conditions. The Germans have only one point in the first two games as it seems abundantly clear that they are prioritizing the Bundesliga. It was a chance and opportunity for Roma to pick up some momentum after struggling over the last several games a European night like this was the perfect platform to display that. The Germans were the much better team in the early part of the game they were able to get into Roma’s area as they showed the aggressive play attempting to break open the game. They even hit the crossbar in the opening 10 minutes of the match. Roma found it a little bit difficult to try to grow themselves into the game as it took a while for Roma to truly feel comfortable in the team. Roma was playing a different formation than they are typically using with Gianluca Mancini having to play outside position because of the injuries that the Italians have suffered this season. Roma displayed some of the concerns they have over the last few weeks as clinical finishing in front of goal continued to be a problem and their performance in the Midfield continue to be concerning. The Germans looked much more fluid and confident with the ball however Rome eventually found their moment and took advantage of it. Nicolo zaniolo put his header through a cross coming from Jordan veretout to give Roma the 1-0 lead. Roma wasn’t special and they significantly struggled in a lot of areas but found their way in front going into the second half. The pace of the game didn’t really go into their favor as they still found things difficult at times. The Germans came through and attacked with much more conviction and confidence. However, a defense of masterclass by Roma made things really difficult on the Borussia attack. Rome was not playing particularly well they certainly had done enough to secure all three points. They were on the verge of that very thing creating some significant separation in the group however Late controversy denied Roma of a victory that they probably deserved. As we witness the single worst call in football history. Borussia Gladbach was giving a penalty in the 93rd minute. Chris Smalling was called for an alleged handball in the Box. The English Defender was called for a handball that hit his face instead of his hand. The referee makes an appalling decision that is without question the worst call in football history. The ball didn’t even touch his hand or was anywhere near it maybe he couldn’t see it but nonetheless it was an inexcusable decision that took three points from Roma that they deserved. In what was the call heard around the world. An outraged and angry Stadio Olimpico watches their team get robbed in the most egregious way ever seen Roma deserved to win this game they just were not allowed to.
Phantom Penalty Call
We were able to witness the worst call in sports history last night as Chris Smalling was called for a penalty that hit his face. There have been some really bad calls not just in football but in all sports, this one is without question the worst I have ever seen in my lifetime. I have been covering this game for over 20 years simply put I have never seen anything like it. It was truly a phantom penalty. There are some rules that have changed in European football and domestically still sometimes in these sort of situations find easy to figure out. The new rule states that if your arm is in motion and you connect with the ball it is a penalty regardless of the situation. However, that does not apply to what we saw yesterday. Chris Smalling did not make contact with any part of his hand or arm. The ball hit him in the face there is no argument that can be made on behalf of the official. Anyone who actually thinks that was the right call needs glasses because it was the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen. Not only that it came in the dying men’s of a match while Roma was seconds away from three points. It doesn’t matter if they play particularly well by definition they did enough to receive the three points that they deserved. A decision like this cannot be based on form or how the team has played regardless of how they played that is never a penalty in a million years and I don’t think we will see a horrendous call like this ever again. The ball did not hit any part of his body that would suggest that it was a penalty. The referee Federation has already admitted that this was a mistake and it was not a penalty. The entire team and stadium were filled with rage after a decision like that. They were searching for momentum and confidence and they were seconds away from it before the referee changes the outcome of the game. Roma is still at the top of the group but a call like this can quite honestly change the outcome of the entire group. The NFL over the last few weeks has it been complaining about how bad the officials have been I don’t want to hear them complain ever again because what happened yesterday in Rome with Chris Smalling was the most ridiculous egregious call not just in football but in sports history. This day will never be forgotten and this reiterates the fact that we need VAR in the Europa League. The reason this competition does not have it is some of the smaller teams cannot afford it however in a situation like this proves that we need it and the Federation should step in and volunteer to use some of the money that’s been pumped in to football to help the teams in the competition pay for it. Situations like this cannot happen. Unfortunately, Roma isn’t a big enough Brands to make a drastic change overnight they aren’t Liverpool Real Madrid Barcelona Bayern Munich or Manchester United had this same thing occurred to one of those teams they would be working on getting it fixed immediately. That’s not the fault of those clubs but unfortunately, that’s the way it works in football. Change needs to happen immediately its the worst officiating decision in history something like this could happen again and whoever that is they deserve better than what Roma got yesterday somebody needs to answer for this change is required.
Roma Midfield Failing to Adapt
The biggest concern within this team at least over the last couple of weeks is there a Midfield. This isn’t necessarily Roma’s fault as a lot of this has happened because of unfortunate circumstances. A large part of Romans Midfield is injured as Roma have lost three starting players in the last month to injury. The unfortunate thing is it is going to be a gradual recovery Roma are going to have to try to figure this out as soon as possible. I’ve said this multiple times over the last two years Lorenzo Pellegrini is the most valuable player in Italian football. The Roman born midfielder is one of the best players on Roma and is without question the best midfielder. The problem is with him out it has been incredibly difficult to adapt without him. A player like he can do so many great things with the ball that causes Roma to operate on a high-level in the Midfield. With him gone and then Bryan cristante getting injured shortly after it has been just a disaster in the Midfield. This team has struggled immensely in maintaining possession and passing efficiency. This Roma team is losing possession way too frequently. This is a very difficult situation for anybody to manage. Paulo Fonseca at times has had to put players out of position to solidify their lineup. Yesterday he had to rewrite an entire formation to compensate for it. The good news is Lorenzo Pellegrini is eyeing November 1st as a return date. Roma needs to try to keep their heads above water until that happens. On top of that even when he comes back it’s not going to be that simple but it will certainly help their situation. Jordan veretout has been pretty consistent in the Midfield and has shown some promise. I think he deserves a lot of credit given what this Midfield has gone through over the last several weeks last night he showed some real qualities and was one of the best players on the pitch however even with him this team struggled in that area. Fixing this problem is easier said than done I don’t have the answer with so much lack of depth in that position and their most valuable midfielder out it’s just going to be a work-in-progress. Without their fluidity in Midfield Rome is struggling to attack the football which has played a major role in Roma’s struggles.
The biggest concern for Roma over the last two seasons has been their defense. Last year among the top six teams in Italian football they had the worst defense. Robin Olsen in goal didn’t work out and the back lines did not function nearly well enough. Even though they improved this year and upgraded in the early parts of this season they were having similar struggles. The difference was the attacking Midfield was much improved so it wasn’t as noticeable. This is something that they struggled with consistency this season. However, this has changed the defense was the weakest part of this team it just isn’t the case anymore. They have developed really well together. The signings they have made in the defense have worked out tremendously with Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling together being very formidable. Over the last few weeks, it seems not only is this, not a weakness it might be their greatest strength at this moment. Last night we saw a defensive Master Class. Roma was significantly outplayed by the German side but despite that, the defense has made things incredibly difficult on the Bundesliga leaders. As a unit with Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini, this is just a different team defensively. They have found comfortability inconsistency in the defensive setup. Last night they did so well limiting opportunities from the German attack. Even more remarkably there was a formation change that caused Gianluca Mancini to play in a defensive midfield position. The Italian center-back was being played outside of position but still did so well in terms of anticipation played with such a highest level of intelligence and was the best player on the pitch yesterday. The game did not go the way Roma would have liked to see but a lot of that comes down to circumstances that were out of their control. The Germans were not scoring in this game the defensive performance was at the absolute highest level this season. Without question in my mind the best defensive performance of the year if they can maintain this level of consistency and the team gets healthy they could be dangerous when everyone is back Roma eliminated a big weakness by the improvements made in the backline this will only help them progressed even further this season.
Borussia Back in Contention
Despite the fact that the Bundesliga leaders benefited from controversial circumstances it saved their campaign in Europe. There’s no question that they are redirecting their focus to the Bundesliga. This team has done a lot better than anyone really thought they would in the league. They lost two of their best players and have done significantly better than last season. Against all the odds they sit top of German Football it is very early in the season but the Bundesliga is very tight this season and they have a legitimate possibility at the title. At least that’s the way it looks now this could change in a matter of months but at the moment they’re playing great football and have an opportunity to do something really special. The Europa League is not a priority for them but nonetheless had they lost last night it would be pretty hard to overcome. Borussia now has two points from their opening two matches it still may be rather difficult for them to dig themselves out of the hole but nonetheless, they certainly put themselves in position to do so with a point that they most definitely did not deserve and I think they would even admit that. However, benefiting from the penalty late in the game last night gives them a glimpse of hope.