Roma and Udinese faced off at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, with Jose Mourinho’s Roma looking for a reaction following their disappointing loss to Feyenoord in the Europa League quarterfinal first leg on Thursday. There was no Paulo Dybala for the hosts, as the Argentine continues to recover from a muscle injury. Tammy Abraham was a surprise inclusion in the matchday squad after dislocating his shoulder in midweek. The away side’s influential top scorer Beto was ruled out with flu – though he didn’t score as Udinese thumped Roma 4-0 in the reverse fixture last September.
ASR: Rui Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Diego Llorente; Çelik, Cristante, Bove, Faraone; Wijnaldum, Pellegrini, Belotti
UDI: Silvestri; Becão, Bijol, Perez; Ehizibue, Samardžić, Walace, Lovrić, Udogie; Pereyra, Isaac
A quiet first 20 minutes saw both sides look to impose their passing styles – neither goalkeeper was tested due to a lack of quality service for the front men. The first shot on target came from Samardžić whose well-struck free-kick from 25 yards was straight down the throat of former Wolves man Rui Patricio. Roma responded with their first attempt as a header back across the Udinese box was teed up for Mancini who could only plant his header directly at Silvestri who parried away.
Wijnaldum looked to provide a spark for Roma and his smart movement created a chance but his powerful strike was pushed past the post by Silvestri. The following corner was headed goalwards by Llorente – the ball striking the outstretched arm of Pereyra. Following a brief VAR check, a penalty was given by referee Antonio Giua. It was Cristante who stepped up in the 36th minute but his penalty rattled the right-hand upright. The ball ricocheted to academy graduate Bove who did fantastically well to react first and fire home into an empty net with Silvestri stranded.
Chances were at a premium in a stop-start first half. Mourinho’s men headed towards the interval with a slender 1-0 advantage. Udinese continued to move the ball with purpose, but were unable to threaten the three-time Serie A champions goal. The last action of the first half saw a low free-kick from Pellegrini saved well down to Silvestri’s left.
Despite a spell of controlled possession at the start of the second half for the away side, it was Roma who struck again following a quick counter in the 55th minute. A precise ball through from the hardworking Belotti to the open Pellegrini followed by a smart finish into the top left corner saw Roma gain an assertive 2-0 lead.
Udinese were handed a lifeline in the 66th minute as Mancini was adjudged to have used his arm to block a shot in the box. Pereyra was given his chance for redemption from the spot which he failed to capitalise on – his penalty was well saved by Rui Patricio down to his right-hand side. The Portuguese ‘keeper was embraced by his teammates and the especially relieved Mancini.
Frustration began to spill over for the away side as former Watford striker Isaac Success shoved Mancini to the floor off the ball – the Nigerian perhaps fortunate to escape punishment. Roma introduced Abraham, Zalewski and Spinazzola in the 75th minute with the hope of seeing the game out without incident. Udinese continued to huff and puff but a typically robust defensive display from a Mourinho side made it difficult for the visitors to create any clear openings.
Roma sealed the win the win in the 90th minute as two substitutes combined. Some direct wing play from Spinazzola resulted in a pin-point lofted ball across to Abraham, who steered his header past the helpless Silvestri. It was a clinical third goal from the hosts, who displayed an impressive edge in the final third scoring from three of their six shots on target. Referee Giua brought an end to proceedings, with Roma well deserving of the three points thanks to a combination of clinical finishing and decisive defending.
The win leaves Roma in 3rd, five points ahead of Inter in fifth. Attention now switches to the huge quarter final second leg at home to Feyenoord – as i Giallorossi hope to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg. As for Udinese, the visit of struggling Cremonese provides a good opportunity to bounce back from Sunday’s humbling. Despite a disappointing result, Udinese sit in 12th position – a solid position for the Udine based outfit.