Serie A Match of the Round – Roma vs Genoa

Roma-Genoa was pretty much the only back and forth game of the weekend and it had plenty of storylines in it, so it is an easy choice for match of the round. The Giallorossi were coming off two straight 2-2 ties, with different flavor, against Inter and Cagliari and had prevailed just once in the past seven fixtures. Genoa drew in Cesare Prandelli’s debut versus SPAL and have not won since September 30th.

Eusebio Di Francesco, who has been on the hot seat for a while, made the bold move of benching Patrik Schick after two wasteful outings and opted for a three-man defense and a light front-line composed by Cengiz Under, Nicolò Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert. Genoa were without the suspended Domenico Criscito, replaced here by Ervin Zukanovic, but pretty much stuck with their usual XI, with Romulo and Darko Lazovic wide and Sandro anchoring the midfield.

In a weird atmosphere, as the fans were openly contesting owner James Pallotta and at times serenaded the squad with boos, the Griffon had a slightly better start and capitalized at the 17th minute. Oscar Hiljemark uncorked an easily readable shoot from distance, but Robin Olsen failed to cradle it and let the ball go through his legs and reacted so lethargically that Krzysztof Piatek beat him to the punch and poked it home with a slide.

Roma were carried by Zaniolo and Under, but looked pretty lifeless and depressed overall. However, they were able to take advantage of situation football and Federico Fazio bagged it from close range on a set piece just after the 30th minute mark.

The tie did not last long as two minutes later Hiljemark did it on his own, wiggling free on the far post on a corner kick and easily volleying it home after a flick-on by Sandro. Roma really struggled to muster a reaction this time, but equalized with a play out of the blue just before the half time. Justin Kluivert got the ball with some room to operate, darted past Zukanovic and hit the net with a wicked cross-shot.

The Giallorossi looked pretty good after the break and created a massive chance right away, with Bryan Cristante sending it on from the right flank and Andrei Radu punching it too weakly towards the centre of the box, but Under missed the empty goal and skied it.

Olsen’s nightmarish performance continued as he could not stop an ordinary attempt by Lazovic, which went right through his hands, but he was saved by the VAR and by an offside in the build-up of the action. At the 59th minutes, Cristante completed a nice triangle with Kluivert and rifled it home from just inside the box for his second straight goal.

Genoa tried to come back with the help of some quick incursions, but Olsen this time denied Piatek on a little curled shot, then Goran Pandev sent it over the bar from advantageous position. The guests had a penalty claim in the final minute for a push on the veteran striker, but the VAR did not intervene.

With these three points, Roma kept up with Sassuolo, Sampdoria and Fiorentina and therefore defended the sixth position, while Genoa is now on a par with SPAL at the 15th one, five points above the relegation line.

Justin Kluivert brought home the most points thanks to his goal and the assist, the other scorers Bryan Cristante, Piatek and Hiljemark got four as well, Fazio lost one point due to a yellow card, Sandro and Aleksandar Kolarov grabbed two for setting up their teammates.

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