Tuesday evening saw Roma drew 1-1 with Manchester City away from home and now sit in second place in Group C. The match – which saw Francesco Totti become the competition’s oldest goal scorer – illustrated a Roma side unfazed after conceding an early penalty and go on to play fluid football. The reigning English champions looked sluggish throughout and Roma were able to dictate long stretches of play. Let’s take a look how they did it.
Keita’s positioning on the field was crucial for Roma’s dominance throughout the match. The 34-year-old slid in between the centre-backs to cover defensively as well as provide an outlet to the defence to help build up play. While defending, Keita positioned himself right above the back four. He also completed five clearances in total.
The away side looked rather comfortable in possession and Keita’s composure on the ball was key in setting the tempo for the match. The Malian international kept things tidy with short, relaxed passes. Keita boasted 89% pass completion and produced many vertical passes, including one in the buildup to Totti’s goal
At times, the midfielder was also the furthest up the pitch to press Yaya Toure and David Silva. By doing so, he restricted the opposition from directing play and helped keep Roma’s shape while defending.
Keita was essential for Roma’s system to work as well as it did.
Numbers Game in midfield/wing coverage
As City sat back, Roma were allowed to garner possession. Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan brought a creative spark that kept the opposing side flat footed. Pjanic at times took on the defence while also providing through balls to his teammates. The Bosnian completed 11 passes in the attacking third. Nainggolan was a constant engine in the midfield and kept Roma pushing forward.
With Giallorossi attacking forward, wide players Silva and Jesus Navas had to make a decision whether to drop back to help defend or remain forward. They chose the latter. The duo did not help out much defensively and stayed wide in hopes of breaking on the counter – which ultimately hurt the home side. Roma simply outnumbered the opposition in midfield and found heaps of space to pin back City (Frank Lampard’s introduction in the second half helped balance out the midfield battle).
Conversely, wingers Gervinho and Alessandro Florenzi tracked back regularly and marked fullbacks Pablo Zabaleta and Gabriel Clichy from making dangerous forward runs.
Roma were forced to start 4th choice centre-back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa alongside Kostas Manolas. Manolas was a rock in defence and limited Sergio Aguero significantly – his only shot proved to be his penalty conversion. Mbiwa produced nine clearances while Ashley Cole had four interceptions overall. It was arguably the Englishman’s best performance of the season.
Maicon put in a decent shift after conceding a penalty to the home side. The Brazilian continually found space down the right flank and came close to scoring, but his effort smacked off the woodwork. The 33-year-old also created two chances.
Roma’s performance against Manchester City demonstrated that Serie A clubs can compete in Europe. The Giallorossi now face group leaders Bayern Munich in their next two fixtures. If Roma display this same intensity and tactical commitment, they could very well pick up points against the reigning German champions.