Roma kicked off their 2023/24 Europa League campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Moldovan outfit Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday night. The Italians needed this win to continue building momentum following a disappointing start to the new campaign.
After a 7-0 rout of Empoli, which got Roma off the mark in the 2023/24 Serie A season, Jose Mourinho decided to shuffle the deck in Moldova. Last weekend’s hero, Paulo Dybala, started on the bench, as did Leandro Paredes.
But the latter replaced the injured Renato Sanches midway through the first half and needed around 20 minutes on the pitch to break the deadlock. His attempt from the edge of the area took a deflection and found its way into the back of the net.
Mourinho’s defensive strategy after taking a halftime lead backfired on Roma less than 15 minutes into the second half. Sheriff right-back Cristian Tovar was quickest to get on the end of a loose ball inside the box after a corner and smashed it past hapless Mile Svilar.
Sheriff’s equalizer forced Roma to adjust their approach again. Only moments after Dybala’s introduction, the Italians reclaimed their lead through Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker opened his Giallorossi account against Empoli. He showed up again with another poacher’s finish to put the visitors in front for the second time.
Mile Svilar – 6
With Roma defenders neutralizing Sheriff’s attacking threat, the second-string goalkeeper didn’t have much work to do. Despite conceding from the only shot on target, he never stood a chance from close range.
Evan Ndicka – 7
It’s becoming more and more obvious why Mourinho wanted the former Eintracht Frankfurt man so desperately during the summer. His defending was spot-on, and he looked comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Diego Llorente – 7
He doesn’t get a chance to start frequently. Given his steely defensive showing tonight, Mourinho may want to consider playing him more often.
Gianluca Mancini – 7.5
It’s difficult to remember a duel he lost tonight, whether on the ground or in the air. He even had a few exciting ventures forward. Impeccable performance from the Italian center-back.
Rick Karsdorp – 6
While he stood his ground when forced to defend, the Dutchman offered too little in the front third. His lackluster attacking display often made Roma choose the left flank when moving forward.
Houssem Aouar – 6
The skilled midfielder seemed up the creek without a paddle tonight. He couldn’t gain a foothold in the game and struggled to impact the play despite being given the freedom to move on his own accord.
Bryan Cristante – 7
The Italian yet again proved why Mourinho trusts him so much. His energy and calmness on the ball stood out in Tiraspol.
Renato Sanches – 5
He looked lively on the pitch in the early exchanges but succumbed to another injury midway through the first half, casting further doubt on questionable fitness condition.
Stephan El Shaarawy – 6.5
While he had several blistering moments this evening, the ex-Milan forward couldn’t find the end product.
Nicola Zalweski – 6.5
Roma focused most of their attacking aspirations down the left flank, with the Polish youngster at the thick of action for most of the first half. His influence dwindled after the interval.
Romelu Lukaku – 7
The robust center-forward didn’t have many scoring opportunities tonight, but he didn’t need many. The one presented to him was enough to seal the Italians’ victory.
Leandro Paredes – 7.5
Came off the bench and opened the scoring for his first Roma goal since returning to the club this season. A definition of a super-sub.
Paulo Dybala – 6
Instantly changed the dynamics of the game after taking El Shaarawy’s place. His intimidating presence kept Sheriff on their toes for the rest of the night.
Edoardo Bove – 7
It seems the prodigious midfielder has learned a thing or two from Nemanja Matic. His composure on the ball and pinpoint passing were well beyond his age.
Leonardo Spinazzola – 7
The offensive-minded full-back made Sheriff defenders sweat more than Zalewski and Kardsorp combined in the opening hour of play.
Andrea Belotti – 6
Unlucky to see his attempt from close range breeze agonizingly wide of the far post.
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