Salah steals the show for Roma despite suspect defence vs. Bologna
Mohamed Salah led Roma to a big win over Bologna thanks to his first Serie A hat trick, which won't win any style awards but kept the Giallorossi in touch with league leaders Juventus.
The Egyptian is now on eight goals for the season -- ahead of Gonzalo Higuain, no less, and only two behind top scorer Edin Dzeko -- and while his first would have been easily saved were it not deflected past Bologna stopper Angelo Da Costa by the unfortunate Adam Masina, his second was a neat run and finish and he was in the perfect place to tap in the rebound of Dzeko's saved left-footed drive.
While the final score line was convincing, the performance was far from it, and wasn't until Salah tucked in his second just after the hour mark that home fans could breathe, as their side's makeshift defence never truly got a handle on Bologna and allowed them far too many shots on goal.
Nonetheless Roma stay four points behind Juve, and just as importantly, one ahead of third-placed AC Milan going into the international break, during which they're hoping to have Kostas Manolas back -- and not lose anyone else.
If you can score three goals and keep a clean sheet when not playing amazingly well at either end of the pitch and missing a host of players, things are going all right for you. Roma have won all six of their home matches and scored an incredible 20 times, and even a slightly off-key Dzeko couldn't stop the goals from flying in. If they are to mount a Scudetto challenge it will be their home form that drives them forward.
The fact that Roma let a well-organised but hum-drum team like Bologna have 13 shots -- five of which were on target -- highlights just how patchwork their defence is at the moment, while too often players seemed to be charging about the pitch, disconnected from the formation they were supposed to playing in.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Luciano Spalletti's team more or less picked itself thanks to the injuries that have afflicted Roma in the opening two months of the season, and while they were lacking in cohesion at times, his players kept up the pressure on Bologna for 90 minutes and on another night could have had at least two or three more.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Wojciech Szczesny, 6 -- Never looked worried or hurried. Always on his toes and made all of his saves look simple.
DF Bruno Peres, 6 -- Probably the best of Roma's defenders, but mostly for his threat down the right, which adds an extra dimension to Roma's attack.
DF Federico Fazio, 6 -- The Argentine struggled a bit with on-loan-from-Roma striker Umar Sadiq, in particular in the first 30 minutes, but grew into the game.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 6 -- Good in his individual battles, but still not quite there as part of a unit. Distribution as erratic as it's always been.
DF Juan Jesus, 6 -- One of the Brazilian's better displays in a Roma shirt. A bit clumsy in the challenge at times, but marshalled the left flank well.
MF Daniele De Rossi, 6 -- Sometimes still wants to play that Hollywood ball when it's not necessary, but otherwise solid in front of the back four.
MF Radja Nainggolan, 6 -- Full of enthusiasm as always, but if anything the Belgian was a bit too frenetic in behind Dzeko. He needs to clamp down a bit instead of charging around so much.
MF Kevin Strootman, 7 -- His assist for Salah's second goal was slick, and his pressing was a constant thorn in Bologna's side.
FW Mohamed Salah, 8 -- Would have had four goals had referee Piero Giacomelli not erroneously pulled play back for a supposed foul on Masina just before he scored his second. If his distribution were more consistent he would be one of Europe's very finest players.
FW Edin Dzeko, 6 -- Carried out his target man duties with aplomb, but was lacking the goal threat that's characterised his recent performances. Should have done better when he shot wide in the 11th minute.
FW Diego Perotti, 7 -- Such a lovely player when in full flow. His super dribbling led to Salah's opener and caused Bologna problems all night long.
MF Leandro Paredes, 7 -- Slotted nicely into midfield as a replacement for Rudiger. Kept it simple and kept it moving.
MF Gerson, N/R -- It would be nice to see the Brazilian get a bit more game time in matches like this, as it's hard to judge his talent on the basis of 13 minutes.
FW Stephan El Shaarawy, N/R -- Came on more to give Salah a standing ovation than for any tactical reason, and five minutes wasn't enough time to make a mark on a long-since won match.
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC's AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley