In-form Dzeko, Roma sputter in first-leg Coppa Italia defeat to rival Lazio
Roma's search for their first trophy in nine years got a lot harder after being deservedly beaten by crosstown rivals Lazio in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ciro Immobile did the goalscoring damage, as Simone Inzaghi set up his side brilliantly to swarm one of Europe's in-form teams, easily soaking up Roma's tame attacks and tearing gaping holes in their backline on the break.
Roma huffed and puffed but in comparison with Sunday night's exertions at Internazionale this was a jaded display. Edin Dzeko was way too sluggish to shake off the attentions of the brilliant Stefan de Vrij, Wallace and Bastos, while Radja Nainggolan, although full of his usual bulldog enthusiasm, was a shadow of the player he has been in recent weeks.
Roma now have to sit on this result for a month before the second leg in early April, and in the meantime, make sure that with Napoli coming to town on Saturday and Lyon awaiting them in the Europa League next week, they don't let the usual post-derby defeat hysteria get to them.
While Roma barely managed to put together a move worthy of note all night, the commitment couldn't be doubted. That will be scant consolation to fans but the fact that they didn't fall apart completely is a positive sign.
The members of the three-man backline that has looked so solid for so long were all at sea, and the arrival of pacy substitute Keita Balde Diao only enhanced the impression that they could all do with a weekend off to remove the lead from their legs. Leandro Paredes was completely off the pace in midfield, while the team's key men all had serious off nights, the invisible Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah in particular.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- Nothing Luciano Spalletti tried came off. The formation that has worked so well for his team couldn't break down Lazio, and none of his subs provided anything different. Worse, in the second half his defence was constantly left one on one with Lazio's attack, and that's how the Biancocelesti bagged their second.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 6 -- Can't be blamed for either of the goals, or for his team's shonky defending.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 6 -- Probably the best of an uncharacteristically uncertain backline. Decent both as a central defender and as a right-back.
DF Federico Fazio, 5 -- The Argentine's worst match since he arrived in Rome. Without him pulling the strings the whole backline struggled.
DF Kostas Manolas 5 -- Totally burned by Keita for Lazio's second, which coloured an otherwise OK display.
MF Bruno Peres, 5 -- On night's like this it's hard to see what the Brazilian is here for. Nowhere defensively and no attacking threat.
MF Kevin Strootman, 5 -- Bereft of ideas, the Dutchman offered very little service to his attackers.
MF Leandro Paredes, 5 -- Struggled to get anything going all night. Until he finds consistency he will struggle to hold down a regular place in this team
MF Emerson Palmieri, 6 -- Hard to pinpoint anything specific that he did wrong, but Keita got a lot of joy in the gaps he left pushing forward.
MF Radja Nainggolan, 5 -- Symbolised the difference between Sunday night and Wednesday night. Tried his hardest but kept bouncing off a brick wall.
MF Mohamed Salah, 5 -- Offered very little indeed before being replaced by Stephan El Shaarawy.
FW Edin Dzeko, 5 -- Kept completely quite by De Vrij and Wallace. Always on his heels and no idea of where to move. His worst performance in weeks.
MF Diego Perotti, 5 -- Brought on to add some guile in behind Dzeko as Spalletti shifted Nainggolan back into midfield. It didn't work.
MF Stephan El Shaarawy, 5 -- Just as quiet as Salah. His every move has the whiff of a player off at the end of the season.
FW Francesco Totti, N/R -- Tried his best with the five minutes plus stoppage time he was given by a desperate Spalletti, but he's really starting to look his age.
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC's AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley