Roma back on track as Florenzi shines and Dzeko bags double vs. Verona
Roma took full advantage of seriously weak opposition as a rotated Giallorossi lineup bulldozed relegation fodder Hellas Verona 3-0 on Saturday to get back to winning ways and put smiles back on the faces of fans at the Stadio Olimpico.
Fresh from being slapped down by coach Eusebio Di Francesco after he criticised the coach's system post-Atletico Madrid, Edin Dzeko netted a nicely taken brace either side of half time following delicious crosses from Alessandro Florenzi -- superb on his return from an 11-month ACL injury layoff -- and Aleksandar Kolarov, while Radja Nainggolan showed that he hasn't forgotten how to get forward with a nicely slotted 22nd-minute opener.
Dzeko has now scored 32 Serie A goals since the start of last season, and after bemoaning his feeling isolated after the goalless draw with Atleti he was ably supported by both the effervescent Lorenzo Pellegrini and Stephan El Shaarawy, as Roma peppered the away side's goal with 30 shots (10 on target).
Verona, meanwhile, looked like they couldn't wait to fly back north and pretend Saturday night's match never happened. Roma won't face much feebler resistance this season, but that result was just the confidence boost they needed.
For the first time since Di Francesco arrived as coach, his 4-3-3 formation made sense with the players on the pitch, and worked. El Shaarawy and Cengiz Under offered constant support to Dzeko, while Pellegrini and Nainggolan were quick to win the ball back and burst forward.
As Di Francesco said postmatch, if you have 30 shots but only score three times there's room for improvement. One thing Roma have always traditionally lacked the is the ability to slaughter a lamb when its lying prone, and while on Saturday that lack of composure in front goal was never going to come back and bite them, against better opposition it will.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- All of the players Di Francesco introduced to the lineup did their job well, and it was great to finally see Patrik Schick and Hector Moreno get run outs. Tactically there was little he had to do to defeat Verona, who turned up ready to lose, but watching the players adopt his system with the style they did was a pleasure.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 5 -- Could have been replaced by the kitman and it wouldn't have made a difference.
DF Alessandro Florenzi, 8 -- Picked out Dzeko beautifully for the Bosnian's first and was a menace all night. Welcome back.
DF Kostas Manolas, 6 -- It would almost be pointless to judge him on the basis of the little the Greek had to do, although he did it well enough.
DF Federico Fazio, 6 -- Much like Manolas, the Argentine couldn't have had an easier night.
DF Aleksandar Kolarov, 7 -- Class assist for Dzeko's second aside, the Serb is just a quality full-back.
MF Lorenzo Pellegrini, 7 -- A Di Francesco disciple, the Italian excelled in a familiar role on his full Roma debut.
MF Daniele De Rossi, 7 -- Left alone to ping passes about as his wished. Some were crackers.
MF Radja Nainggolan, 7 -- Neatly tucked the opener, and was back supporting Dzeko with darts into the box.
FW Cengiz Under, 6 -- Apart from hitting the bar in the first half, he didn't show what he was capable of.
FW Edin Dzeko, 7 -- Took his brace neatly but could have had double that thanks to the generosity of the Verona defence.
FW Stephan El Shaarawy, 7 -- Got the ball rolling with a simple assist for Nainggolan's opener. If only his finishing matched his ability to get behind defence.
FW Patrik Schick, N/R -- Almost announced his arrival with a pinging shot from distance. Looked smooth and unhurried.
MF Gerson, N/R -- Pottered about for 11 minutes, then got into an unnecessary row with Bruno Peresz, fo who knows what reason.
DF Hector Moreno, N/R -- Proof that he exists, but no test of his abilities.
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC's AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley