Roma had moved down to 3rd after Lazio had won against Sampdoria in the previous set of games, and as they prepared for their clash with Udinese, they aimed for the league’s 2nd place spot, as this was the place for automatic Champions League qualification.
There were 4 changes for Roma in total, Francesco Totti – who came in as captain – and Victor Ibarbo were both back in the starting 11. There was also no Gervinho for Roma, who usually liked to make forward runs, in-behind the opposition’s defence.
There was no Antonio Di Natale, who would surely be a big miss for Udinese, as he too was the captain for his side.
Only Sampdoria had beaten Roma at home in Serie A this season, but Udinese – who sat in the second half of the table – were looking to change this, by beating the Italian giants.
As the game started, it was clear that the two Roma wingbacks – Jose Holebas and Vasilis Torosidis – looked very attacking, and seemed to bomb down each wing within the first minutes of the game.
The very first attack of the game came from Roma, when Juan Iturbe darted down the right wing, cut-in, crossed the ball into the box, yet not accurately enough, for Ibarbo to get a vital touch on the ball.
The first 10 minutes of the game saw the home side with the majority of possession, and Udinese were having to be very patient in regaining possession back, as they saw themselves in their own half for long periods of time. Udinese sat very deep to begin with, and simply let the Roma midfielders have control of the ball, in an aim to trigger the Roma players to force their attacks.
19 MIN – GOAL – PERICA – 1st Udinese goal for the youngster, and on such an important night. After a terrible piece of decision-making from Kostas Manolas, the ball lost possession to Cyril Thereau in his own half, and despite Morgan De Sanctis saving the first attempt, the Chelsea loanee put the ball in, on the follow-up.
ROMA 0 – 1 UDINESE
BOOKED – PIRIS – Miralem Pjanic played a lofted pass towards the run of Ibarbo, and the striker was taken down, with only the goalkeeper to beat. Possibly a red?
From the following free-kick, Totti hit a blistering shot at goal, only to force a fantastic save from the Udinese keeper: Orestis Karnezis.
After Udinese had taken the lead, Roma instantly upped their game, as more crosses were made, and therefore, more chances were created. The pressure from Roma was building…
Stipe Perica had yet another chance to extend the Udinese lead, after a perfect cross was put into the Roma box by Silvan Widmer. Despite the ball being in the air for a reasonable amount of time, Perica had no challenge from any Roma defenders, but put the header wide from 6 yards out.
Straight after the Perica chance, Roma had an opportunity to equalise. Holebas crossed the ball into the danger area of the Udinese box, and found Ibarbo once again. The ball needed the faintest of touches to convert the chance, but the Roma player made no contact.
On many occasions, Manloas and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa had given the ball away far too easily to the Udinese strikers. On one occasion, Manolas’ decision-making had gifted the opposition with the opening goal, and this time around, Yanga-Mbiwa gave Udinese another chance at goal.
Although the Roma defenders were having trouble, the Roma forwards were not, as Ibarbo had yet another shot at goal, without converting the chance. The Columbian cut-in from the right wing, and struck an effort at goal, but forced a great save from Karnezis; a keeper who had been praised by Dino Zoff.
45 MIN – GOAL – NAINGGOLAN – It was inevitable. The Udinese defenders all got sucked into Iturbe, who looked dangerous down the right wing, and after Totti crossed the ball into the box, Radja Nainggolan put the ball into the roof of the net to draw level.
ROMA 1 – 1 UDINESE
The very last kick of the half was a free-kick taken by Udinese man, Guilherme. 30 yards out, the Brazilian struck the set-piece with brute force, only to see his chance hit the crossbar, and fly over.
ROMA 1 – 1 UDINESE
The end-to-end football that made up the majority of the first 45 minutes, carried on over into the second half, as Udinese proved once again, to be a stubborn opposition. So much so, that they had another effort on goal, and served Roma with a warning. After 1 ball was lofted over the top of the Roma defence, Thereau moved in from the right of midfield, and have a shot at goal, only to see his effort saved by the feet of De Sanctis.
65 MIN – GOAL – TOROSIDIS – A HUGE goal for Roma, as they led for the first time in the game. It was poor defending from Udinese, as Nainggolan was allowed to cross the ball into the box, and after two defenders miss-kicked the ball completely, Torosidis pounced on the chance and scrambled it into the Udinese net.
ROMA 2 – 1 UDINESE
66 MIN – SUB – OFF: PERICA, ON: KONE
72 MIN – SUB – OFF: PINZI, ON: FERNANDES
One player inparticular, who had performed well in the game, and all season, was Radja Nainggolan, the Belgian centre midfielder. His aggressive and strong approach to the game had earned him enormous amounts of praise, and had sparked interest from teams all around Europe.
74 MIN – SUB – OFF: TOTTI – Possibly his last season for Roma? ON: KEITA
Udinese hadn’t given up, despite being behind, and they continued to create half-chances, but they were simply not testing enough, to trouble the Roma back 5.
BOOKED – NAINGGOLAN – Had committed too many fouls.
Straight after his booking, Nainggolan had a chance to extend his side’s lead, and get himself a brace. After a great piece of attacking play from Juan Iturbe down the right wing, the ball was crossed low to the foot of the Belgian midfielder, yet the Roma man couldn’t convert his back-heel shot, and saw his effort tipped onto the post.
82 MIN – SUB – OFF: GUILHERME, ON: GEIJO
82 MIN – SUB – OFF: ITURBE – Had a 50/50 performance, with ups and downs throughout, ON: DOUMBIA
For the remaining 10 minutes of the game, Roma were happy to keep the ball in their own half, and kept their high defensive line whenever Udinese came forward with the ball.
Holebas came close to making it 3-1, when he burst forward, into the Udinese box, and struck the crossbar with his shot.
86 MIN – SUB – OFF: PJANIC, ON: LJAJIC
BOOKED – TOROSIDIS – A yellow card for dissent, after appealing for a foul.
BOOKED – LJAJIC – Stopped the Udinese counter-attack, right in front of the referee.
4 ADDED MINS
ROMA 3 – 1 UDINESE
STAR MAN: RADJA NAINGGOLAN
A very significant win for Roma, who move into 2nd place in Serie A, above Lazio, into the Champions League automatic qualification spot. Roma got away with it in the end, despite Udinese going ahead through Chelsea loanee Stipe Perica, and now, look forward to a clash with Lazio on the 25th May.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Matt Smith