AS Roma began their quest to fight for a Champions League spot in Serie A with a 2-2 draw against Salernitana at the Stadio Olimpico. It is a somewhat underwhelming scoreline, but it gives an idea of how the side could fare when key figures return.
The Giallorossi were without Jose Mourinho’s presence on the touchline due to the ban he picked up in the final game of the 2022/23 Serie A season, something that inevitably hindered his side. They also clearly felt the absence of Paulo Dybala and Lorenzo Pellegrini, who too were serving suspensions.
Belotti finally ends his Serie A goal drought
It had been 15 months since Belotti scored in Serie A, his last goal being a brace against Empoli for Torino in 2021/22’s Serie A Gameweek 35. He has hit the ground running for this Serie A campaign.
The 29-year-old was unlucky to have his first of the evening ruled out, a well-taken goal, that showed a glimpse of what could be. It took just eight minutes for him to definitively get onto the scoresheet though, with a goal displaying the attributes that most would associate with his Torino days. He added his second goal in the 82nd minute, a powerful header from a Leandro Paredes corner.
The Italian rarely started in the 2022/23 Serie A campaign due to the presence of Tammy Abraham. With the Englishman sidelined with an ACL injury, it has given Belotti a chance to re-find himself, saying after full-time on Sunday: “I really missed being myself. Unfortunately, I had a very difficult season last year.”
Though with an opening day brace, and Mourinho’s confidence behind him, perhaps Belotti could be the answer to the gap left by Abraham’s injury, even if the Giallorossi are keen to further reinforce their attacking options.
Is AS Roma’s squad depth being effectively addressed?
Much was made last season about Roma’s lack of squad depth and those discussions were reignited when the uninspiring starting eleven was announced. Several members of the Primavera squad featured in the substitutes, however when the bench was called upon, Roma’s grasp on the game strengthened.
Yes, Bruno Conti’s side were on top for the majority of the game, but as the cliche goes, substitutions can make or break a game, and with Roma a goal down those who came on had to have some impact.
Electing to make four substitutions in one go, Conti brought on debutant Renato Sanches, Rick Karsdorp, Leandro Paredes, and Nicola Zalewski in the 68th minute. Their impact was felt almost instantly, with his side getting more of a grasp of the play and becoming more dangerous. Conti also gave minutes to Riccardo Pagano late in the game.
Whilst the squad is by no means as deep as AC Milan’s, Inter’s, or Juventus’ there is enough there to potentially challenge for a Champions League spot. This is also without considering that they were missing Pellegrini, Dybala, and Abraham on Sunday, and with those faces present, and another striker coming through the door in the shape of Duvan Zapata, Mourinho’s worries about his squad may be lessened.
Candreva’s veteran experience provided the brilliance
It’s almost poetic how former Lazio winger Antonio Candreva would be the one to provide the action in Roma’s opener at the Stadio Olimpico. The veteran has now scored three times in his past two games against the Giallorossi.
His brace on Sunday showed his expertise and experience. For the first goal of the two, the 36-year-old started the move from the middle of the pitch, before collecting the ball outside the box and dispatching a venomous strike past the flailing Rui Patricio.
His second was an early goal-of-the-season contender. Domagoj Bradaric floated a pass across the pitch, and with his first touch Candreva took the ball down, creating space for himself away from Bryan Cristante, and his second was a whipped shot flew into the back of the net.
He is already on three goals this campaign after he opened his record against Ternana in the Coppa Italia. Whilst he may not be the most consistent goalscorer, his performance on Sunday showed that he is still able to prove his quality at 36 years old, although it wasn’t enough to inspire his side to a victory.