Uncharacteristic defensive fragility highlights AS Roma’s limitations

AS Roma saw their excellent home record and defensive solidity collapse in a fiery defeat to Sassuolo in Serie A, with Marash Kumbulla sent off for violent conduct.

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AS Roma fell to a 4-3 defeat at home to Sassuolo in Matchday 26 of Serie A on Sunday, in a loss that was unlike the Lupi at the Stadio Olimpico in recent months, putting a dent in their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

With Inter falling to a shock 2-1 loss to Spezia on Friday, Lazio being held to a goalless draw against Bologna, and Napoli beating Atalanta, the opportunity was presented to Roma to stake a claim for the top four.

Yet, as they had done when falling to defeat against bottom club Cremonese last month, the Giallorossi let their chance blow up in their face and the loss could prove costly.

AS Roma midfielder Nemanja Matic plays a pass against Sassuolo (@ASRomaEN)

Kumbulla’s moment of madness

Trailing to two early Armand Lauriente goals, Roma gave themselves a chance of salvaging the match when Nicola Zalewski halved the deficit. A moment of madness from centre-back Marash Kumbulla on the stroke of halftime was pivotal though, when the Albania international inexplicably kicked out at Domenico Berardi and was sent off, allowing the forward to net from the spot.

Whilst coach Jose Mourinho has hit the headlines for his antics on the touchline, and sat out the defeat to Neroverdi after his altercation with a fourth official during the recent loss against Cremonese, his team have shown far greater discipline on the pitch.

Kumbulla‘s dismissal was the first red card shown to a Roma player this season, costing the Lupi any chance of forcing their way back into the game.

Whilst referee Michael Fabbri struggled to get a grip on the match and incensed the home side with a number of questionable decisions, without Mourinho to take the heat himself, Roma allowed their frustrations to get the better of them.

AS Roma’s Roger Ibanez in discussion with Nicola Zalewski (@ASRomaEN)

Reshaped defence lets Roma down

Much of Roma‘s success this season has been based on their imperious defence, as Sassuolo became the first team to breach their backline more than twice since a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Udinese in early September.

Without Mancini alongside Chris Smalling and Roger Ibanez, Roma looked vulnerable at the back and struggled to deal with the pace and movement of Berardi and Lauriente.

Having not conceded at home in 2023, the Lupi contrived to let in four against Sassuolo and the changes to the team contributed to a disjointed backline.

Mourinho has rarely veered from his first-choice trio and the absence of Mancini showed the difficulties of replacing them, although Kumbulla did not help his cause when the red mist descended.

Dazzling Dybala not enough

It is safe to say that Roma fans have enjoyed the impact of summer signing Paulo Dybala, and the Argentina international made an immediate difference upon coming on at halftime.

With the hosts two goals down, Dybala curled in a fine goal from the edge of the box after just five minutes on the pitch, and offered spark and creativity in the final third.

Shortly after Andrea Pinamonti had made it 4-2, Dybala came close to closing the gap with a wonderful chipped effort, but was denied by Andrea Consigli and he could not drag Roma level.

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