Roma recorded a deserved 4-1 win against Pescara on Monday night: our columnist looks at five key points from the contest...
Win extends gap over Napoli at crucial juncture
On a matchday where Napoli unexpectedly dropped points by drawing 2-2 with Sassuolo, Roma had a brilliant opportunity to extend their lead in second to four points. And they duly did, comfortably defeating Zdenek Zeman's plucky Pescara 4-1. With five Serie A games to play and Roma facing a tough run-in - one that sees them face Lazio, AC Milan and Juventus in their next three fixtures - securing all three points was imperative for the Giallorossi.
“Today was one of the most important wins of the season," Luciano Spalletti said. "We needed the three points and we needed to strengthen our self-belief and conviction.
"The lads produced an exceptional performance.”
El Shaarawy's trio of assists
Stephan El Shaarawy enjoyed a particularly memorable evening, as he bagged three assists in one game for the first time in his career. All three were supplied with admirable precision and quality, with two showing his selflessness to find a teammate for a tap-in rather than shoot himself.
"When you have a team-mate in a better position than you, it’s only right that you give him the ball,” El Shaarawy said. “I’m pleased with the assists but most of all I’m happy with the team performance.”
Moreover, his dynamism, skill and crafty movement also enabled him to have a profound impact, in a match where he reminded his manager of his undoubted value to the squad.
Midfield shifts create space
On the attacking end, Roma's midfield mechanics worked wonders in terms of space creation and manipulating Pescara's defensive structure. Key to this was the way Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman – and, to extent, Leandro Paredes - would occupy higher areas when Roma were building out from the back. This successfully pinned their direct opponent to mark them, giving Roma’s central defenders oceans of space to dribble forward without pressure.
Then, once Federico Fazio or Kostas Manolas reached the halfway line, this inherently forced a Pescara midfielder into applying pressure, which was precisely what the away side wanted, for one of Roma’s midfielders was now free to receive the ball without a man around him.
On countless occasions Roma used this tactic to great effect; consistently seeing them have a vital free man present in between Pescara's midfield and defence lines.
Nainggolan celebrates 250th Serie A game in style
Radja Nainggolan parlayed power and finesse superbly in his 250th Serie A match. While he showed off his all-action, aggression and explosive side as ever, his subtlety was a particular joy to watch against the Delfina.
He moved slickly into pockets of space in front of the opposition backline and used his underrated deft passing qualities to create a game-high six clear-cut chances. Capping off his milestone occasion with a calmly taken goal was unquestionably the perfect way to commemorate another top night at the office for the Belgian.
Emerson return goes even better than hoped
On his return from injury, Emerson Palmieri settled into the swing of things without fuss. He was back to his free-flowing best offensively, using a combination of his mesmerising dribbling, plus his well -imed underlapping and overlapping fullback runs.
Meanwhile, defensively, he undertook his work with typical diligence and commitment. His scintillating forward run that served as the catalyst for Roma’s third goal also deserves special mention, on a night Spalletti would've been delighted with his overall effort and show of fitness ahead of three important games.