Our columnist runs the rule over Saturday's narrow away win in Serie A...
A late winner from Annamaria Serturini gave Roma their first away victory of the season on Saturday afternoon, as the Giallorosse came back from San Marino with a 3-2 win.
Roma had comfortably beaten the same opponents in the Coppa Italia last season, but the first Serie A meeting between the two sides was a much closer affair.
Roma twice took the lead through Paloma Lazaro, but were pegged back each time. There was nothing to separate the teams at half-time after a dramatic end to the first half.
After the break, it looked as if Roma would be heading for a frustrating draw. Fortunately, that was not the case, as Serturini snatched a winner in the 88th minute.
It means a return to winning ways for Roma, who are now three games unbeaten.
Here are some of the key factors that ensured Roma came away from San Marino with all three points.
The impact that Paloma Lazaro has made since her arrival at Roma in the summer grows more extraordinary with every game she plays.
The striker has made a seamless transition to life with her new club. After scoring in her first two games – something nobody else has done for Roma Women so far – Lazaro has shown no signs of slowing down.
With her brace against San Marino, she has taken her tally for the club to five goals already, after just six appearances.
And Lazaro is showing the full range of skills in getting those goals. Having already shown she can score in different ways in her first few weeks at the club, she gave another glimpse into the variety in her repertoire.
Lazaro’s first goal was a well-timed volley after a cross from Elisa Bartoli – who started the game at right-back, rather than her usual position on the opposite side of defence.
The Spaniard tracked the ball all the way to connect cleanly with Bartoli’s cross, finding the bottom corner of the goal to give Roma the advantage.
Her second goal also saw her reacting to a cross, this time of a much steeper trajectory. Lazaro leapt above everyone else in the box to head home Vanessa Bernauer’s free kick and briefly restore Roma’s advantage.
As well as becoming the first player to score a brace for Roma Women this season, Lazaro impressed further away from the penalty area. She brought other teammates into play and demonstrated her dribbling ability on several occasions.
Lazaro had the overall influence and the end product to make a difference. It was the performance of a complete centre-forward.
While Lazaro had put Roma on course for victory in the first half, they needed someone else to get the goal that would secure the three points.
Substitute Alice Corelli did well to pick out Annamaria Serturini, who has been enjoying her share of the limelight recently after making her 50th appearance for the club last week.
Serturini is also Roma’s all-time top scorer in women’s football, and she showed why with her composed finish late on.
With her back to goal, Corelli chested down a long ball from Allyson Swaby – whose contribution at the back deserved plaudits as well – before playing it around the corner for Serturini.
As the ball fell kindly to her in the box after Corelli’s set-up, Serturini took a big touch to get the ball out of her feet and cut inside to a central area. All she had to do was place it either side of the goalkeeper.
She managed to do just that, calmly dispatching the ball at the near-post to score in her third consecutive game and spark some big celebrations.
Betty Bavagnoli was not completely satisfied with how proceedings went, but the coach did get the chance to experiment with one idea in the first half.
As previously mentioned, captain Bartoli shifted over to right-back, with Angelica Soffia switching to left-back instead.
The two full-backs have frequently played in the same lineup as one another, but more often than not, it is Bartoli on the left and Soffia on the right. However, Bavagnoli swapped them over for this encounter.
Soffia did reasonably well when covering for Bartoli at left-back when the captain was suspended against Verona recently, so she had another opportunity to make an impact from that position.
As for Bartoli, her experience means she is capable of performing in whichever role she is deployed. While she is usually more effective down the left flank, she still contributed from her 45 minutes on the right.
In fact, it was from Bartoli’s right-footed cross that Lazaro was able to open the scoring.
The experiment finished at half-time, when Bavagnoli sent on Kaja Erzen instead of Soffia, thus sending Bartoli back to the left. However, the rotation had given Roma an idea of what they can expect from Bartoli if her coach ever decides to deploy her on the right again.
Ultimately, it took a lot of resilience for Roma to get back in front after being held for so long in the second half. However, their character shone through in the end.
Roma travelled to San Marino knowing they had to turn a corner, and in some ways, they did. While it was more complicated than they would have liked, they got the win they needed.
Importantly, they responded after letting goals in. It was actually the first time this season they have scored after conceding – and they did so twice.
It proves that Roma have not lost their ability to respond to setbacks. While they haven’t always been able to so far this year, they ensured the last goal was theirs.
They were patient in their approach as well. The timing of their third goal – in the 88th minute – makes it the latest winning goal they have scored since January 2019, when Flaminia Simonetti scored in the 90th minute against Verona.
Hence, Roma got the win they needed, but perhaps more importantly for the bigger picture, showed they have the character to deal with the challenges ahead.