Making his first Serie A start since the opening day of the season, Amadou Diawara made sure it was worth the wait as he came up with the goods and sealed a dramatic late Roma win at Fiorentina on Wednesday night.
It’s a cruel by-product of the modern game that Diawara’s celebrations had to hit the pause button - as VAR checked whether Rick Karsdorp was actually offside prior to supplying the Guinea international for Roma’s second.
But, having waited 23 games since his last league start, the midfielder would not be denied his moment of glory as he rushed to the Roma bench and unleashed a roar filled with joy and relief to mark confirmation of his winner.
Diawara dedicated the goal to his cousin Benno for his support while the 23-year-old was sidelined with coronavirus earlier in the campaign, during which he could only be an onlooker as Gonzalo Villar emerged as Paulo Fonseca’s preferred partner for Jordan Veretout in the centre of Roma’s midfield.
Even considering his happiness for his teammate’s impressive performances, it would have been a frustrating exercise in patience for Diawara.
After all, he had established himself as a key figure in Fonseca’s set-up last term, only to see that progress halted by first coronavirus and then injury this time around.
“Playing regularly is always important,” Diawara said after his winning goal. “I’ve had a few injuries, and there was Covid, but now I’m getting back into top shape.”
It certainly looks that way, and Diawara’s timely goal was just reward for an exceptional all-round performance that showed he can not only operate as a defensively-minded one of Roma’s double-pivot, but also in a more dynamic box-to-box role.
It was Diawara that first found Karsdorp out wide before ghosting into the Fiorentina penalty area, the kind of movement that Veretout has mastered this season in becoming the club’s top-scorer in Serie A.
The Frenchman had hobbled off the pitch by then and there will be concerns over his fitness going into the final throes of 2020-21 but, at the very least, an end-to-end Diawara looking back to his best will ease some of those initial worries.
This all-action display resulted in Diawara having more touches of the football than any player on the pitch (90), making the most recoveries of possession (11) and also completing the most interceptions (5) over the course of the 90 minutes.
Forced to juggle his squad so carefully and get by without so many first team players for such long periods of the campaign, Fonseca will be pleased to finally see his team restore some of its equilibrium.
Veretout’s injury aside, it was an encouraging night as Roma’s defence finally looked to be edging back to full strength, while both Leonardo Spinazzola and Karsdorp - who have each operated as centre-backs in recent weeks - made telling, attacking contributions from out wide, which serves as further encouragement.
The impact of those two being able to do what they do best and that on Diawara’s confidence following his late heroics could prove significant in Roma fulfilling their end of season aspirations that their match-winner in Florence immediately laid bare.
“We want to keep pushing for the Champions League places, right until the end,” said Diawara.
And on this evidence, there's still plenty of fight left in this side as they head into a critical period of the season.