Roma 0-2 Atalanta: Visitors compound Giallorossi's despairing week
Gomez curls in his opener. (Image source: giornalettismo)

Edy Reja could hardly suppress his smile. The former Lazio coach, who, before today, dubbed this fixture a "derby" given his Biancocelesti connections, was on hand to compound Roma's miserable seven days.

Just as the ghosts of Tuesday evening's 6-1 demolition in Barcelona were beginning to be exorcised, Atalanta, thanks to goals either side of the interval from Alejandro Gomez and German Denis, rubbed salts into Rudi Garcia's already gaping wounds with an emphatic 2-0 win.

Hosts exploited

Still reeling from their 6-1 ignominy in midweek, Atalanta smelled blood and, on early evidence, were conscious of how vulnerable the Giallorossi may be.

Kostas Manolas, an often reliable distributor from defence, ceded possession to Alejandro Gomez within four minutes and was indebted to Lucas Digne for foiling the danger. 

The dynamic front three of Gomez, Maxi Moralez and German Denis were certainly posing a threat on the break and it took until the eighth minute for Rudi Garcia’s side to trouble the visitors rearguard. Digne delivered an inviting centre into Edin Džeko but the Bosnian could not connect.

His connection was sweet minutes later nevertheless, when Juan Iturbe was felled outside the penalty area and Džeko struck the loose ball with venom, matched by the palms of Marco Sportiello.

Roma began to get a foothold on proceedings as the game crept towards the 20th minute mark. Breaking swiftly, Alessandro Florenzi threaded through an onrushing Miralem Pjanic but Sportiello stood tall to thwart the midfielder’s attempt.

Encouragingly, Pjanic’s late runs were proving fruitful for the hosts, with the linesman repelling a golden opportunity for Roma when the midfielder latched onto Radja Nainggolan’s delightful dink to tee up Džeko.

The Giallorossi cranked up the pressure and, once again, Džeko would be left to rue another glorious opportunity. Daniele De Rossi clipped a cute cross into the penalty area but the Bosnian, catching it sweetly on the half-volley, lashed his effort over the crossbar. 

If the Roma faithful packed inside the Stadio Olimpico weren’t demanding a response for midweek, however, their ire was set to amplify when the visitors edged infront. Digne, a bright spark throughout the first-half, surrendered possession cheaply in a dangerous area before Gomez latched onto the loose ball and curled a sumptuous effort into the far corner and beyond the outstretched Morgan De Sanctis.

Roma’s response to the jeers that met the half-time whistle was conspicuous. Within five mintes of the restart, the Giallorossi were denied a leveller when Luca Cigarini cleared heroically Gabriel Paletta’s ill-judged header off the line. Roma, it seemed, were heeding the boos and adjusting their effort levels accordingly. 

But their defensive frailties have continued to undermine their attacking zest all season and they were fortunate not to find themselves 2-0 down when Denis stood up a delightful cross to the back stick but Alberto Grassi, tussling with De Rossi, could not prod his effort towards goal.

A more threatening chance fell to Moralez on the hour mark when Denis outwitted Nainggolan to a header and liberated the forward. With only De Santic to beat, however, he fluffed his lines and shot straight down the veteran’s throat.

Misery compounded

Rudi Garcia rolled the dice and introduced youth product, Sadiq Umar, as his side went in search of an equaliser.

Worrying, though, was Roma’s inventiveness as they foraged for a leveller. 
And their endeavour — or lack thereof — was ruefully exploited when Atalanta broke with intent and fashioned their second of the afternoon. 

Moralez, who had squandered a golden chance to double his side’s advantage earlier in the half, surged forward and squared the ball to Gomez in prime position. As the winger steadied himself to shoot, Maicon impeded and the referee, along with the award of a spot-kick, brandished a red card. Denis made no mistake from 12 yards as the jeers reverberated around the Stadio Olimpico. 

Both Gugliemo Stendardo and Grassi were given their marching orders during the game's dying embers but that was scant consolation for the hosts.