Roma captain Daniele De Rossi rolled back the clock last night at the Stadio Olimpico with a stellar performance in the midfield to help see his club move into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Last week, Juventus pulled off a thrilling second-half comeback over Tottenham at Wembley Stadium that booked themselves a spot in this year’s UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, keeping the dream for European glory alive. On Tuesday evening at the Stadio Olimpico, Roma set out to join them for the ride.
Through a collective, unified effort from all and an Edin Dzeko strike minutes into the second half, the Giallorossi bested Ukraine powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0, qualifying into the next round on the away goal advantage of a 2-2 deadlock.
Beyond the Bosnian’s match-winning goal in the 52nd minute, it was captain Daniele De Rossi who, at the base of the midfield and with the armband strapped tightly on his arm, rolled back the clock with a warrior-like performance.
Paulo Fonseca’s side won the possession battle convincingly 63% to Roma’s 37%, doing all they could to dictate the pace of play and hoping to eventually catch the hosts napping on a few final balls into the opposing third. To combat that and ensure the Ukrainian outfit did not break down Eusebio Di Francesco’s 4-3-3 shape, De Rossi was mightily important to the cause.
The 34-year old’s fighting spirit and leadership were called into action throughout the course of 90 minutes, barking out orders in the middle of the park, closing down space, executing several clinching tackles to stop Shakhtar in their tracks and force them to restart. Though he was a bit slow in possession at times and his indecisive play nerved supporters, there is no denying his sweeping defensive efforts loomed large in this bout when you consider how much of the ball Shakhtar mustered up.
Daniele De Rossi’s performance by the numbers vs. Shakhtar:
31/40 passing (78%)
1 key pass
2 aerials won
5 successful tackles
Capitano. 🔶🔴. pic.twitter.com/V3IBvjE1h3
— ItalianFootballDaily (@ItalianFD) March 14, 2018
De Rossi is cut from the old-fashioned cloth of Italian footballers; traditional, and fully embracing of the working man mentality. He isn’t one to post on social media before a match or immerse himself in ulterior things that could allow him to wander and lose focus of the task at hand. “When I see them [players] do Instagram videos from the dressing room before a game, I’d like to take a baseball bat to their teeth,” De Rossi once explained.
Yet, when you help lead your boyhood club to a hard-fought, grinding victory to secure a quarter-final berth, it doesn’t hurt to crack a smile and take a photo to celebrate.
“You’re old, but man the way you play ” 💪 pic.twitter.com/8IZp3WconF
— ItalianFootballTV (@IFTVofficial) March 13, 2018
In Europe, every side needs players of De Rossi’s ilk; the veteran who can inspire their team on the pitch to dig deep within themselves and find a way to win when staring pressure in the eyes. The field general, the armour of the defence and the leader of the wolf pack, De Rossi continued on his positive run of form last night to win the battle in the trenches.
De Rossi’s best years are behind him; Romanisti, ‘calcio’ fans and general football observers would likely echo that sentiment. Though the need for his replacement grows with every passing campaign, as we have witnessed over the last few years in the twilight of his career, the Roman ‘gladiatore’ will show up to fight for the yellow and red, and lead Roma in and out of battle – just as he did last night to clinch their first UCL quarter-final berth since 2008.