Roma put their midweek disappointment in the Europa League behind them as they breezed to a comfortable victory over a poor Palermo, moving them into 2nd position, two points behind Juventus at the top of Serie A.
Roma welcomed back Captain Daniele De Rossi, with Francesco Totti starting the game on the bench. Top scorer Edin Dzeko also returned to the starting line up along with Salah, Szczesny and Emerson with a view to picking up where they left off after their victory over Napoli at the San Paolo last weekend. Meanwhile, Palermo went into this game on the back of one win all season (away at Atalanta) including three defeats in their last six games, most recently in the 4-1 hammering at the hands of Torino. Roberto De Zerbi made five changes to the side, bringing in Cionek, Goldaniga, Morganella, Gazzi and Henrique.
The last meeting between the two sides ended in a 5-0 win to Roma and the Giallorossi were clear favourites going into the game. However Palermo had set their stall out to defend and try and hit Roma on the counter with Spaletti’s men finding it difficult to get their attacking cohesion going in the first ten minutes, Dzeko’s tame effort straight at Posavec the only attempt on goal.
The Capital club went close on twelve minutes when El Shaarawy latched onto a through pass from Dzeko but his side foot finish went just wide of the far post.
Roma were beginning to stamp their authority on the game. El Shaarawy found space and cut inside from the left, curling a right footed effort towards goal which culminated in a comfortable save for Posavec. But despite Roma’s prodding, Palermo were defending well and restrained them to long range efforts most notably from Emerson whose 20 yard strike was parried out wide for a corner.
The Rosanero finally threatened in the 27th minute when a cross-field pass was cut out by Aleesami but was caught by Manolas when he was through on goal. Replays showed the Greek defender’s studs were high but the referee decided brandish a yellow card when there were calls for a red.
But in truth, Palermo rarely threatened and hadn’t had an effort on goal, so it was no surprise when Salah put Roma ahead in the 30th minute. Collecting Dzeko’s pass from just outside the box, Salah slotted his left footed shot between Posavec’s legs and into the net. It was the 20th Serie A goal of the season for Roma.
5 minutes later a poor touch by Jesus resulted in him clumsily bringing down Diamanti, conceding a booking and a dangerous free kick to Palermo just outside the box. After a bit of pushing and shoving in the wall, Diamanti curled his left footed effort inches over the left hand upright.
The first half came to an end with Spaletti’s men in front. Palermo had defended well but they rarely ventured outside their half. Roma’s attacks were too narrow and found themselves often crowded out. A change at the start of the second half saw the Giallorossi replace Juan Jesus with Florenzi. The switch saw Emerson switch over to the left hand side, looking for Florenzi to provide the width on the right that was missing in the first half.
The Roma faithful did not have to wait long for their second goal following a huge howler from Posavec in the 50th minute. Emerson was brought down on the left wing by Diamanti. Paredes swung the resulting free kick into the six yard box but the Croatia under 21 keeper let the ball squirm underneath him and up into the top corner of the net.
The goal seemed to wake Palermo into life with two attempts on target in the space of six minutes. First Diamanti cut in from the right and curled a left footed shot that was parried away by Szczseny. Aleesami then whipped a cross in to the far post which was headed down goal-wards by Andelkovic but Szczesny did well to save low to his left.
However, Palermo’s response was short lived as Roma stepped up their game once more. Neat interplay between Salah and Nainggolan on the right hand side found the Egypt international at the right hand byline in the box and back heeling the ball into the path of Florenzi, cutting onto his left but curling his shot high and wide of goal.
Roma were moving the ball a lot quicker and found their third in the 67th minute. Dzeko, scoring his eighth goal of the season, tucking away a neat finish just inside center of the box after more neat play between Salah and Florenzi whose crisp pass found it’s way to the Bosnian in between both Palermo center backs to put the ball beyond Posavec’s reach into the bottom right hand corner.
It was effectively game over at this point with Spaletti introducing Strootman, to the delight of the Roma fans, on for Nainggolan However, Quaison pounced on a loose ball in the middle and saw his right footed shot deflect off of Florenzi, wrong footing Szczesny. The substitute’s 79th minute goal had given the Sicilian club hope.
But the hope was put to bed after Roma broke forward in the 81st minute with Salah running at the heart of the Palermo back line before laying the ball off to his left to the on rushing El Shaarawy to toe poke home.
Totti, introduced just before Roma’s third, almost delighted the Roma faithful after Florenzi’s cross found the Roma Talisman alone on the left hand side but he miscued his left footed volley which flashed across the area.
It was almost five deep into injury time after a wonderfully disguised pass from Totti found the run of Strootman who took the ball round the keeper but the angle was tight and his cross went across the six yard box beyond Salah who could only turn it back to El Shaarawy who blazed over the bar.
Roma: Szczesny; Manolas, Fazio, Emerson, Juan Jesus (Florenzi 45); De Rossi (c), Nainggolan (Strootman 68), Paredes; Salah, El Shaarawy, Dzeko (Totti 80).
Palermo: Posavec; Cionek, Goldaniga, Andelkovic, Henrique; Gazzi, Morganella (Rispoli 59), Aleesami; Diamanti (c) (Jajalo 72), Chochev (Quaison 68), Nestorovski.