Roma received a sharp slap in the face from Patrick Cutrone as they failed the first test against a direct rival for the Champions League places at the San Siro on Friday night, falling 2-1 to AC Milan at the last after having battled back from another awful first-half performance.
A goal down at half-time after leaving Franck Kessie to stroll in and tap home Milan's 40th-minute opener, Roma woke up from their stupor after the break and got themselves back level through Federico Fazio, one of the chief architects of the away side's first-half nightmare. Lucky to see Gonzalo Higuain's immediate reply ruled out for the tightest of offsides, Eusebio Di Francesco's side then huffed and puffed in search of a winner as Milan tired, but created very little of note.
Edin Dzeko looked isolated and in a huff, while none of his strike partners ever got going alongside him, but most worrying is that the coach doesn't appear to have any idea what his best team is, nor that 4-2-3-1 is clearly the best formation for the players that he has. Even if Steven N'Zonzi's goal, rightly disallowed for a clear handball, had won the match, the display at the San Siro would still have been worrying. Does anyone have any idea what this team is supposed to be about?
Twice in a week Roma have come back from terrible first halves to show that they're a team with spirit. N'Zonzi, apart from his awful mistake that lost Roma the game, looks like he will be an important player.
Another match, another first half chucked in the bin. Milan might not have dismantled Roma as Atalanta did, but the hosts seemed like a proper team, while Roma look a work in progress. They have conceded 53 shots in their opening three matches, nearly half of which they faced on Friday, when they responded with just six of their own. The last time Milan had that many shots in a match was against Crotone back in January.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- The decision to start with a back three against a front three containing Higuain backfired spectacularly, with Fazio all over the place and Kostas Manolas incapable of building play with Higauin on his toes. Di Francesco was right to change to a 4-2-3-1, but having wasted 45 minutes chasing shadows they were always susceptible to a sucker punch after having battled back. He needs to decide what his best team is, quickly.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Robin Olsen, 6 -- Made some decent stops but was very lucky to see Higuain's goal ruled out after standing like a lemon in no man's land.
DF Federico Fazio, 4 -- So absolutely abysmal in the first half it was a surprise to see him in the second. Nice finish, though.
DF Kostas Manolas, 4 -- The Greek would have had to score a hat trick to make up for his shambolic first-half display. He didn't.
DF Ivan Marcano, 6 -- More solid than Fazio, but confusingly replaced at half-time.
MF Rick Karsdorp, 6 -- Much more comfortable in a back four than as a wing-back. Let's hope he gets a run of games.
MF Daniele De Rossi, 6 -- Helped build play and at times seemed to be the only one keeping track of Milan's attacks.
MF Steven N'Zonzi, 6 -- Gave the ball away for Cutrone's winner and had a goal ruled out for handball. Other than that, he was actually pretty good.
MF Aleksandar Kolarov, 6 -- Lost Kessie for his opener. Otherwise perfectly average.
MF Javier Pastore, 5 -- Much better once Roma had more structural integrity, but really struggled in the first 45 minutes.
FW Patrik Schick, 5 -- Just like his strike partner, never got going.
FW Edin Dzeko, 5 -- Almost scored with his one sight of goal. Toiled but had very little joy.
FW Stephan El Shaarawy, 6 -- Unlucky to see Gianluigi Donnarumma get a knee to the ball just as he raced through. Provided a threat out wide.
MF Bryan Cristante, 5 -- Didn't offer much of an improvement over Pastore.
DF Davide Santon, N/R -- Kept his end up after Karsdorp went off injured.