As he wheeled away in celebration with his fingers stuck in his ears, Nicolo Zaniolo’s message was clear: I don’t listen to the critics.
The inspiration behind his choice of reaction to an excellent first-half header against Borussia Monchengladbach on Thursday was Fabio Capello.
The former Giallorossi boss upset Zaniolo’s mother by advising Inter youngster Sebastiano Esposito to “not go the same way” as the Roma man while working as a TV pundit on the Champions League coverage this week.
The jury is still out on the 20-year-old, but not in the Europa League.
His goal against the Bundesliga leaders was his second in three games in the competition this season, and he also has two assists to his name.
However, the midfielder has struggled for consistency in Serie A, remains uncertain of his best role and has had his character called into question after being dropped from Roberto Mancini’s Italy squad, along with Moise Kean, for showing up late for a team meeting while on Under-21 duty in the summer.
Zaniolo burst onto the scene with a string of impressive performances between December and February last season, which included a sublime goal against Sassuolo and a brace against Porto in the Champions League last 16.
Since then, though, he has combined flashes of brilliance with periods of frustrating performances and missed opportunities.
Capello’s suggestion that he has gone down the wrong road may be harsh, but the only way Zaniolo can truly shake off his critics is by delivering week in, week out – and starting to fulfil the potential which is undoubtedly there.
Fonseca finds the answer
Before the game, Paulo Fonseca lamented that it would be “impossible” for his team to make progress with so many players out injured.
He went into the game with eight first-teamers unavailable and on the back of a blunt performance away to rock-bottom Sampdoria on the weekend that yielded a 0-0 draw.
The tactician’s answer to the problem was to deploy his side in a new 4-1-4-1 formation, with Gianluca Mancini lining up as a midfield destroyer between the lines.
To begin with, the hosts looked shaky and unfamiliar in the new system as Gladbach came forward at will and created several opportunities early on.
But Roma grew into the game and soon found a good balance, with Mancini dropping in to form a back three while they were in possession, allowing Aleksandar Kolarov and Leonardo Spinazzola the freedom to get forward and support the attack.
It wasn’t the Giallorossi’s most free-flowing football of the season, but it was functional and would’ve got the job done were it not for an extraordinary refereeing decision that denied them the three points at the death.
If Roma, by Fonseca’s own admission, can’t be at their best at the moment with so many absentees, they at least need to find a way of remaining organised and being clinical when it counts.
They managed to do just that against an in-form team that came into the game on top of the Bundesliga, and it may have provided the Portuguese with a blueprint to follow in the coming weeks.
A big win for VAR
For all the controversy it courts and abuse it gets from calcio fans – and often, it has to be said, from Roma supporters – VAR was sorely missed by the Giallorossi faithful on Thursday.
There is not a chance that Lars Stindl’s late penalty would’ve counted if Willie Collum’s baffling handball decision had been subject to a video review.
Replays clearly showed it struck Chris Smalling square in the face, as the spot kick award literally added insult to injury for the on-loan Manchester United man.
So next time you find yourself complaining about our friends in the VAR booth slowing the game down, maybe have a look back at this decision…