Cengiz Under’s goal after just 43 seconds proved decisive, as Roma held out for a 1-0 win away to Verona even after Lorenzo Pellegrini’s red card.
The Giallorossi were without a win since December 16, amassing only three draws in seven competitive games, so Coach Eusebio Di Francesco scrapped his 4-3-3 system in favour of Radja Nainggolan in a more advanced role supporting Edin Dzeko. Daniele De Rossi, Maxime Gonalons, Patrik Schick, Rick Karsdorp and January buy Jonathan Silva were out of action. Hellas were fresh from a shock 4-1 win at Fiorentina, but top scorer Moise Kean sat out a ban with Daniele Verde sidelined, so Newcastle United loaner Rolando Aarons was thrown straight into the starting XI.
The last time Verona beat Roma was a 2-1 Serie A result at the Bentegodi in October 1996, followed by five draws and 12 defeats, home and away in all competition.
It took all of 43 seconds to break the deadlock, as Cengiz Under won back possession, cut inside and smashed it into the near bottom corner from just outside the box. That was the Turkish talent’s debut goal in a Giallorossi jersey and the fastest by the Giallorossi in Serie A since January 2012.
Nicolas performed a good reaction save on Edin Dzeko’s deflected header from a chipped Cengiz Under pass, then the Bosnian volleyed just wide from 12 yards on a corner.
Nainggolan was relishing the more advanced role and smashed inches off target from a good 25 metres out, but so did Ryder Matos at the other end.
Nicolas was quick off his line to parry as Dzeko ran on to a Stephan El Shaarawy through ball, while the Little Pharaoh just failed to get on the end of Dzeko’s low cross from close range.
Roma came out fighting for the second half too, in the opening minute Kevin Strootman’s header from a corner smothered and a Dzeko shot charged down. Verona Coach Fabio Pecchia was also sent off for dissent after a Marcel Buchel booking, but there was more controversy moments later.
The referee opted for a straight red card as Lorenzo Pellegrini took down Matos on the counter in midfield with a late and very high tackle from behind.
Even down to 10 men, the Giallorossi almost doubled their lead with a terrible Nicolas clearance straight at Dzeko, but the goalkeeper made up for the error with a tough reaction save.
Hellas continued to swarm the Roma area for the rest of the game, but without much organisation. In fact, the visitors had the best chance deep into stoppages when Nicolas got his hand to a Strootman counter-attack, sent clear by Gregoire Defrel.
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Sent off: Pellegrini 51 (R)