Roma fought back from a sensational Joao Pedro goal to beat Cagliari 4-3 with Nikola Kalinic’s brace, Justin Kluivert and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Gonzalo Villar was given his first start in the Giallorossi jersey, while Nikola Kalinic allowed Edin Dzeko to rest, as Gianluca Mancini was suspended with Lorenzo Pellegrini, Javier Pastore, Amadou Diawara, Nicolò Zaniolo and Davide Zappacosta injured. The Sardinians were without a win in 10 rounds, Nahitan Nandez sat out a ban, with Luca Ceppitelli, Leonardo Pavoletti and Paolo Faragò on the treatment table. It was a special game for ex-Roma men Radja Nainggolan, Robin Olsen and Luca Pellegrini.
Olsen is on loan from the Lupi and within four minutes had to palm a powerful Henrikh Mkhitaryan effort over from a tight angle. Joao Pedro slipped at the crucial moment when set up by Nainggolan, then Kalinic hit the side-netting on a Cengiz Under assist.
There was a triple Roma opportunity on 10 minutes. First Cengiz Under’s scorcher was fingertipped on to the crossbar, then Olsen made two more great reaction saves on Mkhitaryan and Kalinic from the rebound.
Olsen clearly had a point to prove against the club where he flopped last season and also denied Bruno Peres on another Under assist.
Cagliari came out of their shell, Luca Pellegrini stinging Pau Lopez’s gloves at the near post on Nainggolan’s slide-rule pass. It was the precursor to the opening goal, as Joao Pedro controlled a Christian Oliva ball over the top with his knee and then hit it on the volley to loop over Pau Lopez with a spectacular bit of skill.
Less than a minute later, it was 1-1, as Luca Pellegrini shinned an Aleksandar Kolarov cross and accidentally made an assist that Kalinic just had to nod in from a couple of yards. It was his first goal in the Roma shirt.
Another followed soon after and this too was a simple tap-in from six yards, but Mkhitaryan did all the work with a wonderful run as he burst between two defenders and pulled back from the by-line. It was his first Serie A brace since 2017.
Roma thought they had made it 3-1 on 51 minutes, but Justin Kluivert’s curler on another Under assist thumped the crossbar from the edge of the area.
Cagliari threatened the equaliser moments later, but Artur Ionita hesitated when sent clear, allowed Kolarov to close him down and then misplaced the pass back to his teammates.
Nainggolan tested Pau Lopez from distance, but Cagliari were torn apart by some route one football, as Kalinic nodded on a long ball and Kluivert out-sprinted defenders, surprising Olsen at the near post rather than far.
Roma seemed to rest on their laurels after that and paid the price, as Gaston Pereiro was allowed to just saunter forward with nobody pressuring him, curling a left-foot finish into the far bottom corner. It was the January signing’s first Serie A goal after his move from PSV Eindhoven.
Olsen denied Kluivert at the back post, but the goalkeeper was caught out when Aleksandar Kolarov’s free kick flew past everyone from a seemingly improbable angle. Mkhitaryan at first did not seem to connect, but later confirmed it was his glancing header.
It still wasn’t over, as Chris Smalling misjudged the flight of a cross when Giovanni Simeone didn’t get his head to it, the ball struck his arm that was detached from the body, leading to a penalty for handball. Pau Lopez parried Joao Pedro’s spot-kick but the Brazilian nodded in the rebound to set up a very tense finale.
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Saved penalty: Joao Pedro 89 (C)