Mehdi Benatia’s brace, Mattia Destro and Gervinho allowed Roma to sweep Catania aside 4-0.
The Giallorossi were still unbeaten under Rudi Garcia and eager to stay close to leaders Juventus ahead of their January 5 head-to-head. Miralem Pjanic returned from suspension, though Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman were banned with Marco Borriello and Federico Balzaretti injured. Most importantly, Francesco Totti was back in the starting XI for the first time since October 18, joining Gervinho, Adem Ljajic and Mattia Destro in a new 4-2-3-1 system. Catania were rock bottom, had Nicolas Spolli suspended, Giuseppe Bellusci and Sergio Almiron sidelined.
Despite this all-attack system, the Giallorossi struggled to create chances early on and after 17 minutes Alberto Frison got down to beat away a Ljajic solo effort.
It was from that resulting corner that Roma took the lead, as Destro’s header was going wide, but it was redirected by Mehdi Benatia from six yards to leave Frison stranded.
Frison at full stretch fingertipped a Destro strike round the post, then Gervinho scuffed his volley straight at the goalkeeper from point-blank range. It was part a terrible miss, part a sensational save.
At the dawn of the second half Ljajic went on a solo run from midfield to sting Frison’s gloves, but Catania also threatened with Sebastian Leto prodding wide from a corner.
Frison had been doing so well, but his howler gifted Destro his third goal in as many games. The goalkeeper fumbled a Maicon cross on to teammate Alexis Rolin’s chest, which ricocheted into the path of Destro to tap into an empty net.
Benatia needed no help to complete his brace, as he got in front of the defence for a diving header on a Ljajic free kick, in at the near post.
Gervinho somehow failed to score when Frison palmed a Totti effort into his path, but with all the time in the world he managed to hit the upright of an open goal from 10 yards.
The former Arsenal man did his level best to miss the next chance too, but despite a horribly scuffed finish when sent clear by Ljajic, the ball bounced its way past Frison. Rudi Garcia and Gervinho’s teammates actually burst out laughing.
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