Roma rout SPAL before Champions League semis, Schick earns 7/10
Roma had the perfect preparation for their biggest match in over three decades with a comfortable win at struggling SPAL that allowed them to shuffle their pack and rest key players while still keeping the edge in the battle for Champions League qualification.
Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi, Aleksandar Kolarov and Alessandro Florenzi were all rested as the Giallorossi strolled past their hosts -- who weren't beaten at home by Inter or league leaders Juventus, remember -- and returned to third in Serie A, four points ahead of the Nerazzurri and three in front of local rivals Lazio ahead of their home clash with Sampdoria on Sunday.
Roma were on top long before Francesco Vicsari diverted Lorenzo Pellegrini's low cross past his own goalkeeper in the 33rd minute, with the lively but unfortunate Stephan El Shaarawy (who also hit the post with a late header) firing just wide and Radja Nainggolan hitting the side netting. Roma dominated play from the first minute and the fizzing low strike from Nainggolan that doubled their lead six minutes after the break was thoroughly deserved.
From that point it was plain sailing bar Alisson's one meaningful save to deny a stinging Alberto Paloschi shot and a balmy, lazy afternoon was topped off with Patrik Schick's first Serie A goal for Roma six minutes after the Ninja's strike, a neat header from Pellegrini's second perfect cross of the day. With that formality out of the way everyone can turn their attentions to the one thing the whole city is waiting for: a date with Liverpool.
A comfortable three points from a team markedly inferior to Roma, without any stress or picking any up injuries, is not something fans are very accustomed to. Getting a good result while being able to rest so many key players for the trip to Anfield is the best of bonuses, as is Schick's display and goal.
It's hard to think of a single one. Roma were slightly sluggish in the opening minutes and Alisson needing to pull off such a good save after just going 2-0 up wasn't ideal but given the line up and the huge distraction of a Champions League semifinal on the horizon, everything went as well as could be expected.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Made a raft of changes to his side but the overall effect was minimal, despite giving young Jonathan Silva his first Serie A start and having the previously shaky Maxime Gonalons in the first XI. Carrying on a trend of the last few weeks he also got his substitutions spot on, giving Strootman and Nainggolan a chance to rest their legs while not sacrificing the team's solid structure.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 6 -- Did what he had to do. Great save on Paloschi in the second half which kept Roma two goals to the good.
DF Bruno Peres, 6 -- Made a superb block on Jasmin Kurtic early in the second half and was lively going forward.
DF Kostas Manolas, 7 -- Worked brilliantly mopping up everything that went got past Fazio.
DF Federico Fazio, 7 -- Bumped up against Mirco Antenucci all afternoon, winning what seemed like hundreds of aerial challenges.
DF Jonathan Silva, 6 -- Decent debut for the youngster on loan from Sporting Lisbon. Grew into the game after a timid start.
MF Lorenzo Pellegrini, 6 -- An inconsistent performance despite the two assists. Fluctuates from looking brilliant to average several times in the same match.
MF Maxime Gonalons, 6 -- After his recent disasters, this was a fine display from the Frenchman. More please.
MF Kevin Strootman, 7 -- The opening goal is officially Vicari's but without Strootman pressuring him, the scores stay level.
FW Radja Nainggolan, 7 -- Secured the three points with a beautifully struck shot and looked liberated by his advanced starting position.
FW Patrik Schick, 7 -- Took his first league Roma goal nicely and looked much more comfortable than he has up to now.
FW Stephan El Shaarawy, 6 -- Buzzed about and caused SPAL problems but was wasteful in front of goal.
FW Cengiz Under, 6 -- Lively as ever, but less incisive as in recent weeks.
FW Diego Perotti, 6 -- As has become increasingly common, he does everything right but the final pass or shot.
MF Gerson, NR -- A nice stroll in the springtime sun.
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC's AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley