Serie A 21/22: Venezia 3-2 Roma

November 8, 2021

Coming into Sunday afternoon, Venezia had defeated Roma just three times in club history, most recently in February 1999, during Álvaro Recoba's legendary six months on the lagoon, and before that in 1950 and 1940.

Going down to a José Mourinho side isn’t how one would draw up a fourth victory. But Venezia did it the hard way at Stadio Penzo, scoring two second-half goals to turn a 1-2 deficit into a thrilling 3-2 comeback win, in an instant classic that will be remembered in Venice for years to come.

Venezia started with a bang, taking the lead three minutes into the match. On a set piece from the left side, midfielder Mattia Aramu took it with his left foot and swung in a glorious ball that bent around the Roma backline and into the path of defender Mattia Caldara who poked it into the net.

At 1-0, rather than sit back to protect their lead against a dangerous opponent, Venezia were boldly proactive going forward, as the match evolved into an open affair with chances for both sides.

In the 26th minute, Roma striker Tammy Abraham got to a loose ball on the right side and drove a shot off the far post. Stephan El Shaarawy fired at goal on the rebound, but right-back Pasquale Mazzocchi was there to block the shot.

In the 35th minute, David Okereke shook off a defender on the left side and broke in on goal with only the ‘keeper to beat, but his curling shot to the far post just missed the target. Moments later, good combination play along the box created an open look at goal for Sofian Kiyine, but his shot was too tame.

For the first time this season, Venezia manager Paolo Zanetti had deployed a 4-3-2-1 formation, and it served the team well on the day, as they continue to adapt while missing attacker Dennis Johnsen.

The tactical approach gave Venezia numbers in the middle third, and while Gianluca Busio, Ethan Ampadu, and Domen Črnigoj brought energy and physicality in midfield, having the skill and creativity of both Aramu and Kiyine playing together just ahead of them helped the team in possession and transition. To operate up top, Zanetti tapped Okereke over Thomas Henry, which proved to be a shrewd choice as the young Nigerian’s movement acted as a spring to every attack.

But despite their bright play, Venezia would rue their missed chances, when Roma suddenly turned the match just before half-time, as the former Chelsea man Abraham caused havoc in the area with his size and strength.

In the 43rd minute, Abraham got on the end of a deep cross from the left flank, leaping above the rest and heading down for Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini in front of goal. Sergio Romero was able to palm the ball away, but Uzbekistan international striker Eldor Shomurodov was there to put it in.

Minutes later, Roma went ahead. It started from another left-wing cross, and this time Abraham maneuvered to take it on his chest, fought off defender Pietro Ceccaroni on the turn, and finished from close range.

In a flash, Venezia’s advantage had vanished, and they went into the break looking to regroup and respond.

Coming out for the second half, Zanetti made one substitution, replacing Črnigoj with Arnór Sigurðsson, trading midfield steel for attacking spark. But Roma stayed on offensive, forcing Romero into an important save on El Shaarawy, and left-back Ridgeciano Haps into an acrobatic goal-line clearance, which VAR showed had been kept out by centimeters.

A resilient Venezia did everything to withstand the pressure, and then struck back.

In the 65th minute, Roma midfielder Bryan Cristante took down Caldara on an aerial challenge, and a penalty was awarded. Aramu stepped up to the spot, sent Roma ‘keeper Rui Patrício the wrong way, and slotted in the equalizer.

With the goal, his team-leading fourth of the season, Aramu became the first Venezia player to score in four straight Serie A home matches since Recoba struck against Roma, Perugia, Udinese, and Fiorentina in February-March 1999.

Roma almost went directly back in front, when El Shaarawy played in a ball that would have unlocked any defense, and Pellegrini squared it for Abraham in front of goal, but Romero came off his line to make a heroic stop.

Soon after, Zanetti would make an intelligent adjustment to reshape the match, introducing captain Marco Modolo as a third central defender, and switching to a 3-4-2-1 formation, providing the flexibility to protect with five dedicated defenders or spring forward on the counter through Haps and Mazzocchi as the wing-backs.

Modolo’s presence was symbolic of the day’s significance, as the 32-year-old defender was making his Serie A debut six years after joining the club at the depths of Serie D. In a show of mutual respect, Ceccaroni handed Modolo the captain’s armband, but Modolo told Ceccaroni to continue wearing it.

Four minutes later, Venezia's comeback was complete.

It started with Ampadu in midfield, who spotted Okereke’s run and played a wonderful ball over the top of the defense. Racing in on goal, Okereke brilliantly froze Rui Patrício on a stepover with the right foot before finishing with the left foot.

Venezia would go close to a fourth goal on three occasions, but they had what they needed to see out the result and secure a historic win.

After the international break, Venezia return to play with a trip to Bologna on 21 November in Giornata 13 of the 2021/22 Serie A season.

Venezia 3-2 Roma

Scorers: Caldara 3’, Shomurdov 43’, Abraham 45+2’, Aramu 65’ (P), Okereke 74’

Venezia (4-3-2-1): Romero, Mazzocchi (Ebuehi 77’), Caldara, Ceccaroni, Haps, Črnigoj (Sigurðsson 46’), Ampadu, Busio, Aramu (Tessmann 77’), Kiyine (Modolo 70’), Okereke (Henry 89’)
Subs not used: Mäenpää, Molinaro, Forte, Heymans, Bjarkason, Peretz, Svoboda
Coach: Paolo Zanetti

Roma (3-4-1-2): Patrício, Mancini, Kumbulla (Pérez 66’), Ibañez, Karsdorp (Zalewski 83’), Cristante, Veretout, El Shaarawy (Zaniolo 77’), Pellegrini, Shomurodov (Mayoral 83’), Abraham
Subs not used: Villar, Reynolds, Diawara, Boer, Afena-Gyan, Tripi, Mkhitaryan, Fuzato
Coach: José Mourinho