Friday 7th April. By Edward Stratmann.
Even though AS Roma prevailed 3-2 over Lazio in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal, it still wasn't enough to overturn the two goal deficit they faced from the first leg, as they disappointingly succumbed 3-4 on aggregate.
On a night that marked the return of the Curva Sud, another positive could be drawn from the impressive performance of Stephan El Shaarawy. Starting his 22nd match of the season, the skillful attacker gave the fans plenty to get excited about from his left wing post.
As one of only two Italians to begin the match, the other being Lazio forward Ciro Immobile, El Shaarawy's pace, dribbling prowess and smart movement ensured his direct opponent, Dusan Basta, had a challenging time dealing with him.
Whenever the opportunity to come infield presented itself, El Shaarawy always took it up, allowing him to receive possession in more dangerous central areas, plus create room on the flank for Emerson Palmieri to surge into due to Basta tracking El Shaarawy's runs.
Moreover, situating himself in central attacking locations gave his side a strong presence in this area of the pitch. This provided him with a fine foundation to combine with Edin Dzeko, Radja Nainggolan and Mohamed Salah, who regularly came infield too, in order to manipulate the Lazio backline to manufacture openings.
Fittingly, his 43rd minute goal came after he'd motored infield, where he then instinctively latched onto Antonio Rudiger's deflected cross.
Another aspect of operating in this area of the pitch that El Shaarawy used to his advantage was that it gave him an excellent platform to run in behind the Lazio backline. The fact the Italian international is very adept at playing as a striker served him well here, for he has a terrific knowledge of how to time and angle his runs off the shoulder of his man. And he duly did so vs the Eagles, embarking on plenty of menacing, defence stretching runs in behind.
While he undoubtedly preferred coming central, it must be noted that he did some excellent work out on the flank too, where he used his quality in 1v1 battles and tidy passing to impact. The way Nainggolan would move towards the left flank and combine with El Shaarawy and Emerson to form triangles in which Roma used to overload Lazio and bypass their pressure acted as an extremely effective tool to free up El Shaarawy too.
Despite his wonderful performance, the 24-year-old was justifiably disheartened with the result when speaking after the match, explaining: "We bossed the match and should of won it but it wasn't enough. We should have avoided those two goals we conceded. They only had one chance in the first half. Had we taken our early chances the game might have gone differently."
The former AC Milan starlet then gave an intriguing insight into his tremendous attitude, which is a real credit to himself as he isn't always a guaranteed starter for the Giallorossi. "All I can say is when I start or come on I always give 100% to contribute to the team, be it home or away. I've not played as much as last season but we've done really well this season up front with more competition for places amongst us. That hasn't stopped me from giving 100%. I think I've played quite well and personally I'm pleased."
In a week where his agent had to downplay rumours about his Roma future potentially lying elsewhere and where he was even linked with a move to Torino, the at times inconsistent El Shaarawy demonstrated his undeniable worth.
"Stephan wants to stay for the long-term at Roma, where he is very happy," insisted his agent, Federico Pastorello, to Il Messaggero.
"We're all expecting something more from him; he is so strong that not even he realises the full extent of his potential."
With El Shaarawy yet again reminding us all of his offensive qualities, he showed precisely why his unique skillset should be a real weapon for Luciano Spalletti heading into the all important closing stages of the campaign.
For more great blogs by Edward visit Licence to Roam
Stephan El Shaarawy Shows His Skill, Despite AS Roma's Coppa Italia Semi-Final Loss
Friday 7th April. By Edward Stratmann.