Montreal Impact - AS Roma - midseason friendly, 2016
Courtesy of Montreal Impact Communications

AS Roma impressed with Montreal Impact's atmosphere following friendly win

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Impact won over Italian club Roma AS everywhere but on the Stade Saputo scoreboard Wednesday night.

Edin Dzeko and Radja Nainggolan scored first-half goals to send Roma on to a 2-0 win against Montreal before a capacity crowd of 20,801.

The Impact hosted the friendly and many in the crowd sported the colors of the three-time Serie A champions and nine-time winners of the Coppa Italia.

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti was impressed with the reception.

"Well, we liked it very much," Spalletti said via translator. "In fact we have to learn something from you, it was a very nice atmosphere, a really nice environment, people enjoying the match, enjoying the atmosphere."

Dzeko scored in the sixth minute as Roma took advantage of a turnover by Montreal defender Kyle Fisher to take an early lead in the friendly. Nainggolan increased the lead to two 21 minutes in when he ran down forward Mohamed Salah's pass through three Impact defenders, evading Victor Cabrera's tackle to kick the ball past goalkeeper Eric Kronberg.

"It was a little bit difficult at the beginning, I think we were a little bit nervous," Montreal coach Mauro Biello said. "We were giving away the ball too easily and when you give the ball away against a team like that, that has all that quality, they're going to make you pay. And that was the difference. They picked up a loose ball, they went down, a ball in the box, it's in the back of the net. And when you play top level teams they're going to hurt you in that way."

Alisson, Roma's newly-acquired goalkeeper, made several big saves, including getting the tips of the fingers of his left hand on Impact striker Didier Drogba's surgical strike moments before Dzeko's goal.

The ball struck the right post, and Alisson, Brazil's goalkeeper at the Copa America Centenario, denied Drogba a second time later in the first half when he sprung to his right to stop the Ivorian superstar's shot on a rebound of David Choiniere's drive off the right post. 

Roma's Francesco Totti drew a loud cheer when he was announced as one of seven AS Roma substitutions to begin the second half. Biello also made several changes after the half, and Anthony Jackson-Hamel and 17-year-old Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla stood out in particular.

"I thought we grew as a team," Biello said. "And I made a lot of changes, but there were a lot of good things in terms of creating chances and unbalancing and we hit two posts, a crossbar, we had clear chances, breakaways, so in the end, a little bit better in those areas and we could have some goals back."

Spalletti was asked if any Montreal prospects caught his eye.

"Yes, there was a young kid wearing the No. 11 shirt, Drogba, I think is his name," Spaletti quipped. "No, jokes apart, I think in the second half I saw some very nice prospects because they created some chances. There were moments that prove that you are working well, and once again, my congratulations."

The Italian coach wrapped up his lengthy postgame press conference with a ringing endorsement of the Impact's hospitality.

"And if we have the chance to be back in this continent to play preseason, this would be the ideal place, the ideal venue to spend a whole week," Spalletti said.