Today's Sassuolo vs. Roma fixture was a lesson in the perils of international breaks set in the middle of a global pandemic.
Where Roma were dealt a late-week blow after Marash Kumbulla tore his meniscus while on international duty with Albania, Sassuolo lost a host of players due to COVID precautions, with the Neroverdi erring on the side of caution with their recently returned Italian internationals.
As a result, both sides ran out ramshackle lineups, with Sassuolo missing regulars like Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo while Roma was down Kumbulla, Roger Ibañez, and Chris Smalling, among others. With so many key members of his defense missing, Paulo Fonseca's back three consisted of only one actual center-back: Gianluca Mancini, with Rick Karsdorp and Bryan Cristante pressed into service as defenders.
And, as luck would have it, Karsdorp was tested immediately. With Sassuolo taking the first possession of the match straight at Roma's defense, Karsdorp was forced to make a sprinting clearance on the ball—a sign of things to come.
In the very next minute, Bryan Cristante, when trying to clear the Sassuolo pressure, inadvertently passed the ball right to Sassuolo, gifting Giacomo Raspadori a clean look at goal. Pau Lopez was up to the task, however, making an early save off his line to bail out Cristante.