The Shakhtar Donetsk defence were caught out by a beautiful ball by Edin Džeko, but Cengiz Ünder’s run and chip over the keeper were superb and, as the ball bounced into the goal, the Giallorossi rejoiced; not just for the finish but that fact that in Ünder, they had a new star.
This was the Monchi effect in all its glory, an example of a player plucked from almost obscurity and hitting the ground running, a youngster making an immediate impact.
Nobody really mentioned Ünder when he signed. There was no fanfare, as there had been when Patrik Schick arrived. There was, instead, an understated acknowledgment that some kid had arrived from Turkey.
Most teams in Italy have seen prospects come and go in most seasons and even though Monchi had been involved the mood was indifferent.
Bought from Turkish Super Lig club Istanbul Başakşehir for €13.5million in the summer, little was known about Ünder – although word had filtered through that he had been developed in the Turkish second division with Altinordu, a club famed in the country for their youth development. Then the season started and everyone forgot about Ünder.
In December, Roma were enduring their customary blip in form. So coach Eusebio di Francesco turned to Ünder. He deployed him wide right in his 4-2-3-1 system, hoping he could add something that was unpredictable and dynamic.
The initial signs were promising but little else. He struggled against Torino on his debut, had just four minutes against Juventus, nine against Sassuolo and a poor quarter of an hour against Atalanta.
It was in the Stadio Bentegodi, home of Hellas Verona, that Ünder not only scored his first Roma goal but showed he already had the confidence to be different. In the previous games he had been heading to the by-line as much as possible looking to get the ball in wide positions and then hoping to supply Džeko.
Here he caught Hellas off-guard, cutting inside and unleashing a low drive to open his account for Roma. That moment lit the fire and since then he has been unplayable.
Two goals, an assist and a man-of-the-match performance against Benevento followed before a goal against Udinese and then the aforementioned strike in the Champions League. All of which means he has five goals in four games.
Ünder has been over-performing and is thriving as defenders seem unable to read whether he is going to go wide or cut in. For a dynamic wide man trying to find a killer pass his 74.8 per cent pass success rate should be applauded as these are passes produced at high speed or under intense pressure. His average of 0.9 key passes per 90 is equally impressive.
The 20-year-old is clearly full out youthful confidence and unafraid to keep attempting efforts on goal. What is more, he gives Roma something different; a left-footed player who has scored all his goals with his trusty left peg, mostly after cutting in from the right.
His display in the Champions League suggests he is also more than capable of performing at the highest level and that will give Roma fans further cause for hope.
Until now they have been looking to the injury-prone Schick to fill the Mo Salah-shaped hole in their forward line. Now they have a new hero who they will hope can have a similar impact to the Liverpool forward.
These are early days and there are plenty who will reserve judgment on Ünder until he has replicated this form over half a season or more. Next up for Roma is a visit from Gennaro Gattuso’s Milan on Sunday evening. It is another big test for Ünder and the Giallorossi but there is little to suggest the Turkish wideman won’t pass the test with flying colours.
When Roma brought sporting director Monchi to the Eternal City from Sevilla they did so in the hope he could repeat his success in Andalusia. With Ünder he has already over-achieved.