Lionel Messi failed to mark his 100th Champions League appearance with a goal as he was overshadowed by a stunning strike from Alessandro Florenzi that earned Roma a 1-1 draw with holders Barcelona.
Argentine Messi – who had come off the bench to score the winner against Atletico Madrid at the weekend – struck the crossbar in a second half that his side controlled throughout.
However, both goals came in the opening 45 minutes of the Group E clash at the Stadio Olimpico, with Florenzi’s 50-metre wonder strike stealing all the headlines.
Barca had taken the lead when Luis Suarez nodded home from close range.
But Roma pegged back their opponents 10 minutes later when winger Florenzi embarrassed goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a long-range lob that was struck from close to the touchline.
Florenzi’s strike denied Barca manager Luis Enrique a winning return to one of his former employers – he spent the 2011-12 season in charge of Roma before stepping down.
Following a high-tempo start, the Spaniards were rewarded with the opener midway through the first period, as they got the defence of their title up and running.
They took the lead after 21 minutes when Ivan Rakitic was given time and space on the right wing to pick out Suarez at the far post, though the Croatian’s cross needed a slight deflection off a Roma defender to reach its intended target.
The home side were not happy the goal was allowed to stand, believing Messi had fouled Lucas Digne to allow a long pass to reach Rakitic.
But, the officials came to Roma’s rescue shortly afterwards when Suarez threatened to get in behind the home defence. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny raced from his line to try and deal with the danger, but he was beaten to the ball by the Uruguay striker, who then crumpled to the floor under the challenge.
Referee Bjorn Kuipers dismissed the strong calls for a penalty, instead awarding a goal kick to Roma.
The Italians made the most of the reprieve courtesy of Florenzi’s spectacular equaliser after 31 minutes.
It seemed there was little danger for Barcelona as the winger made ground down the right flank around 50 metres from goal. But, Florenzi had spotted Ter Stegen off his line and audaciously attempted a lob that sailed over the goalkeeper’s head and found the far corner.
Szczesny had to be sharp straight after the break to deny Messi celebrating his milestone in style, though the Polish goalkeeper’s evening ended early after he hurt his arm in a collision with Suarez and was forced off.
Still, that early chance set the tone for the rest of the half.
Barcelona – who lost substitute Rafinha to a leg injury within a minute of his introduction – dominated both possession and territory during the second period.
Replacement Roma goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis had to be alert to prevent an effort from Andres Iniesta creeping in from a tight angle, though he needed the woodwork to deny Messi marking his momentous night with a late winner.
The Argentine ran through and lif
ted the ball over the goalkeeper, but his effort agonisingly clipped the top of the crossbar.
De Sanctis also required Konstantinos Manolas to hook away Jordi Alba’s volley in a frantic finale as the Serie A side survived the Barcelona onslaught.
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