Many pessimistic football fans often say that miracles are just a figment of our imagination. They’ll say that the word ‘coincidence’ is more fitting for a world class comeback, and nothing more. Alas, while many of you may agree with that sentiment, there’s no denying that what took place in Rome tonight was nothing short of remarkable.
Italian side Roma shocked the world by defeating Champions League favourites Barcelona 3-0, meaning that the aggregate score of 4-4 took them through to the semi-finals of the competition on away goals. In many ways, it’s one of the greatest turnarounds the European Cup has ever seen, with very few believing that Roma could pose any kind of threat to Barcelona following their 4-1 triumph at the Nou Camp.
All guns blazing
The game started off at a fast tempo as the home side put their plan into action – and that was to throw everything at the wall and see what stuck. They were ruthless in their pursuit of an opening goal, and while the Spanish giants were probably expecting something like that to happen, you could feel the pressure building in the early stages.
Barca now haven’t won any of their last seven games on Italian soil, and this clash further proved just how reliant they are on the atmosphere at the Nou Camp. They looked fearful and disjointed, and they were unable to prevent former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko from using his positioning and timing to poke home the opener for Roma.
They were able to see out the half without over-exposing themselves to any kind of counterattack from Barca, which helped them to enter the second half with a calm demeanour. They were able to draw a penalty from the favourites as Gerard Pique took Dzeko down inside the box, and when you’re looking for someone to score from the spot, there are few options better than De Rossi.
With a two-goal lead, they were smelling blood in the water, much like a boxer who has their opponent on the ropes. Substitute Under then whipped a vicious ball into the near post, and Manolas was there to nod home a goal that few thought they would’ve seen at the start of the night.
The win means that Barcelona are no longer in with a chance of securing a treble this season, and it also marks just the third occasion in which a team in the UCL has overcome a three-goal deficit from the first leg. The other two clubs who managed it were Deportivo La Coruna and, ironically enough, Barcelona themselves last year against PSG.
Roma will move into the Champions League semi-final draw with English side Liverpool, who were able to dispatch of runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City on an eventful evening at the Etihad. They’ll be joined tomorrow night by Juventus/Real and Bayern/Sevilla.
Roma: Alisson (7.5); Fazio (7.5), Manolas (8), Jesus (7.5); Kolarov (8), Nainggolan (6.5), De Rossi (8), Strootman (7), Florenzi (7.5); Schick (6.5), Dzeko (8.5)
Subs: Under (7), El Shaarawy (6)
Barcelona: ter Stegen (6); Semedo (6), Pique (6), Umtiti (5.5), Alba (6); Roberto (5.5), Rakitic (6), Busquets (5.5), Iniesta (6); Messi (6.5), Suarez (5.5)
Subs: Alcacer (6), Gomes (6), Dembele (5.5)
Referee: Clement Turpin
Goals: Dzeko, De Rossi pen, Manolas
Yellow Cards: Fazio, Jesus, Pique, Messi, Suarez
Red Cards: N/A
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