Friday, November 24, 2017

Roma off the mark with Cluj revenge

AS Roma took revenge on CFR Cluj and got their Champions League challenge off the mark with a 2-1 victory at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday.

Goals from French centre-back Philippe Mexes and Italy striker Marco Borriello secured the Romans their first Group E points despite Ionut Rada’s late consolation.

Following their 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich two weeks ago, Claudio Ranieri’s men now sit third in the group on three points — level with Cluj — ahead of a double-header against FC Basel.

Two years ago on their Champions League debut, Cluj had stunned the hosts here with a 2-1 success but there was to be no repeat despite the Romanians twice hitting the woodwork.

After a slow start, the game exploded into life on the half hour mark as the visitors should have scored but Ivory Coast forward Lacina Traore was guilty of greediness.

After turning Nicolas Burdisso inside out in the area all he had to do was square the ball to Juan Culio — the two-goal star from 2008 — for a simple tap-in to the open goal but instead he opted to shoot himself and although he beat Bogdan Lobont, his shot crashed back off the bar.

That seemed to kick some life into Roma who proceeded to create a flurry of chances.

Captain Francesco Totti lofted a delightful pass over the static defence but goalkeeper Nuno Claro stood up well to block Mirko Vucinic’s volley.

The Montenegro forward had another chance straight after from a similar chipped pass by Daniele De Rossi but this time his side-footed finish was weak.

Claro then saved well on 39 minutes from Totti’s fierce left foot effort before Jeremy Menez bundled the follow-up wide.

A pair of precise passes from Totti sent overlapping full-back Cicinho into the area but his first effort was deflected wide and the second well saved by Claro.

And on the stroke of half-time Claro was again starred as he parried yet another crisp Totti drive.

However, it was Cluj who went closest on 52 minutes as a clever flick from Ioan Hora set up Traore for a left foot volley from 20 yards that easily beat Lobont only to smack against the post.

On the hour mark Roma had a free-kick but Portuguese stopper Claro again saved well from Vucinic.

Predictably, though, it was Roma who found the breakthrough on 69 minutes as David Pizarro swung a corner to the edge of the box and Mexes put his foot through it, sending the ball through a crowded box that left Claro unsighted.

And only two minutes later it seemed all over as De Rossi lofted a long ball into the box and substitute Borriello watched it come over his shoulder and caught it on the volley.

But 12 minutes from time Rada powered home a header from Culio’s free-kick to set up a grandstand finish.

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