Bengaluru, April 11: It was a night to remember for AS Roma as they staged a stunning comeback in the UEFA Champions League, knocking out La Liga giants FC Barcelona from the quarterfinals. Roma progressed on away goals after the 3-0 win at Stadio Olimpico. Goals from Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas gave Roma the big victory in front of home fans as they left Lionel Messi & Co frustrated on a magical Tuesday night.
But how did they manage to do it? MyKhel's Soumik Datta explains the game in five points:
Barcelona did not play like the side that pulled off a 4-1 win at the Camp Nou a week ago. A couple of own goals by Roma helped Barcelona take the advantage in the first leg of their quarterfinal and the Catalans took the three-goal lead for granted when they entered the pitch to face Roma. They looked tired and did not match the intensity of the Roma side. Having taken a big lead in the first leg, Ernesto Valverde's boys were not determined enough to execute their defensive plan in the match. The overconfidence killed them against the underdogs AS Roma. The Serie A side, on the other hand, came with the belief that they were still in the tie and a fight-back was possible in the fixture. Roma’s willpower was the key factor in the match which helped them make the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
Barcelona manager Valverde's tactics proved to be a flop in the second leg. Valverde chose to play with a conventional 4-4-2 formation in the game. The formation needed Barcelona to control the ball in the midfield and play with more intensity. Consequently, the Catalans could not play their natural fluid passing game, which Roma took advantage of. Barcelona kept losing possession in dangerous positions frequently. Valverde brought on Ousmane Dembele only after Roma's third goal. It proved to be a monumental error as Dembele's control over the midfield could have been the gamechanger for Barca.
Barcelona defenders kept committing blunders and lacked awareness during the second leg against Roma. Roma pumped in the long balls and the Barca central defender - Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti - gave Edin Dzeko a free run. The Bosnian squeezed himself between the two of them to brilliantly control the ball and score the first goal for Roma. Later, Pique was caught ripping the shirt of the striker in the penalty box, which led to a penalty that was converted by De Rossi. At the time of the third goal, Kostas Manolas was left unmarked at the far side.
The Italian side played the best match of their season against Barcelona in the second leg. Coach Eusebio Di Francesco guided his team to play as a cohesive unit against the star-studded Barcelona. Despite being three goals down, Roma never gave up. With Dzeko, who has a good first touch, and the dominant De Rossi, Roma banked on the execution of a team plan, rather than relying on individial brilliance. Radja Nainggolan too was brilliant in the midfield, while the entire set of defenders deserve their due for managing to keep Barcelona at bay.
This Barcelona side is over-reliant on Lionel Messi. Messi surely cannot deliver full efficiency in every game that he plays? Others like Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta failed to put up their hands at a time when Barcelona desperately needed another to take up the responsibility. A bad day in office for Messi resulted in the entire team getting knocked out of the Champions League.