Superb overall performance from Roma completely overturns Barcelona tie

Superb overall performance from Roma completely overturns Barcelona tie
Photo Credit To @OfficialASRoma

The Giallorossi bulldosed a stunned Blaugrana side out of the way to advance into the last-four of the Champions League.

Roma progress to the semifinals of the Champions League for the first time in this format in one of the more spectacular comebacks in the competition’s recent history. The Italian club beat Spanish giants Barcelona 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico with Edin Dzeko, Daniele de Rossi and Kostas Manolas getting on the scoresheet. Having lost 1-4 in the first leg at the Camp Nou, the Giallorossi go through via the away goals rule.

After lining up in a conservative 4-5-1 in the first leg and subsequently getting hammered, Roma needed to get more adventurous at the Stadio Olimpico. Eusebio di Francesco emphasised the need for width to trouble Barcelona and chose a 3-4-2-1 formation.

Roma fullbacks Kolarov and Florenzi in full swing

Up front, Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick supported the outstanding Edin Dzeko. Throughout the match, Dzeko and Schick provided hefty physical presence against Barca centrebacks Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti. The provision of width came through wingbacks Aleksandar Kolarov and the excellent Alessandro Florenzi, who really got Roma going. Kolarov stayed wide on the left while Florenzi occupied an advance position. The Roma wingback did very much so that he pinned Jordi Alba in the Barcelona half for much of the opening period.

Early on, Roma executed a high man-oriented press and counterpressing. Along with a high backline, and with Juan Jesus and Federico Fazio frequently stepping out of their line to press, Roma became vulnerable early on to counterattacks through Luis Suarez at the left. However, the Roma backline dealt with it very well before their pressing gradually became more effective.

The sixth-minute opener of the Giallorossi was down to a Barca defensive error. Up front, Ivan Rakitic (or Lionel Messi) failed to close down Daniele de Rossi who assumed the deep-lying playmaker role in the match. The Roma skipper easily sprayed an over the top ball in behind the Barcelona defence for Dzeko. In the back, Alba and Umtiti failed to clear the high ball on the first bounce. Dzeko outmuscled Alba, with Umtiti just watching close by, and did well to not give up on the ball before poking it past Marc Andre ter Stegen.

Giallorossi beat press them bombard Barcelona box with crosses

After the goal, the Giallorossi beat the Barca press through by vacating the middle area of the pitch. Instead, the Gialorossi enjoyed more success in ploughing balls to the Dzeko and Schick. Both forwards held up the ball well to allow their teammates to join the attack. In the final third, Roma chose to bombard the Barca box with crosses. The towering physique of Dzeko and Schick caused massive problems for Barcelona while Roma’s threat from the flanks even forced Messi into helping out defensively.

At the half-hour mark, Barca became a bit more comfortable against the Roma press. Rakitic made himself available as a passing option in the middle in between the Roma lines. However, Barcelona still struggled to make smooth progression of build-up as Roma smothered them. Even Andres Iniesta uncharacteristically lost the ball on far too many occasions. As a result, their attacks regularly broke down in the final third with the Roma defence alert. The Roma press worked, which allowed the Giallorossi to win the ball back in advanced positions that got the Barca defence scrambling.

Roma press prevent smooth Barcelona build-up

After a patchy opening in the second half, Barcelona found more fluency in their passing yet still offered little threat in the Roma box. The Gialorossi’s tight spacing in the final third prevented Barca from going forward. It forced the Blaugrana into backwards or sideways passing, triggering the Roma press which pushed Barca all the way back to start the build-up progression again. Even then, Roma continued their press up the pitch against ter Stegen, forcing long balls from the keeper. The Giallorossi mostly recovered the ball in this fashion.

The second goal for the Giallorossi ultimately came from their excellent press and Dzeko’s individual brilliance. As they force another long ball from ter Stegen, de Rossi won the header. Nainggolan first-timed the loose ball over that sent Dzeko in. The forward first beat the offside trap, then Pique for pace, before using his strength to shrug off the centreback’s challenge. It forced the falling Pique into making a desperate sliding tackle, which caught the striker’s legs. It prompted the referee to point to the spot. De Rossi, who had an outstanding game, made no mistake from the spot to get the Giallorossi within a goal of the semifinals.

Manolas completes Giallorossi comeback

With just over a quarter of an hour remaining, di Francesco made his tactical substitutions as Roma needed another goal. First, the Roma boss introduced Cengiz Under for Schick and later on sent Stephan El Shaarawy in for Nainggolan. The Giallorossi continued their superb counterpressing, which kept them on the offensive. This drive forward led to a corner and the third goal via a Manolas header.

Barcelona now needed to score to progress, prompting Ernesto Valverde into making changes up front. The Barca manager introduced Ousmane Dembele and Paco Alcacer for Semedo and Busquets. Pique also advanced up front as an emergency centreforward as the Blaugrana proceeded to lay siege on the Roma box. However, the Giallorossi were prepared to defend very deep at that point with Di Francesco ordering everyone to defend behind the ball in the final third. Roma held on to completely overturn the tie and advance to the semifinals of the top club competition in Europe.

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