Video: Roma’s wild celebrations after Barcelona are toppled
Italians overturn a 4-1 deficit to stun Barcelona and reach the Champions League semi-finals
Roma 3 Barcelona 0 (4-4 on aggregate, Roma win on away goals)
Roma pulled off one of the most stunning results in Champions League history last night to dump Barcelona out of the competition and secure their place in the semi-final.
Hardly anyone had given the Italians a chance of overturning the 4-1 deficit from last week’s first leg in the Camp Nou. Instead, most of the football world’s media were focusing on events at the Etihad and the possibility that Manchester City might fight their way back against Liverpool.
But while that didn’t happen, there were sensational scenes in Rome as the Serie A side became only the third team in Champions League history to overturn a first-leg deficit of three goals or more, following in the famous footsteps of Deportivo La Coruna (against AC Milan in 2004) and Barcelona themselves (against Paris Saint-Germain in 2017).
Roma, fourth in Serie A and a full 21 points behind leaders Juventus, ripped into their visitors from the start and, like City against Liverpool, they got an early goal, Edin Dzeko brushing off weak tackles to prod home from close range.
Despite dominating possession, however, the Italians couldn’t score again in the first period, with Dzeko and Patrik Schick both wasting headers.
Eventually the pressure told and on the hour mark Gerard Pique fouled Dzeko in the penalty area and Daniele De Rossi made it 2-0 with the spot-kick.
Barcelona, runaway leaders in La Liga, were now besieged, fighting for their Champions League lives, and eight minutes from time they cracked.
Cengiz Under whipped in a corner from the right and there was defender Kostas Manolas at the near post to head the ball home for one of the most famous goals in Roma’s history.
“I don’t care about me going down in history,” exclaimed Manolas. “I care about Roma reaching the Champions League semi-final against the best team in the world - Barcelona!
“We’ve been a rogue figure in the Champions League since the group stage, we’ve caused problems for everyone and we want to continue that in the semi-finals.”
While the Roma fans celebrated long into the night, the Spanish press composed their headlines and they weren’t flattering to the vanquished.
“Without football or fight,” raged El Pais, while Mundo Deportivo ran with “Historical debacle”. Marca declared the defeat meant “The Fall of Barca’s Empire”, and coach Ernesto Valverde must now fear for his future.
No matter that they are likely to finish the season with a domestic league and cup double, a club of Barcelona’s stature are judged on how they perform in Europe, and such a humiliating defeat will have consequences for players and coaches.
Despite the poor performance of his players, Valverde said there was only one man to blame for Barcelona’s exit. “The coach is the one who has to take responsibility,” he told Marca. “[He] chooses the team, the changes, he plans the game, the season... so I am absolutely responsible for everything.”
The post-mortem will be ugly for everyone concerned, but Valverde touched briefly on the reasons why his team were so comprehensively beaten in the Italian capital.
“The truth is that it was a game in which we couldn’t play our football,” he explained. “They were aggressive and they took the game in the direction they wanted it to go.
“It was a bad day for us because we couldn’t overcome their pressure. You had the sensation that they could get the third goal at any time and in the end, they did.”