Thu, Apr 12, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Roma stun Barcelona in Champions League

YELLOW AND RED:Underdogs AS Roma capitalized on headers, dominated possession and stifled Barcelona to secure their surprise advance to the league semi-finals

AP, ROME

AS Roma’s Kostas Manolas, top, heads the ball into the net while diving over Barcelona’s Luis Suarez on Tuesday in their Champions League quarter-final second leg at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy.

Photo: Reuters

With his arms held out wide and his mouth gaping open, Kostas Manolas on Tuesday started running and yelling uncontrollably. Then he patted his chest and was mobbed by his AS Roma teammates.

Manolas, a centerback known more for his defensive skills than his attacking abilities, had just scored one of the most memorable goals in Roma’s history.

His header from a corner in the 82nd minute put Roma into the Champions League semi-finals and knocked out five-time champions Barcelona following one of the most extraordinary comebacks the competition has ever seen.

Roma won 3-0 to overturn a three-goal deficit and advance on away goals, having entered the game as massive underdogs after losing the first leg of their quarter-final 4-1 against a Lionel Messi-led team that was one of the big favorites to win the competition.

“I don’t care about becoming part of Roma’s history. I’m just happy that the squad has reached the Champions League semi-finals by beating a great team like Barcelona,” Manolas said. “In the first leg they denied us two penalties, but tonight we showed that Roma can play with and beat anyone.”

The atmosphere inside the Stadio Olimpico was deafening as Roma unexpectedly dominated.

Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco before the match said that his team needed a “miracle” to advance and they got the start they needed when Edin Dzeko controlled an over-the-top pass between two defenders after 6 minutes and poked in his sixth goal in this season’s competition.

Then near the 1 hour mark, Dzeko earned a penalty that Daniele de Rossi converted to set the stage for Manolas’ late header.

“It is for moments like this that it is so beautiful to live for these colors,” recently retired Roma captain Francesco Totti tweeted, adding “Daje Roma!” — “Go Roma” in Roman dialect — followed by two heart emojis in yellow and red.

Messi and fellow Barcelona forward Luis Suarez hardly threatened as Roma dominated possession for long stretches and stifled the Catalan club with high pressure.

Roma capitalized on their aerial threat through Dzeko and Patrik Schick, and their stifling defense forced Barcelona into a series of uncharacteristic misplaced passes.

“They showed attitude and for whatever reason we didn’t know how to respond, or to make chances,” Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. “For that reason they were better in all aspects tonight.”

It is the first time that Roma have reached the last four since they lost the 1983-1984 final to Liverpool on penalties in their own stadium — and it is the third straight year that Barcelona have been eliminated at this stage.

“It’s a possibility that this might be my last game in the Champions League, but right now this is hard for all the team, all of us,” Barcelona captain Andrea Iniesta said after setting a record with his 22nd match in the quarter-finals. “We so wanted to win this tournament, but we’ve failed to do so again.”

“It’s really tough. It seems untrue. Very hard to accept. With the advantage we had we went out because we really did things badly. The Champions League punishes you for that,” he added.

CITY v LIVERPOOL

AFP, MANCHESTER, England

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola blasted Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz and lamented decisions that cost his side dearly after a 2-1 home defeat by Liverpool on Tuesday sealed a 5-1 aggregate Champions League quarter-final win for the five-time European champions.

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