Rome (AFP) – An Alessandro Florenzi wonder goal earned Roma a share of the spoils as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrated his 100th Champions League appearance without a goal in a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.
Roma, dominated throughout by the defending champions, looked to be on their way to a sound defeat after Luis Suarez rose at Wojciech Szczesny’s back post after 21 minutes to head home Ivan Rakitic’s delivery. But the hosts were given a huge treat when Florenzi struck from just over the halfway line to catch Marc-Andre ter Stegen way out of his goal with a shot that bounced off the post and into the net.
Barcelona went on to spurn a series of great chances but a determined Roma produced a solid defensive performance to ultimately frustrate Luis Enrique’s men.
“I’m satisfied with how we played, we created a lot of chances and when your opponents close up at the back it’s not easy,” said Enrique.
“A win would obviously have been a better result. I don’t want to say the result is false. We created a lot of chances and did everything we did to try and win it, but that’s football.”
A draw against the Catalan giants will be considered a good result, especially given the 7-1 thrashing Roma suffered by Bayern Munich in the group stages last year.
Having seen second-choice goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis pull off a string of fine saves late in the game after he replaced injured Pole Szczesny at the start of the second half, Roma coach Rudi Garcia was delighted with the point.
“A dream result would have been to win it, but we were virtually perfect,” said Garcia. “Against Barca you always concede chances but the boys did well to close a lot of those down.
“We could have done a little better with our scoring chances and especially on our counter-attacks.
“It’s not a great result, it’s a good result that has given the lads some confidence for our subsequent matches.”
A day after seeing Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo overtake their shared record of 77 goals in the competition with a hat trick in a 4-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk, Messi had plenty of reason to be on the goals hunt. The Argentinian was a class act, dipping and skipping past Roma’s players at will but failing to add to close the gap on Ronaldo’s new tally of 80 goals.
Although Roma were finding counter-attacking chances with the pacy Mohamed Salah, Barcelona eventually settled to frustrate the hosts and their increasingly-unhappy fans.
“Mohamed’s pace was a threat for Barcelona all night,” added Garcia.
On 21 minutes Messi backed into Lucas Digne and the subsequent confusion over whether a foul had been committed gave Barcelona a split second’s momentum.
Rakitic went unchallenged at the near post to send in a lob for Suarez to head home at the back post, as Roma’s players protested in vain.
Barcelona were then denied a possible penalty when Szczesny missed the ball completely when he was at full stretch to deny Suarez at the Uruguayan’s feet.
Roma seemed shellshocked and an eery silence hung over the stadium as fans sat in awe, until the stupor was broken in spectacular fashion just after the half hour.
Seeing ter Stegen 15 yards off his line, Florenzi looked up from near the right touchline and hit a drive from just inside the halfway line that sailed over the keeper, off the far post and into the net.
The 58,800 crowd were stunned, this time positively, but Barca responded immediately, Messi twice going close after a mazy run down the right hand side of the penalty area.
Barca took barely 90 seconds after the restart to threaten again, Szczesny first denying Messi from distance and then diving at the feet of Suarez to deny the Uruguayan, although paying for it by injuring his hand and ending his game prematurely.
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