Roma stuns Barca, reaches semis

Roma pulled off an extraordinary comeback with a 3-0 win over Barcelona on Tuesday to reach the Champions League semifinals after overturning a three-goal deficit from the first leg.

Roma advanced on away goals despite losing 4-1 in the first leg.

Centerback Kostas Manolas scored the decisive goal with a header from a corner in the 82nd minute amid a deafening atmosphere inside the Stadio Olimpico.

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

The first half was all Roma and there was no let-up after the interval. The sheer passion and heart of the home side’s players would have delighted even Sir Alex Ferguson, who was in the stands watching.

Lionel Messi, out of sorts, had a couple of freekicks well over. Luis Suarez, as is traditional, went down looking for fouls on various occasions.

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Barcelona could rightly claim that Roma should have had a man off.

Coach Ernesto Valverde failed to make any changes until it was too late, Andres Iniesta was a passenger, the defence was left in tatters by Roma, the players failed to show any fighting spirit and Lionel Messi was invisible.

“It wasn’t luck. This is what happened,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. “But this isn’t enough. We can’t be satisfied. This squad needs to aim for (the final in) Kiev. This is an extraordinary squad. Why shouldn’t we aim to get there?”

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

“We came here to try to win the match. But they were really, really strong,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said through a translator. “They ran a lot of risks and we were unable to overcome their pressure.

“It’s painful. It’s painful for our fans.”

It’s the first time that Roma has reached the last four since it lost the 1984 final to Liverpool on penalties in its own stadium — and it’s the third straight year that Barcelona has been eliminated at this stage.

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