April 4, 2018 / 9:15 PM / 18 days ago

Soccer: Barcelona secure big win as Roma self-destruct

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona capitalised on two disastrous own goals by AS Roma to thrash the Italian side 4-1 at the Nou Camp on Wednesday and take a huge step towards reaching the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in three years.

Roma’s captain Daniele De Rossi hit an unstoppable shot into his own net to break the deadlock in the 38th minute of what had been a delicately poised first leg and a second own goal 10 minutes into the second half, this time by Greek defender Kostas Manolas, stretched the runaway La Liga leaders’ advantage.

Barca defender Gerard Pique piled misery on the Italians four minutes later, mopping up the rebound after Luis Suarez was thwarted by goalkeeper Alisson before Roma’s top scorer Edin Dzeko struck at the right end to give his side faint hope of a turnaround in the second leg.

Suarez effectively vanquished those hopes, however, by notching his side’s fourth goal three minutes from time, scoring for the first time in the Champions League in over a year.

“We weren’t lucky, we hit the post a couple of times and the own goals happened because we kept on putting them under pressure, making sure the ball was in their area far more than ours,” Pique told reporters.

“We played very well and that’s why we’ve got such a good result. It would have been better to not concede but we cannot complain, we have got a very good advantage.”

Five-times European champions Barca are still unbeaten in La Liga and the Champions League and were overwhelming favourites against Eusebio Di Francesco’s side, who are third in Serie A and have never gone beyond the quarter-finals since reaching the 1984 European Cup final.

Roma set up to cancel out Barca and had managed the game well and kept Lionel Messi quiet until De Rossi’s untimely own goal, which came as the veteran midfielder tried to prevent the Argentine forward reaching a pass from Andres Iniesta.

Soccer Football - Champions League Quarter Final First Leg - FC Barcelona vs AS Roma - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - April 4, 2018 Barcelona's Lionel Messi in action with Roma's Diego Perotti REUTERS/Albert Gea

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Dzeko could have won a penalty in the ninth minute when he was pushed over by Nelson Semedo and winger Diego Perotti failed to hit the target from a free header at the start of the second half when they were only a goal down.

Italian forward Lorenzo Pellegrini was also brought down by Samuel Umtiti at the end of the first half, with the referee giving a free kick on the edge of the area rather than the penalty Roma appealed for.

“Of course we made mistakes, but Barca are a good enough team without receiving help from the referee,” Di Francesco said.

The visitors suddenly came alive after Pique’s goal had given them a near-impossible task, however.

Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen nearly gifted them a goal when he darted from his area and lost possession but the German recovered to make a brilliant save to deny Roma substitute Gregoire Defrel and he tipped over a long-range strike from the Frenchman a minute later.

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Dzeko’s close-range finish could have been a rallying cry for the Italians but Suarez showed no mercy down the other end, pouncing on a failed clearance by Federico Fazio and hammering in his first European goal in his last 11 games.

Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond

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