Edin Dzeko, Radja Nainggolan key valiant comeback attempt vs. Liverpool
Roma's European dream officially, finally died at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday night as the Giallorossi came agonisingly close to undoing the huge damage done at Anfield last week. This time it was individual errors rather than a collective meltdown that cost Eusebio Di Francesco's team, who scored the goals they needed but couldn't keep a handle on the one thing that always hurts Roma the most -- themselves.
Radja Nainggolan got the ball rolling in the ninth minute by passing the ball to Roberto Firmino with all the home players forward, allowing the Brazilian to slip in Sadio Mane to open the scoring. James Milner's own goal six minutes later nearly lifted the roof off the stadium, but all noise and hope was drained away when Georginio Wijnaldum slipped past Roma's ball-watching defence to nod home the Red's second from close range.
The superb Edin Dzeko's fine rebound finish seven minutes after the break gave Roma some pride, and a Radja Nainggolan brace in the final minutes gave the match the scoreline Roma's performance fully deserved.
Roma played exactly the sort of game they should have played in the first leg, but being more solid structurally didn't translate into the free-flowing destroyer that wrecked Barcelona. The two sloppy goals conceded ended up costing Roma a tie that looking at how vulnerable Liverpool were at the back and the two penalties they should have been whistled for, Roma could have won.
Never mind, this was a performance that put a bit of pride back in the capital after the horror show that they offered up last week, and should stand them in good stead for qualification for next season's competition.
Roma showed more than just plenty of guts to keep at it despite the early errors, they also showed that they can compete with the likes of Liverpool and impose their style of play on them. Roma created enough chances to win the game and on another night could even have put the tie up for discussion, had the ball fallen the right way for them.
Those daft errors cost Roma once again. It's incredible that a player of Nainggolan's experience and quality can make such a sloppy pass so early on in the game, and as for the ball watching for Liverpool's second... it beggars belief. What makes it all the more irritating is the fact that those slips cost Roma a tie that looked lost a week ago.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Di Francesco started with the right formation -- 4-3-3 -- and managed to keep Mohamed Salah on lockdown almost all night. If only he had started with this system at Anfield maybe Roma could have got past what looks a very beatable Liverpool side.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 7 -- Saved what he could, when he could.
DF Alessandro Florenzi, 5 -- Roma's one weak spot. Got burned too many times and his final ball going forward wasn't good enough.
DF Kostas Manolas, 6 -- Covered practically everything that came his way, but man does he need to work on his distribution.
DF Federico Fazio, 7 -- One bad mistake aside when he handed the ball to Mane, the Argentine was excellent.
DF Aleksandar Kolarov, 7 -- Did great work keeping Salah quiet and was superb in supporting the attack
MF Lorenzo Pellegrini, 7 -- A mature, committed display that showed why he is so highly rated by Di Francesco.
MF Daniele De Rossi, 7 -- A captain's display. A shame that he won't lead his team out in Kiev.
MF Radja Nainggolan, 7 -- Gave away the first goal will a daft pass to Firmino, but scored a great goal to give Roma a deserved win on the night. Thunderously deposited an injury-time penalty for his second as time ticked down
FW Patrik Schick, 7 -- Looks a completely different player since being given a more prominent role by Di Francesco.
FW Edin Dzeko, 8 -- Took his goal well and led the line like an accomplished international footballer should. Class act.
FW Stephan El Shaarawy, 7 -- A menace on the left of the three-man attack. Unlucky to see his deflected first-half shot crash back off the post.
MF Cengiz Under, 5 -- Helped Roma's shape when they changed formation but didn't contribute much.
MF Maxime Gonalons, 6 -- Solid. Competent. All the things you don't expect from the Frenchman at the moment.
FW Mirko Antonucci, N/R -- A nice run out for the youngster.
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC's AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley