Barcelona took a commanding lead against Roma in the 1st Leg of the Champions League Quarter-Final. Aided by two Roma own goals, Barcelona built a two goal lead in the first 55 minute, before Gerard Pique added another for the Catalans. The two sides exchanged goals in the final ten minutes with Edin Džeko scoring for Roma and Luis Suarez scoring for the home side.
Ernesto Vlaverde threw a curveball with the right side of his lineup, including both Nelson Semedo, at right back, and Sergi Roberto, on the right side of midfield, in the lineup – something rarely seen this season. The rest of the eleven was largely as expected. A question mark going into the game was if Sergio Busquets would be fit enough to start the game and he would indeed be included in the starting lineup.
The visitors were looking to catch Barcelona napping in the early minutes, pressing very high from the opening whistle, but the Catalan defense was up to the task. Barcelona would get their first chance in the 7th minute and Suarez would promptly slot the ball into the back of the net, but the goal was correctly disallowed as the Uruguayan was clearly offside at the time of Andres Iniesta’s pass.
Roma would have a penalty claim turned away in the 10th minute when Edin Džeko went down after the slightest of leans from Semedo. Barcelona would threaten the very next minute, with Lionel Messi firing from 25-yards out, but Alisson Becker made a very solid positional save.
Slowly but surely, Barcelona were taking control of the game as their possession play was taking over. Barcelona were pressing and in the 18th minute they were denied by their greatest foe – the frame of the goal. The corner kick was cleared back to Ivan Rakitić who sent a dangerous low cross back into the area. No Roma or Barcelona player could get a tip and as the ball sailed past everybody, even the goalkeeper, the far post suddenly looked inviting. However, the ball caromed off it and back into play. It reached Suarez who fired but missed the mark badly.
While Barcelona’s good play didn’t lead to many chances, they had a very good one in the 28th minute. Jordi Alba, Messi and Suarez combined excellently on the left side before the latter would fire a powerful shot on goal, but Allison was there to make the save. On the far post, Roberto was too slow to get on to the rebound. Three minutes later Iniesta took a chance from distance, but his try sailed over the bar.
Roma’s defense was incredibly stingy, playing especially tight coverage through the middle where Barcelona focused their attacks. Both flanks of Barcelona were largely anonymous even with Alba and Roberto playing high up the pitch. But Barcelona would be rewarded for their attacking play in the 38th minute with the high scoring “own goal” adding another to his name. Iniesta’s pass was intended for Messi on the edge of the area, but a sliding Daniele de Rossi prevented the completion. However, his clearance was perfectly placed just inside Alisson’s left post and Barcelona were in the lead.
Three minutes later, Roma would have their best chance of the half. Samuel Umtiti committed a foul on the very edge of the penalty area. Lorenzo Pellegrini stepped up to take the kick, but fired it right at the wall as Marc-Andre ter Stegen continued to be mostly a spectator in the first half. The final minutes of the first half wouldn’t amount to much and Barcelona went into the break up by one.
Similarly to the first half, Roma came storming out of the gate, creating a golden opportunity just 17 seconds after the restart. Alessandro Florenzi floated a cross from the right side right onto the head of Pellegrini, but the Italian’s header sailed well wide. Two minutes later, there was a chance on the other end, with Alba powering one on goal, but Alisson made the save. Suarez, however, couldn’t threaten from the juicy rebound.
Barcelona would again regain control of the game, despite their troubles in defense. In the 53rd minute, Messi would see his shot get saved. But the hosts would continue to attack an in the 56th minute they doubled their lead. Rakitić sent a very dangerous low squared ball from the right side into the middle to Umtiti. But before Umtiti could go for the easy tap in, Kostas Manolas cleared the ball onto the post. However, bouncing off the frame, the ball hit Manolas again, this time bouncing behind the goal-line for the second own goal of the match.
The hosts would not stop there. First, in the 58th minute, Alisson was tested by Rakitić and made a terrific save. The very next minute, though, not even the Brazilian could prevent the goal. Messi sent the ball to the opposite end of the penalty area, from where the Suarez fired a good shot on target. Alisson managed to stop the initial shot, but with the rebound falling right into the waiting feet of Pique the first goal scored by a Barcelona players was never in question. The defender was left with a very simple tap-in and Barcelona were up by three and in command.
While Roma oftentimes looked dangerous, and with Barcelona’s defense not very sure-footed the hosts were looking for chances. But with the big lead Valverde was able to offer Busquets some added rest after he had just received the medical all-clear. He was replaced in the 67th minute by Paulinho.
Still, Roma were pressing and Barcelona’s defense was bending. The visitors would have excellent scoring chances in three consecutive minutes, starting in the 78th minute, before the Barcelona defense would finally break in the 80th. First, ter Stegen would offer up one of his once trademark giveaways on the left side - one of those we’ve all gotten used to living without. The cross went quickly back into the area where Grégoire Defrel shot on goal, but the German made a brilliant recovery save to make up for his mistake.
The very next minute Diego Perotti took a chance from distance with a diagonal shot, but ter Stegen made another very good stop. The next minute the clean sheet was gone for the German in the Barcelona net. Perotti was again in the thick of it, making the crucial pass that found Džeko in the area. This time Roma would not be denied as Džeko scored the all-important away goal.
Then, in quick succession, Valverde made two substitutions. First, Andre Gomes replaced Roberto, then Denis Suarez took Iniesta’s spot on the pitch. With Roma threatening and Barcelona on the ropes, the hosts managed to add a fourth, this one against the run of play, with Suarez scoring his first Champions League goal of the season in the 87th minute. Denis sent a seemingly poor low pass into the area, after a lovely run down the right side by the impressive Semedo, but a poor clearance from Maxime Gonalons turned into a perfect set-up for Suarez who buried the ball into the back of the net.
Both teams attacked in the dying moments of the game, but the score wouldn’t chance and Barcelona will travel to Rome with an impressive three goal lead. The defense will have to clean up their act though as against a better-finishing opponent this one could’ve ended with at least a couple more goals in ter Stegen’s net. But before Barcelona have to worry about the return leg they have to take on Leganes on Saturday in La Liga.