Best of the Rest

Roma is moving on

In the other round of 16 second leg played today Roma moves on thanks to the always awesome road goal rule with a 1-0 win over Shakhtar at home which gave them the 2-2 aggregate win thanks to the road goal they scored in the first leg.  Despite the lack of shots in this game (Roma outshot Shakhtar 10-5) this game had a very open feel. As I tweeted early in this game I thought Shakhtar was playing a very risky game in the back. They were always playing a high line trying to draw Roma offsides every chance they could. It just felt inevitable that at some point Roma would get their timing right and would get someone in all alone, which they did in the 52nd minute when Kevin Strootman was able to find Eden Dzeko in behind the Shakhtar defense to give Roma the goal they needed to move on to the quarterfinals.

Neither team was particularly strong defensively in the midfield which allowed both teams to get forward with ease for a large part of this match. It also made the game fun, so I always recommend this type of play it always makes the game better. But if I was Shakhtar protecting a one goal lead I would have tightened things up a bit in midfield and looked to find the goal off the counter. That didn’t happen and part of it was that Roma was okay with them having the ball as they wanted to look to counter (Shakhtar had a 63-37% edge in possession) which like I said it was obvious early in the game that there were gaps in the Shakhtar defense for them to exploit.  Shakhtar also weren’t able to generate the chances that were needed for them to find the road goal which would have won this tie for them. They ended up being very predictable with their play. On too many occasions it was Fred who did have an awesome game finding Ismaily down the left flank, but from there not much tended to happen. Ismaily was very active he mixed his play up, he wasn’t afraid to take guys on, but ultimately he was never able to unlock the Roma defense who was at their best today.

Ultimately when Shakhtar gets back to the sunny Ukraine and looks back at this I think they will look at this as a blown opportunity. They were making it too easy for Roma to get through their midfield and their back 4 was giving gaps to get through with ease. They definitely opened a lot of eyes and showed people they belonged during this seasons Champions League, but given the opponent I think they feel like advancing to the quarterfinals was something they should have accomplished.

For Roma, this is the type of win their fans are used to. A gritty defensive performance and a Dzeko goal. They have used this recipe quite often over the past couple seasons and for a team that a month ago looked like a dead man walking to get to the quarterfinals of this competition is something for them to celebrate regardless of the opponent.

I don’t think a lot of people are going to be picking either one of these teams who won today to advance further than this unless they meet up with each other which is always possible, but for both teams who have had up and down seasons a night like tonight is something that both teams can cherish and celebrate.

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