Dzeko unrecognisable, Roma fall apart in the second half at Lyon
Roma's season looks increasingly like it's coming to its traditional early spring end after an embarrassing second-half collapse at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais that leaves the Giallorossi with, if not a mountain, then a very steep hill to climb in the second leg of their Europa League tie with Lyon.
Forty-five minutes into Thursday night's match Roma looked good for the quarterfinals after coming back from an early Mouctar Diakhaby goal to lead 2-1 through goals from Mohamed Salah and Federico Fazio. But all that good first-half work was washed away in a truly dispiriting second period that saw Roma completely fall away and three great strikes from Corentin Tolisso, Nabil Fekir and Alexandre Lacazette swing the tie in favour of the French.
Bar Salah, Roma's attack was blunt and indecisive, with Edin Dzeko unrecognisable from the player who destroyed Villarreal, and the defensive solidity that had characterised them since the start of 2017 also seems to have disappeared. That win at Inter feels a long, long time ago now.
After losing to Lazio and Napoli in the last week and going a goal down early on Thursday, Roma's response in the first half was outstanding. They kept their heads and the ball, creating chances and pushing an aggressive Lyon back into their own half. The desire and spirit is clearly there, and for an hour they were flanked by style and organisation.
Bruno Peres was targeted and absolutely destroyed by Mathieu Valbuena, with every Lyon attack in the second half coming down Roma's right, leading to defensive imbalances that opened up space in front of goal for shots. Lacazette showed Dzeko what a centre-forward is supposed to do when tightly marked.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- While it's true that Roma do not have a deep squad, and that Luciano Spalletti clearly doesn't trust most of his second string, it's hard to see why he took so long to make changes to his clearly struggling team before the 82nd minute. Whether they should be or not, his team look thoroughly exhausted, and the coach needs to start making changes earlier in matches.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 7 -- Let Tolisso's equaliser in far too easily, but made a series of incredible stops not long after. If it wasn't for him Roma would be facing an even bigger first-leg deficit.
DF Kostas Manolas 6 -- An initially aggressive display from the Greek, who like the rest of the team just collapsed in the final half an hour.
DF Federico Fazio, 6 -- Bashed in a stonking header, and was always on hand to cut out a cross or step up to intercept a pass. On the other hand, was done too easily by Fekir for Lyon's third and was slow out to Lacazette for the fourth.
DF Juan Jesus, 6 -- Not at fault for any of Lyon's four goals. Did OK, even if he was far too keen on bashing long balls up to Dzeko.
MF Bruno Peres, 4 -- Looked absolutely terrified of Valbuena, and barely put in a decent cross all night.
MF Daniele De Rossi, 6 -- Caught out of position for Tolisso's equaliser, but was nonetheless dogged in front of the back three. Brilliant cross for Fazio's goal.
MF Kevin Strootman, 8 -- Roma's shining light, the only one who didn't disappear when it counted
MF Emerson Palmieri, 7 -- The difference between the Brazilian and his countryman on the other flank couldn't have been more stark.
MF Mohamed Salah, 6 -- Pounced brilliantly for his goal and could have easily had two assists for Dzeko and Strootman, but was too often sloppy in possession.
MF Radja Nainggolan, 6 -- His usual bustling self in behind Dzeko in a superb first half display, but completely disappeared in the second.
FW Edin Dzeko, 4 -- Perfectly average at linking play but was utterly invisible as a goal threat. Seemed to play the whole game in a strange funk.
Leandro Paredes, N/R -- The way he strolled back as Lacazette lined up Lyon's fourth summed up an anonymous 10 minutes.
Diego Perotti, N/R -- Did nothing in the five minutes afforded him.
Stephan El Shaarawy, N/R -- 20 seconds. What for?
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC's AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley