Roma's European adventure ends as Dzeko proves non-factor in second leg
Roma's Europa League adventure is over despite dominating and beating Lyon 2-1 in the second leg of their last-16 tie at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday. The Serie A team ultimately fell 5-4 on aggregate as they failed to overcome their 4-2 deficit from the first leg in France, where a second-half collapse left them with too much to do.
A powerful 17th-minute header from Kevin Strootman immediately after going down to a similar Mouctar Diakhaby goal, followed by a Lucas Tousart own goal on the hour mark, left Roma with half an hour to score the one goal they needed to go through against a Lyon side that completely wilted in the second half. However, the home team's wayward shooting and an outstanding Anthony Lopes in the opposition goal -- whose sixth-minute save from Mohamed Salah just after Antonio Rudiger crashed a close-range shot against the bar set the tone for the evening -- meant 61 percent possession and 26 shots weren't enough to get to the quarterfinals.
Sloppy finishing and the non-contributions of the deeply underwhelming Salah and, in particular, Edin Dzeko have left Roma looking towards another improbable comeback over hated local rivals Lazio in the Coppa Italia semifinals to salvage a season that now appears destined to end in disappointment.
Coach Luciano Spalletti claimed that Roma deserved to go through and on the basis of Thursday night and the first half last week he'd be right. His side got stuck into Lyon and could easily have been two goals up inside the first 10 minutes, while they also did incredibly well to bounce back so quickly from Diakhaby's early sucker punch. No one can question the spirit of this team, even if the killer instinct that separates decent sides from great ones is missing.
For all of Roma's bluster and aggression, quality play only came through in fits and starts. There was a lot of undisciplined charging around even before the final forward push for the third goal began. A set of cooler heads would have kept the ball longer and not resorted so often to desperate crosses -- 35 over 90 minutes, barely a chance created from any of them -- and long balls towards Salah. But in the end, the damage was done in Lyon.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Spalletti selected a five-man midfield to choke Lyon's creative hub of Mathieu Valbuena and Corentin Tolisso and starve Alexandre Lacazette of service, and it largely worked. Lacazette didn't have single shot all night or a win from an aerial challenge. Meanwhile, Spalletti's side had nearly two-thirds possession and three times as many shots on goal. However, his front two of Dzeko and Salah were kept largely quiet and it wasn't until Stephan El Shaarawy was introduced for Peres a minute before creating the own goal that the comeback looked even close to possible.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 7 -- Stopped the few successful breaks Lyon managed to pull off in the second half with two magical saves, the last-ditch charge out on Maxwel Cornet the highlight.
DF Kostas Manolas, 7 -- Started by losing Diakhaby for Lyon's opener and was wobbly in the first half, but recovered in the second 45 minutes.
DF Federico Fazio, 7 -- Marshalled Roma's back three with typical authority.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Was so unlucky not to open the scoring with a brilliant spin and shot. Aggressive defensively and in bringing the ball forward.
MF Bruno Peres, 5 -- Leaves too many holes at the back. When he's not offering any threat going forward, as was the case on Thursday, there's basically no point in playing him.
MF Mario Rui, 6 -- Offered all of the defensive solidity that Peres didn't and was keen to get forward and put crosses in. A shame, then, that so many of them led to nothing.
MF Kevin Strootman, 8 -- Equalised with a brilliant header and was unlucky not to send his side in ahead at the break after forcing a double save from Lopes. A machine.
MF Daniele De Rossi, 7 -- Alongside Strootman and Nainggolan did well against Lyon's much pacier and technically gifted midfield. Was too keen on the Hollywood pass, however.
MF Radja Nainggolan, 7 -- Was a key part of Roma's aggressive attack, but was often too rushed with his final pass or shot.
FW Mohamed Salah, 5 -- Was nullified as an attacking threat on the break by a well-organised Lyon back line. Unlucky, however, not to open the scoring early on.
FW Edin Dzeko, 5 -- Looked more sullen and downcast as the match went on and it became clear that he was getting no change from Diakhaby and Emanuel Mammana.
MF Stephan El Shaarawy, 8 -- Forced the own goal almost straight after coming on, dumping Valbuena on his backside. Was one rushed shot away from hero status.
MF Diego Perotti, N/R -- Could have happily replaced the ineffective Salah instead of Rui.
FW Francesco Totti, N/R -- Offered the touch of class that the rest of his team desperately lacked in the final 10 minutes. If only he were 10 years younger and could do it for 90 or even 45 minutes.
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC's AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley