FC Barcelona got two goals from Roma defenders and a third from one of its own, the center back Gerard Piqué, to cruise to a 4-1 victory at Camp Nou on Wednesday night in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.
After Piqué’s goal put Barça up, 3–0, with just ten minutes to play, Roma striker Edin Dzeko pulled one back before Luis Suárez added a late fourth for Els Blaugranes.
“Not giving up a goal would have been better,” Piqué said after the game. “But, we can’t complain.” Neither could the fans.
By building a comfortable aggregate cushion to take along with them when the quarterfinals resume in Rome next Tuesday night, the Catalans achieved one of their two primary missions in the win.
But although Barça kept I Giallorossi off the scoreboard for almost 80 minutes, Dzeko finally broke through for the Romans, providing them with a valuable away goal that could potentially break an aggregate tie, should the two teams finish the second leg even on total goals.
For that to happen, Roma would need to triumph in the next match by a minimum of three goals—and keep Barça scoreless.
The only goal of the first half put Barça up 1–0 in the 38th minute when Roma captain Daniele De Rossi slid in to intercept a pass from Andrés Iniesta to a streaking Leo Messi, only to redirect past his own goalkeeper, the Brazilian Allison Becker.
Despite the own-goal, the first half was encapsulated by an abundance of caution at both ends of the field, as the away-goals rule forced both teams into a conservative game-plan. Patience persisted throughout. To Barça’s credit, however, the team almost doubled up Roma both in possession and passing, and had multiple other chances to open the scoring.
After the intermission, Barça got a second-own goal from Roma in the 56th, whenIvan Rakitic fired a precision cross to Samuel Umtiti, and the Frenchman’s shot from the doorstep hit the post, only to be knocked in by his counterpart, the center-back Kostas Manolas.
For Barça manager Ernesto Valverde, the own-goals were not simply a stroke of luck. “If you don’t get close to their net, own-goals don’t happen,” Valverde said.
But the defenders weren’t done yet. Just three minutes later, in the 59th, Piqué sneaked behind the Roma defense and, following a hard shot by Suárez that was blocked by Allison, the Catalan center-back dumped a rebound into the net.
In the 78th and 79th, Barça goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen made back-to-back spectacular saves to keep Roma off the scoreboard.
In the 80th, however, Dzeko provided Roma with a glimmer of hope, slotting in past Ter Stegen with an assist from Diego Perotti.
But three minutes from time, in the 87th, Suárez was left unmarked in the Roma area and, after a cross from another Suárez — Denis, to be precise — the Uruguayan beat Allison back across the goalmouth to provide Barça with what may turn out to be a crucial insurance goal.
Barça, however, knows its work is not yet finished.