As Alexandre Lacazette thundered in a spectacular finish during the dying embers of the first leg, the outlook of the contest had shifted. Lyon, a capable but by no means formidable side, produced a fine performance and mauled their Italian counterparts in a 4-2 victory which highlighted both teams in contrasting fashion.
Alongside Manchester United, Roma could quite rightly consider themselves as favourites for the competition, such is the talent at Luciano Spalletti’s disposal. But, herein lies the problem. The Giallorossi underestimated their opponents and played within themselves, assuming this would be enough to reach the quarter-finals.
If Roma harbour any real ambition of competing with Europe’s elite, they must beat teams of Lyon’s standing, and more importantly, change their mind-set. From one to eleven, the capital club is stronger than the Ligue 1 outfit, but this isn’t enough. L’OL showed heart and fight and this proved too much for Roma.
Yet, even with a two-goal deficit, Spalletti’s men will have been quietly confident of overpowering Lyon in the deciding showdown, such is their ability to score at will. Roma got off to the worst of starts and it was a familiar face who opened the scoring at the Stadio Olimpico. Lessons were not learned, despite the assurances of studying their mistakes from the first leg, as Mouctar Diakhaby headed in a near replica of his opening goal a week ago. The defender was afforded the luxury of the penalty area and what previously looked a surmountable task for the hosts now appeared near impossible.
Roma do not help themselves and the defensive lapses in concentration have cost them dearly in recent weeks. To their credit, they did respond immediately through Kevin Strootman, and with 70 minutes on the clock had time on their side.
For the neutral, the match was a riveting watch, as both groups of players took it in turns to attack. Roma eventually took the lead on the night through an own goal via Lucas Tousart but Lyon more than held their own and didn’t sacrifice their forward-thinking.
Perhaps Spalletti thought Lyon would adopt a more defensive stance and was caught off guard. For this, opposite number Bruno Genesio should be applauded. The Lyon Coach got his early goal and his side’s bravery was rewarded.
The match was not without controversy, as Edin Dzeko had a perfectly legitimate goal ruled out. Yes, this would have sent his side through, but as the adage goes: luck will even itself out, and it will across the season. Rightly or wrongly, Roma should not have to rely on the linesman as a last resort when their talent fails to match the application.
Roma’s breakneck style of play may soon come in to question. Against the lesser sides, it’s relatively risk free, but elsewhere, especially in Europe, the setup has greater consequences and the imbalance between defence and attack is what’s cost the club their participation in the next round.
The back three has been a success this season, but regular wide-men Bruno Peres and Emerson Palmieri are naturally more attack-minded and struggle with balancing their duties. What Roma need is a cool head to take charge and slow things down. With over an hour remaining, the hosts played as if the match was about to end and allowed Lyon to create multiple openings. Roma’s full speed ahead approach is a sight to behold, but there must be some variation in style.
Ultimately, the Scudetto hopefuls failed to overcome a disastrous first leg and it was too little too late in their quest to make the last eight. While the damage was irreparable, the experience should prove invaluable. Then again, we said that about marking Diakhaby on a set play in the first leg.