Diego Perotti’s header gave Roma victory over Qarabag and ensured they won the Champions League group ahead of Chelsea, eliminating Atletico Madrid.
The Giallorossi knew a victory would send them through to the Champions League Round of 16, while they could even win the group if Chelsea failed to beat Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge. Bruno Peres was suspended and Rick Karsdorp injured, but Radja Nainggolan and Diego Perotti returned from injury. The champions of Azerbaijan held Atleti to two draws in this group, but had Pedro Henrique and Rashad F Sadygov suspended, with Badavi Huseynov and Ansi Agolli injured.
The hosts pushed forward from the start, an Edin Dzeko back-heel flick smothered and Stephan El Shaarawy drew out the goalkeeper to turn it round him from a tight angle, forcing defenders to clear in front of an open goal.
Qarabag were occasionally dangerous on the counter, as Richard Almeida blasted over, but both Dzeko and Kostas Manolas went for the same free kick at the back post and got in the way.
On the stroke of half-time there was a double save from Ibrahim Sehic, who beat away the Nainggolan strike and then smothered the Aleksandar Kolarov follow-up.
A deflected Nainggolan effort was dealt with after the restart and the pressure finally paid off, as Dzeko sprung the offside trap and Sehic deflected it into the air, but could do nothing on Perotti’s headed follow-up from close range. Almost simultaneously, Atletico Madrid took the lead at Stamford Bridge.
Sehic kept the scoreline down, diving down to fingertip a Nainggolan low drive round the base of the upright and Kolarov’s free kick whistled wide as Chelsea equalised through a Stefan Savic own goal.
Qarabag went very close to an equaliser on 83 minutes, as Federico Fazio completely misjudged the Donald Guerrier cross and Michel’s header was straight at Alisson.
Kolarov showed admirable fitness levels at the 86th to leave two defenders for dead at the by-line and his low drive was palmed away at the near post. Dzeko wasted another chance, flashing his angled drive across the face of goal.
At the final whistle, the team all waited to cheer with the crowd as the news came through that Chelsea had drawn 1-1 with Atletico Madrid, meaning Roma won the so-called Group of Death.
Roma 1-0 Qarabag
Perotti 53 (R)
Roma: Alisson; Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; Nainggolan, De Rossi, Strootman; El Shaarawy (Gerson 72), Dzeko, Perotti (Pellegrini 80)
Qarabag: Sehic; Medvedev, Yunuszada, Rzezniczak, Guerrier; Ismaylov (Quintana 75), Garayev, Almeida, Michel, Madatov (Ramazanov 85); Ndlovu (Sheydaev 85)
Ref: Stieler (GER)
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