Wednesday March 6 2019
CL: Roma curse VAR after exit to Porto

Roma have been knocked out of the Champions League by a controversial pair of VAR decisions in extra time, losing 3-1 to Porto on the night.

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The Giallorossi won the first leg 2-1, but the away goal left passage to the Champions League quarter-finals in the balance. Moussa Marega and Jesus Corona returned after missing the first leg, but Porto switched to a 4-4-2 formation with Tiquinho Soares in attack. Eusebio Di Francesco completely revamped after a 3-0 Derby della Capitale defeat to Lazio, as Federico Fazio was out injured, but he used a 3-4-3 with Ivan Marcano facing his former teammates.

Roma’s last Champions League away clean sheet was precisely 12 years ago, March 6 2007 with a 2-0 victory at Olympique Lyonnais, conceding 74 goals in the next 31 games, including the preliminary rounds.

Jesus Corona’s volley flew over the bar and a last-ditch Felipe tackle prevented Edin Dzeko going clear on goal. Iker Casillas rushed out to intercept Nicolò Zaniolo one-on-one, while Tiquinho Soares saw his shot charged down and the Alex Telles follow-up hit the side-netting.

A couple of in-swinging Aleksandar Kolarov set plays caused problems, and another Jesus Corona curler didn’t dip enough.

The deadlock was broken when Marega caught Kostas Manolas in possession and surged down the left, rolling across for Tiquinho Soares to tap in from a couple of yards. He was just behind the line of the ball and therefore onside.

With this result, Porto would go through on the away goals rule, 2-2 on aggregate. Roma fought back, Dzeko’s volley at the back post on a corner deflected off target.

Daniele De Rossi won back the ball to send Diego Perotti into the box, where the Argentine was clumsily brought down by Militao. De Rossi stepped up and showed such calm to beat Casillas from the spot, stuttering his run-up to send his fellow veteran the wrong way. It was a precious away goal and put the Giallorossi back in charge of the tie.

Robin Olsen flew to palm away a Hector Herrera strike from the edge of the box, but there was bad news on the stroke of half-time when De Rossi limped off with a calf problem and was replaced by Lorenzo Pellegrini.

A Soares diving header bounced off the turf and over the bar from close range, then Olsen made a crucial fingertip save to turn the Marega angled drive round the far post.

The pressure paid off, as Karsdorp failed to clear a corner and Corona whipped an excellent cross to the back post that Marega only had to touch in. It was his sixth consecutive Champions League match on target.

This made it 3-3 on aggregate with total parity on away goals too. Marcano had cramp, so Bryan Cristante came on and Roma returned to their more usual 4-3-3 formation.

Immediately, Juan Jesus was caught out by a ball over the top and Olsen used his leg to parry the Yacine Brahimi volley from point-blank range.

Pepe’s poor back-pass was intercepted by Perotti, who had options to pass, but instead just blasted well wide. At the other end, Otavio surged forward after a Steven Nzonzi error and stung Olsen’s gloves from distance.

A late Kolarov free kick hit the wall, but it was all square and went to extra time. Marega had a huge chance, firing his volley just over from six yards.

Lorenzo Pellegrini also limped off with a thigh problem, so the substitute had to be substituted by Patrik Schick. Fortunately, in the Champions League knockouts this season there is a fourth substitution allowed in extra time.

Dzeko’s header whistled wide from a corner, but the Bosnian had two huge opportunities on 110 and 112 minutes. First he cut inside his marker and the rising right-foot finish from a tight angle skimmed the bar. Then Dzeko dinked his finish over the on-rushing Casillas, but it was too soft and Pepe had the chance to get back for a desperate goal-line clearance.

There was controversy when Maxi Pereira’s shot flashed across the face of goal with Fernando unable to get on the end of it, but after viewing the incident on VAR, the referee decided for a penalty due to a tiny Florenzi shirt tug. There were suspicions of offside for Fernando, who also didn’t seem as if he was going to reach the ball anyway, but Alex Telles converted to put Porto in front on aggregate.

There was more drama, as Schick went down in the box at the 123rd minute when either nudged or tripped from behind by Marega, but after communicating with the VAR booth, the referee didn’t even decide to look at the footage.

Porto 3-1 Roma (aet, 4-3 agg)

Soares 26 (P), De Rossi pen 36 (R), Marega 53 (P), Telles pen 117 (P)

Porto: Casillas; Militao (Maxi Pereira 103), Felipe, Pepe, Telles; Otavio (Hernani 93), Danilo Pereira, Herrera, Jesus Corona (Brahimi 69); Marega, Soares (Fernando 77)

Roma: Olsen; Juan Jesus, Manolas, Marcano (Cristante 76); Karsdorp (Florenzi 55), Nzonzi, De Rossi (Pellegrini 45+4) (Schick 96), Kolarov; Zaniolo, Dzeko, Perotti

Ref: Cüneyt Çakır (TUR)

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