Roma completed the comeback from a goal down and saw Pau Lopez parry a penalty to win 2-1 away to Ajax in the Europa League quarter-final.
Both teams had numerous injury problems going into the first leg of the quarter-final. Smalling, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Stephan El Shaarawy, Marash Kumbulla and suspended Rick Karsdorp didn’t make the trip, but Jordan Veretout was back in the starting XI after a month. Ajax had Andre Onana banned for doping and Maarten Stekelenburg injured, so had to use third-choice goalkeeper Kjell Scherpen. Daley Blind sprained his ankle and January signing Sebastien Heller was accidentally left off the Europa League list.
Lorenzo Pellegrini at full stretch just failed to get his boot to an Edin Dzeko roll across from the left in the opening two minutes, then the Bosnian saw his angled drive skim the far post.
Bryan Cristante’s screamer from distance was palmed round the upright by Scherpen after more great work from Leonardo Spinazzola.
Another Spinazzola move saw Dzeko’s shot straight at Scherpen, but then the wing-back pulled up clutching his hamstring and had to make way for Riccardo Calafiori.
Dusan Tadic curled just wide, but Ajax took the lead with their first genuine scoring opportunity. It was some terrible defending, first Amadou Diawara’s short back-pass, then from Gianluca Mancini, who backed off Davy Klaassen, allowing him the room to exchange passes with Tadic and stroke home undisturbed from 12 yards.
Moments later, it was almost 2-0, but Pau Lopez got an arm to the Antony effort from close range.
They didn’t learn their lesson, because after the restart Pau Lopez passed it straight to Antony and was fortunate Tadic couldn’t make the most of the move. Roger Ibanez also needed a desperate sliding tackle on Antony, who was about to score a tap-in.
After another horrible error playing out from the back, Ibanez brought down Tadic for an inevitable penalty. However, Tadic fired it straight down the middle and Pau Lopez was able to parry.
Dzeko nodded a Bruno Peres cross onto the side-netting, but Roma got their own stroke of luck when Scherpen fumbled the Pellegrini free kick and it squirmed over the line for the equaliser.
Pau Lopez fumbled a Nicolas Tagliafico strike that fortunately for Roma went wide, then rushed off his line to block Brian Brobbey and used his shin to deny an Antony back-heel flick.
The Spanish goalkeeper was having perhaps his best performance in the Giallorossi jersey, pushing Antony’s header over the bar.
However, Roma stayed alive under the pressure and turned it around late on. A Pellegrini corner was nodded away by Klaassen, but only as far as Ibanez for a fantastic chest and volley into the far top corner from 12 yards.
Ajax 1-2 Roma
Klaassen 39 (A), Pellegrini 57 (R), Ibanez 87 (R)
Ajax: Scherpen; Rensch (Klaiber 78), J Timber, Martinez, Tagliafico; Klaassen, Alvarez, Gravenberch; Antony (Idrissi 88), Tadic, Neres (Brobbey 64)
Roma: Pau Lopez; Mancini, Cristante, Ibanez; Bruno Peres, Diawara, Veretout (Villar 77), Spinazzola (Calafiori 28); Pellegrini, Pedro (Perez 89); Dzeko (Mayoral 77)
Ref: Karasev (RUS)
Saved penalty: Tadic 53 (A)
What a hit from Roma central defender Roger Ibanez!— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 8, 2021
Takes it down on his chest and absolutely smashes the ball into the back of the net on the half volley! pic.twitter.com/UNyIr47CL1