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Friday April 9 2021
Pau Lopez puts Roma in driver's seat

Roma sealed a crucial away win at Ajax and Owen Diana reckons Pau Lopez's penalty-kick save must be their season's turning point.

As Dusan Tadic prepared to take a penalty that he had won, it seemed that this Europa League quarterfinal tie was already slipping from the Giallorossi's hands. La Lupa were on the verge of going 2-0 down in the Amsterdam ArenA, which would have forced them to open up unduly in search of a crucial away goal.

The Giallorossi are seven points behind a top-four placement, and winning the Europa League remains, on paper, the easiest way not to sit down and watch Champions League football on tv next season.

An unlikely hero came to Roma's rescue. Pau Lopez has been much-maligned during his time in the Eternal City, with a litany of costly errors causing many to question his eye-watering €23.5m price tag.

That exorbitant fee has often seemed like a weight around the 26-year old's neck, but this time around, he seemed to justify every penny spent with a smart save on Ajax's Serbian schemer.

The Spaniard immediately turned to Roma's bench to confirm everything had gone as planned. After the match, he revealed that he had studied Tadic's penalty patterns and that research proved crucial to Roma's revival.

La Lupa looked like a transformed team after that decisive intervention. They streamed forward smartly to turn the score in their favour while also soaking up considerable pressure from their hosts, who had not lost in all competitions since December 9.

Atalanta were the last outfit to overcome the Dutch giants, and yesterday's result is even more meaningful. It's been three years since the Serie A side secured themselves a semifinal spot in continental competition as it was on April 10, 2018, when they beat Barcelona 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico to progress among the Champions League semis.

However, a 2-1 advantage is not insurmountable, especially considering La Lupa's worrying tendency to shoot themselves in the foot, something they did in Amsterdam too, with a monumental mix-up between Amadou Diawara and Gianluca Mancini triggering Davy Klaassen's opener.

The trend continued in the second stanza, with Roger Ibanez committing two significant mistakes in the space of seconds to gift the hosts a spot-kick. Nevertheless, the Brazilian could breathe a sigh of relief when the Serbian slipped up.

The former Fluminense defender made amends at the other end after a poor attempted clearance from Klaassen, and the Giallorossi were also grateful for backup netminder Kjell Scherpen's shoddy handling on their equalizer.

Despite recording such an impressive result, the sensation is that Roma escaped full censure for their blunders. They must clean things up ahead of the return leg, especially considering the long list of injuries inhibiting Paulo Fonseca's plans.

Leonardo Spinazzola is the latest to join a crowded treatment table after hobbling off midway through the first half last night. It appears that the Italy international will miss out next Thursday. The likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Stephan El Shaarawy and Chris Smalling are already in the infirmary, but Roma must get by regardless.

The Serie A ship has almost certainly sailed, and it would be no surprise to see key performers rested for this weekend's Bologna bout. Despite their imperfections, the Giallorossi are still in the race for a European trophy, hoping Pau Lopez's save is not only the turning point of the game but also of the remainder of the season.

@forkicksblog

Have your say...
Funny old game. On another day, Tudic scores, Roma lose + Ibanez gets slaughtered. But Pau deserves credit for his saves, Ibanez for his winner + Roma deserve credit. It is a mentality thing. They were set up well + comfortable until that suicidal pass. They seem to crumble before your very eyes, but they managed to stay in it this time + even responded well + they deserve credit for been the last Italian team in it too! I agree, could be a massive turning point. Fantastic result. Well done Roma
on the 13th April, 2021 at 4:49pm
I'm not even going to mention the possibility of a semi-final tie for Roma. If Roma had drawn 1-1, I would almost guarantee that Ajax would knock them out but a 1-goal advantage is almost as dangerous because, as is the usual, Italian teams become complacent when they have even the slightest advantage and go into the game trying to get a 0-0 draw to progress - e.g. Milan v Man United. Definitely not getting my hopes up until the final whistle of the 2nd leg.
on the 12th April, 2021 at 12:24pm
It’s perfectly within Roma’s capabilities to lose at the Olympico against Ajax. I hope not as a semi final would be a nice tonic. If they were to win it it would be an incredible achievement considering the teams left.
on the 10th April, 2021 at 7:36am
Roma should be commended for their victory as they are the only team left flying the Italian banner. Yet, the Italian media are trying to destroy them with made up stories. At least they advanced, whereas all of the other Italian teams failed miserably. Fonseca should be praised for what he has done with an inferior Roma squad. Had Roma management taken things seriously 5-6 years ago, they would have a very formidable roster. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a run and Europa league victory.
on the 10th April, 2021 at 3:32am
Roma will have to bring their A game. At their best they trouble anyone. To get past Man U in the semis would make them the team to beat in the Final. Roma need to lose this inferiority complex that they have and start playing with conviction. I have seen them play breath taking football this season and they showed it in spurts yesterday. If that win could spur them on who knows what they can do going forward?
on the 10th April, 2021 at 1:58am
@Luciano

They draw is already made, they'll play United. But they're nothing special either, having scraped past the Milan reserves.

The Ajax tie isn't over, and hopefully Roma don't "do a Roma" next week.

If Roma do go through, they'll probably need a few players back from injury to make the final.

It'd be nice to see an Italian team in a EL final two years running, given they didn't reach one for 21 years before that.
on the 10th April, 2021 at 12:28am
2.
My point is: With Roma, everything is about mentality. THEY HAVE THE PLAYERS, they just need a proper nudge. (Dzeko yesterday was inspired. Team can rise.)
If Lupa take the lead next week, Ajax will lose 3-1.

@Luciano S,
Draw was already made weeks ago! Guess who Roma got? --UNITED. :)

I fear mentally and talent-wise it will be too much for Roma if they get to semis... I see United scoring a lucky, talent-based goal that will make Roma self-destruct & get hammered.

But first, there's Ajax!
on the 9th April, 2021 at 8:58pm
At first, Roma was VERY UNLUCKY: While Ajax had possession, Roma had better chances. Spina, who was best player on pitch, got injured & Diawara ruined everything with that pass. Ajax took initiative, Ibanez gave a penalty.
Mentally, Roma was on their way to lose 4-0...

Then, Roma got INCREDIBLY LUCKY!!! Pau saved a pen?? Lorenzo scored a FK??? (That was a huge howler from Ajax's 3rd goalkeeper.)
At 1-1, mentality changed. Roma again string some shots & won. (It helped that Pau locked the doors.
on the 9th April, 2021 at 8:42pm
A good result last night and as a serieA fan I’ll be cheering Roma on to win it but unfortunately Roma being Roma, even if they get past Ajax they will probably stumble at the next hurdle, being the semi finals. I hope I’m proved wrong, I would love to see that club win something, and a European trophy would be a great achievement for them and SerieA as a whole.
on the 9th April, 2021 at 8:33pm
whoa a positive article about roma from owen diana? Well, gosh. Apparently broken clocks can be right as well.
on the 9th April, 2021 at 7:06pm
Blimey. Roma were awful but did a real smash and grab last night. I just hope they can see it through next week and then get a favourable draw. I can see them beating Arsenal and Villarreal but not Man Utd. Hopefully, they will have a chance against them in the final. Italian club football feels so low at the moment, it really needs a lift. An Italian team winning a European final and five Italian teams in next year's CL would be just the tonic! Who knows, EURO 2020 may complete the recovery!!
on the 9th April, 2021 at 4:28pm

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