Roma and Astra Giurgiu both qualified for the Europa League Round of 32 after a goalless draw, as Austria Vienna self-destructed in Plzen.
The Giallorossi were already sure of first place in their group, so took the opportunity to make some changes in Bucharest. Thomas Vermaelen got his first start since August 28, having finally recovered from a sports hernia, while it was Juan Manuel Iturbe’s last chance to prove himself ahead of the January transfer window. The hosts had Junior Morais and Geraldo Alves suspended, but needed a victory to qualify.
Ex-Inter striker Denis Alibec knocked down a corner for Cristian Sapunaru to fire wide in an early chance for the hosts.
Francesco Totti was given a rare start as the False 9 and blasted a free kick over the bar from distance, then his through ball sent Iturbe clear before a desperate Viorel Nicoara tackle.
Iturbe was lively and had a strong run to the by-line, but news filtered through that Austria Vienna were leading away to 10-man Viktoria Plzen, meaning Astra Giurgiu needed a victory.
A wayward Iturbe strike almost turned into an assist for Totti at the far post, but on the stroke of half-time Alisson Becker needed a tricky double save on the Alibec snapshot and Takayuki Seto follow-up.
Astra had the ball in the back of the net on 51 minutes, but only after Alibec had obviously fouled Emerson Palmieri in the build-up to go clear on goal.
Seto tested Alisson again from distance, while substitute Radja Nainggolan unleashed a screamer just wide from 25 yards.
Incredibly, news filtered through that Viktoria Plzen – who were down to 10 men from the 19th minute – had fought back from 2-0 down to lead Austria Vienna 3-2. This result would qualify Astra and their Coach Marius Sumudica was openly weeping with joy on the touchline as the game continued.
Edin Dzeko turned a free header over from six yards on an Iturbe corner. There was still time in stoppages for Iturbe to horribly balloon high and wide when he had plenty of time and space.
Astra 0-0 Roma
Astra Giurgiu: Lung; Sapunaru, Oros, Fabricio (Florea 72), Stan; Nicoara, Seto, Lovin, Teixeira; Alibec (Niculae 90), Budescu (Mansaly 88)
Roma: Alisson; Bruno Peres, Vermaelen, Juan Jesus, Seck; Strootman (Nainggolan 70), Gerson; El Shaarawy (Dzeko 70), Iturbe, Emerson Palmieri (Marchizza 89); Totti
Ref: Gocek (TUR)
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