Edin Dzeko’s hat-trick and a stunning Emerson Palmieri curler gave Roma a crushing 3-0 victory away to Villarreal in the Europa League.
The second leg is at the Stadio Olimpico next Thursday.
Both these sides lost the Champions League preliminary round and were bumped down to the Europa League. The Giallorossi missed Alessandro Florenzi, but had Edin Dzeko, who already knocked Villarreal out of Europe twice before with Wolfsburg and Manchester City. Roberto Soldado, Roberto Soriano and Daniele Bonera were in the stands, while Italy international Nicola Sansone was a familiar face. Alexandre Pato moved to China during the transfer window.
Mateo Musacchio had trouble closing down Emerson Palmieri at the by-line, as Roma started with a good amount of possession, and Antonio Rudiger charged down a Cedric Bakambu effort as he turned on the edge of the box.
Edin Dzeko managed to turn between three defenders only to drill off target and Samuel Castillejo turned over after a good give and go.
Kevin Strootman’s cross-shot from a Daniele De Rossi chipped assist hit the side-netting and on the half-hour El Shaarawy flew down the left only to see Dzeko’s header too central to beat Sergio Asenjo.
The deadlock was broken when Emerson Palmieri caught Castillejo in possession, cut in from the left and curled a remarkable finish into the far top corner with his weaker right foot. It was from a good 25 metres out.
El Shaarawy was hauled down by Mario Gaspar for an inevitable yellow card as he was going clear on the counter and Emerson Palmieri stung Asenjo’s gloves at the near post on the stroke of half-time.
After the restart, Roma continued to keep plenty of possession, but Bakambou robbed Kostas Manolas in the centre-circle and dribbled past four defenders before firing over the bar from the edge of the box.
Alisson also had his first genuine save on 55 minutes, palming a Mario Gaspar header round the near post from six yards after a Manu Trigueros cross.
Mateo Mustacchio’s poor clearance was straight at Radja Nainggolan, but he wasn’t expecting it and the ball bounced off his shins.
The game suddenly became end to end stuff, Alisson smothering hopeful efforts from Trigueros and Castillejo, so Luciano Spalletti introduced Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian made an immediate impact, surging down the right and pulling back for Dzeko, whose wonderful feint sent Musacchio to ground and he drilled right-footed into the near bottom corner past the on-rushing goalkeeper.
Sansone’s free kick burst through the wall, but Alisson managed to block, and Roma added a third. Dzeko sprung the offside trap on a Juan Jesus lobbed assist, shrugged off Victor Ruiz and the shot went in off the underside of the bar despite Asenjo getting his hands to it.
Dzeko wasn’t done yet, as he completed a give and go with Nainggolan down the left, taking a touch to commit Musacchio and passing calmly into the net from 10 yards.
That was Dzeko’s eighth Europa League goal this season, making him the current top corner in this tournament.
Villarreal 0-4 Roma
Emerson Palmieri 32 (R), Dzeko 65, 79, 86 (R)
Villarreal: Asenjo; Mario Gaspar, Musacchio, Victor Ruiz, Jaume Costa; Jonathan Dos Santos, Trigueros, Bruno Soriano, Castillejo (Chersyshev 67); Sansone (Borre 81), Bakambu (Adrian Lopez 66)
Roma: Alisson; Manolas, Fazio, Rudiger (Juan Jesus 70); Peres, De Rossi, Strootman, Emerson; Nainggolan, El Shaarawy (Salah 61); Dzeko
Ref: Makkelie (NED)