CSKA Moscow 1 Roma 2: Di Francesco´s side edge towards knockouts
Roma significantly boosted their chances of progressing to the Champions League knockout stages with a 2-1 win over 10-man CSKA Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.
Eusebio Di Francesco’s side punished Hordur Magnusson for receiving two yellow cards, with Lorenzo Pellegrini adding the winner to his assist for the opener to put Roma on the brink of the last 16.
Kostas Manolas capitalised on poor goalkeeping from Igor Akinfeev to put the visitors in front, but CSKA drew level after the restart through Arnor Sigurdsson.
Roma needed less than three minutes to take advantage of their numerical superiority and seal the win following Magnusson’s dismissal, though Pellegrini appeared to have stroked home from an offside position.
CSKA beat Real Madrid in their previous Champions League home game but were behind early on when Akinfeev got nowhere near Pellegrini’s corner and Manolas nodded in.
Mario Fernandes was replaced by Georgy Schennikov in the 12th minute having lunged in on Aleksandar Kolarov and seemingly been hit on the head by the Serbian’s knee.
Ivan Oblyakov had a shot at the end of a slick move blocked by a last-ditch challenge from Manolas and Schennikov headed the rebound over a gaping net before half-time.
Sigurdsson did not fail to get CSKA level when he brushed off a woeful attempted tackle from Davide Santon and curled home from 12 yards in the 51st minute.
CSKA were reduced to 10 men after Magnusson received his second booking for taking out Justin Kluivert and Roma regained their lead in the 58th minute.
Bryan Cristante’s pass took a deflection off Edin Dzeko and fell for Pellegrini to slot home, with CSKA’s seemingly justified appeals for offside ignored.
Pellegrini made way for Nicolo Zaniolo in the 82nd minute and Roma saw out the closing stages with relative ease.
What it means? CSKA facing uphill battle to progress
Failure to get a point from either match against Roma makes it seem likely CSKA will battle it out with Viktoria Plzen for third place and a spot in the Europa League. Even if they beat the Czech team next time out, it is likely that a win at the Santiago Bernabeu will be required for them to advance to the knockout rounds for the first time since 2011-12.
Pellegrini masterminds victory
Playing as the furthest forward of Roma’s midfield three, Pellegrini displayed his ability at set-pieces and inside the box. By setting up Manolas for the opener, he became the first player for an Italian club to assist a goal in three straight Champions League matches since Clarence Seedorf for AC Milan in 2007.
Akinfeev makes blunder on return
After serving his suspension for a late red card in the win over Real Madrid, Akinfeev will have been keen to help his team avoid a repeat of their 3-0 loss in Rome. However, he quickly put them on the back foot with his terrible judgement at a corner enabling Manolas to open the scoring.
Key Opta Facts
– Roma have won three consecutive games in the Champions League, their joint-best ever run in the competition having also won three in a row in December 2008.
– Roma have now scored 11 Champions League goals against CSKA Moscow, more than they have against any other opponent in the competition.
– Four of Roma’s Kostas Manolas’ five goals in the Champions League have been headers, with all five coming from corners.
– Lorenzo Pellegrini’s goal for Roma was his first in the Champions League in his 12th appearance in the competition; he has also assisted a goal in each of his last three Champions League games.
– Pellegrini has provided five assists in 12 appearances in all competitions for Roma this season; as many as he provided in the entire 2017-18 campaign (37 games).
– CSKA Moscow’s Arnor Sigurdsson is just the third ever Icelandic player to score a Champions League goal, after Eidur Gudjonhsen and Alfred Finnbogason.
– CSKA Moscow’s Hordur Magnusson became the second Icelandic player to receive a red card in a Champions League match after Kari Arnason for Malmo FF against Shakhtar Donetsk in November 2015.
CSKA entertain runaway Russian Premier League leaders Zenit on Sunday, while Roma host Sampdoria in Serie A on the same day.