Three second-half goals at the Olimpico stadium saw AS Roma secure an emphatic 3-0 victory against FC Barcelona to rise to the top of UEFA Champions League Group B.
Element of fortune
In a game which looked for a long time like it might be decided by a single defensive mistake, it turned out to be a piece of good fortune that changed the direction of the tie as Roma's 61st-minute opening goal took a rather strange route past Barcelona goalkeeper José Reina.
Francesco Totti had gathered the ball near the by-line and passed it back for on-rushing defender Vincent Candela. The Frenchman's fierce low shot was heading wide until it clattered into Emerson da Rosa's legs and ricocheted across the unfortunate goalkeeper and into the net.
Tight first half
Up until then, there had been little to choose between the two teams. The first half was particularly low on goalmouth action as both sides attempted to size each other up. Despite Roma starting the game with three strikers - Totti, Gabriel Batistuta and Marco Delvecchio - the visitors had the better of the few chances on offer.
Rivaldo forced Francesco Antonioli into a couple of reasonable saves with long-range shots in the first-half, and it was not until moments before the half-time whistle that the hosts even had a worthy attempt on goal when Candela put the ball narrowly wide from distance.
Enter the hero
However, the introduction of Vincenzo Montella for Delvecchio proved to be an inspired decision by coach Fabio Capello as Roma immediately began to show some attacking purpose. The substitute's sharp passing and boundless energy brought new life to his team-mates.
Roma take control
After that, there was no way back for Barcelona. Forced to field a third striker, they found themselves outnumbered at the back as Roma were allowed to play their natural, patient, counterattacking game. While the visitors pushed forward, Roma's canny defence never allowed Rivaldo and Patrick Kluivert room to play, and more goals for the home side always looked likely.
On 74 minutes, Montella got the goal that his performance deserved, gathering the ball inside the penalty area and dragging it around Philippe Christanval before sweeping it past Reina with real panache. Eight minutes later it could have been 3-0 as Totti was set free by a superb ball from midfield, but with only the goalkeeper to beat the Italian international screwed his left-footed shot across the face of goal and wide.
Tomassi on target
Roma eventually did get the goal that their second-half performance merited through another substitute, Damiano Tomassi. Deep into added time, Brazilian defender Cafu finally found the final ball that seemed to have deserted him all evening and found Tomassi on the edge of the penalty area. The midfield player steadied himself with one touch and confidently lashed a low shot past the luckless Reina.
The result - only the second win in the whole of Group B - sees Roma leapfrog above Barcelona into pole position for a place in the quarter-finals. The evening's other Group B game between Galatasaray SK and Liverpool FC ended in a 1-1 draw at the Ali Sami Yen stadium.
Roma are at home to Galatasaray on Matchday Eleven while Barcelona host Liverpool at the Camp Nou. If both Roma and Barcelona win their games they will have automatically qualified for the quarter-finals with a match to spare.
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