AS Roma began their UEFA Cup campaign in confident fashion, recording a 4-0 victory again NK Vardar in the Stadio Olimpico.
The resounding win makes the return leg in Skopje - home of Vardar, last season's champions of F.Y.R. Macedonia - in three weeks' time almost academic, and confirms Fabio Capello's side as one of the genuine contenders to lift the trophy next spring.
Roma started the game in confident mood, with Capello feeling secure enough to rest seven players who started the top-of-the-table Serie A game with Juventus FC last Sunday. Their replacements were eager to make their mark and John Carew was first to test Vardar goalkeeper Gogo Jovcev with a header from a Gaetano D'Agostino free-kick in the fourth minute.
The first goal did not take long coming, as Greek centre-back Traianos Dellas was left unmarked to head in a D'Agostino corner in the 12th minute. The goal visibly lifted the Serie A leaders, who then began to dominate, with youngsters D'Agostino and Daniele De Rossi showing off their skills in midfield.
Roma were 2-0 ahead eight minutes later as De Rossi beat the offside trap, timing his run to perfection to latch on to a through-ball by Dellas and spectacularly lob Jovcev, who was left completely exposed.
Roma were largely in control for the rest of the first period, with Carew and Dellas again both going close with headers, while Vardar were grateful to simply gain possession to relieve the constant pressure.
Carew, who had been getting progressively more frustrated as the first half wore on, conceding a number of fouls, added a third nine minutes after half-time, reaching another D'Agostino corner ahead of goalkeeper Jovcev and two defenders to head into the net.
Undeterred by the three-goal deficit, the away side continued to press forward and created their first genuine chance three minutes before the hour, as Brazilian striker Oliveira Wandeir Dos Santos met defender Nikola Doševski's cross with a firm header but could not direct the ball on target.
At the other end, Marco Delvecchio, Roma's captain for the night, missed three presentable chances late in the game, but eventually found the net with the last kick of the match, converting Romanian international Cristian Chivu's low left-wing cross from close range.
Capello was pleased with the way his players had performed. "We have a squad of 20 players and when I change the team around they don't lower our technical level," the Roma coach said. "
There is a very good spirit in the team at the moment. Everyone wants to play. We are in good physical and psychological shape. As for De Rossi, he showed once again how cool he is when he gets into a goalscoring position."