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Roma edge Leverkusen in another thriller

Roma 3-2 Leverkusen
After a 4-4 draw last time, Roma and Leverkusen produced a second successive Group E goal fest, this one settled by Miralem Pjanić late on.

Highlights: Roma 3-2 Leverkusen
  • Mohamed Salah gives Roma lead after just 100 seconds
  • Edin Džeko makes it two close to half-hour mark
  • Admir Mehmedi pulls one back less than minute into second half
  • Javier Hernández levels five minutes later
  • Ömer Toprak sent off in conceding penalty which Miralem Pjanić converts for victory
  • Next games: Barcelona v Roma, BATE v Leverkusen (24 November)

Roma moved above Bayer Leverkusen and into second place in UEFA Champions League Group E thanks to a dramatic 3-2 win at the Stadio Olimpico.

The sides shared eight goals at the BayArena a fortnight ago and it did not take long – 100 seconds – for the first to arrive here. Edin Džeko fed Mohamed Salah who turned on the turbo to bear down on Bernd Leno and slot the hosts in front from a lightning counterattack.

Gervinho twice got caught offside as Roma's game sometimes proved too quick even for their own players, but it was an approach they continued to use to lethal effect, Džeko completing their next break with a composed side-foot past Leno to make it two. Džeko could have added a third as Roma's roving trio raced forward again, but he lifted Salah's pass over the crossbar, leaving a sense that the Giallorossi may be punished for their profligacy.

Roma celebrate Miralem Pjanić's winner
Roma celebrate Miralem Pjanić's winner©AFP/Getty Images

Indeed they were, right at the start of the second half, when Kevin Kampl forced his way to the goal line and pulled the ball back for Mehmedi to fire into the roof of the net, before Hernández accounted for a sense of dejà vu as he brought the guests level at 2-2. Just as Roma had recovered from two down two weeks ago, Leverkusen did the same in the Eternal City, but the script was to have a twist in Rome.

Bayer captain Ömer Toprak sent Salah tumbling inside the area, eliciting a red card and giving Miralem Pjanić the chance to put Roma back in front. The midfielder grabbed it to take Roma a point above the Bundesliga club and into second spot in the group.

Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah©AFP/Getty Images

Key player: Mohamed Salah
Salah's pace is no secret, but when it comes combined with the positional awareness and combination play he showed here, the 23-year-old is almost impossible to keep tabs on. Bayer full-back Wendell may have nightmares of the Egyptian international racing away from him in a blur on more than one occasion. Salah also earned Roma their match-winning penalty.

Where the match was won
Roma coach Rudi Garcia had hit the nail on the head with his pre-match assessment of Leverkusen, branding them deadly in attack but deficient at the back. His priority was to contain their front men yet have his own team ready to strike on the break, and as Leverkusen continued to commit too many forward, it was a ploy that paid dividends as the pace and movement of Roma's attacking trio tore the Leverkusen rearguard to shreds in the first half. They then had enought energy to rescue a victory which, like a fortnight ago, the Giallorossi nearly threw away.

BATE next for Javier Hernández and Leverkusen
BATE next for Javier Hernández and Leverkusen©Getty Images

Barcelona hold the key to Group E
What Roma's win means is that their and Bayer's future in the competition effectively rests in the hands of Barcelona, who have almost qualified for the round of 16. Garcia's side head to Spain on matchday five with the daunting task of needing to beat the holders to keep destiny in their own hands ahead of their final group game at home to BATE Borisov. Leverkusen visit the Belarusians next, before hosting Barça.

Rudi Garcia, Roma coach
I'm happy with the result. When these two teams play each other, it's definitely hard to get bored. In the first half we could have scored more goals, while in the second we had a blackout, but then we showed much more personality which allowed us to get back into the lead. We were obliged to win to stay in contention for the knockout stages and we succeeded.

In the first half we played very well, but we couldn't get the third goal and we regretted that within five minutes of the second half when it went to 2-2. Now we have to study the action thoroughly to correct the mistakes we made. For the moment let's enjoy this victory.

Salah: This is a key result

Roger Schmidt, Bayer Leverkusen 
I congratulate Roma on the victory. It was an incredible game, as it was in Leverkusen. I didn't expect to concede two goals at the beginning, but their strategy of counterattacking worked really well: Gervinho and Mohamed Salah were great.

The early goals unhinged us, but between the first and the second half we changed strategy: by creating pressure we were able to level the scores. Then there was the penalty, which came just when we thought we could have won the game. So it is, but we will strive until the end to do everything possible to reach the next round. You never know how it will end.

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