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Keita heads charge as Roma thwart Fiorentina

ACF Fiorentina 1-1 AS Roma
Seydou Keita's headed finish changed the complexion of the tie, with the Viola unable to build on Josip Iličić's first-half goal.

Seydou Keita after heading Roma's equaliser in Florence
Seydou Keita after heading Roma's equaliser in Florence ©Getty Images

Josip Iličić opens scoring after Daniele De Rossi's slip
Roma lose De Rossi and Kostas Manolas to injury in first 25 minutes
Viola goalkeeper Neto concedes penalty but saves Adem Ljajić's spot kick
Roma punish lapse in focus to level, Seydou Keita heading in from a corner
• The second leg is next Thursday in Rome, with the quarter-final draw the following day

Seydou Keita's header proved a major bonus for AS Roma as ACF Fiorentina failed to build on Josip Iličić's opening goal – and Neto's penalty save – in the all-Italian UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie.

The Viola looked like they might be set for a substantial victory after Iličić put them in front on 17 minutes, but Roma's persistence ultimately paid off, with Keita rising unmarked to meet Alessandro Florenzi's corner 13 minutes from the end.

Mohamed Salah, Fiorentina's inspiration in the last round against Tottenham Hotspur FC, led the home team's early charge, finding Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa in the way of his shot. The Egypt winger then picked up on a loose pass from Daniele De Rossi to give Fiorentina traction, sending Iličić through to send an unstoppable shot into the top right-hand corner and crown a splendid start from the hosts.

De Rossi's night ended soon after with injury forcing Rudi Garcia into an unplanned change, before another early setback deprived the French coach of Kostas Manolas, who made way for Davide Astori. The hardship appeared to galvanise the visitors, however, and their strong end to the first half was almost rewarded when Florenzi's effort was parried by Neto and Adem Ljajić sent the rebound over.

Fiorentina began the second half as they had the first, but risked conceding when Juan Manuel Iturbe went to ground inside the penalty area after nudging the ball past Neto. The Brazilian goalkeeper immediately made amends, pushing Ljajić's spot kick wide, only for Roma to exploit a lapse in concentration to get a vital away goal.