A second half winner from Lorenzo Pellegrini has put Roma in the Champions League driving seat, as it helped them to a 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow in Russia.
Arnor Sigurdsson levelled for the home side after the break but the dismissal of his compatriot Hordur Magnusson shortly afterwards was the turning point and was swiftly punished by the visitors.
The result leaves Roma top of the group on nine points (five ahead of CSKA) with two games left, ahead of Real Madrid’s later clash with Viktoria Plzen.
It took Eusebio Di Francesco’s men less than four minutes to hit the front and it was a familiar sight in the Champions League, with both the goal and celebration invoking special memories.
A perfect inswinging corner, an emphatic header from Kostas Manolas into the far corner and a wild-eyed, frenzied celebration from the Greek defender.
Sound familiar? It was almost a carbon copy of his memorable goal against Roma to cap last season’s stunning comeback and played a big part in helping the Lupi take a massive step towards the knockout phase once more.
On their further forays forward after some decent spells of Moscow pressure, the visitors did have chances and after Justin Kluivert did brilliantly to put Alessandro Florenzi in on goal, he slipped at the vital moment and scuffed his shot straight at Igor Akinfeev.
Five minutes after the break, the hosts drew level through Sigurdsson when they broke at pace and he shrugged off the attentions of Davide Santon far too easily inside the area, then finishing low past Robin Olsen.
Roma were offered a boost just five minutes later though when Edin Dzeko chested down expertly for the lively Kluivert to blaze a trail to goal and when he was scythed down by Magnusson, the defender was given his marching orders, having previously been booked in the first half.
It didn’t take long to make the man advantage count as the Giallorossi moved back in front just moments later when a mishit strike from Bryan Cristante fell kindly for Pellegrini inside the area and marginally beat the offside trap to force the ball home.
Federico Fazio flashed a header inches past the post as Roma looked to kill the game off, while Florenzi also brought a smart save out of Akinfeev but although the third never arrived, the full-time whistle soon did, signalling a return to the Eternal City with an important three points in tow.
MATCH WINNER AT BOTH ENDS
As if his goal wasn’t enough, the block Manolas put in five minutes before half time after he was left for dead in the box and somehow got back to snuff out the goal-bound effort was every bit as important.
At the age of 19 and coming off the back of injury problems, you don’t expect a teenager to influence a big Champions League game in such a manner but he was excellent. Found pockets of space and exploited them well with his pace and lightning quick movement, particularly with CSKA down to 10 men. His final ball can be better at times but this is an exciting talent.