Roma take charge of Europa League tie

Date: 11th March 2021 at 11:03pm
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Roma put one foot in the Europa League quarter-finals with a commanding 3-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Thursday, as Paulo Fonseca got one over his former club in the Round of 16 first leg in Rome.

Lorenzo Pellegrini fired in the opener before substitute Stephan El Shaarawy and Gianluca Mancini both scored in the space of four second-half minutes to seal a deserved victory.

Roma boss Fonseca knew his opponents only too well, having led them to three consecutive league and cup doubles before joining the capital club in 2019, and his side left the Ukrainians with a mountain to climb in the return leg in Kiev next week.

The Giallorossi went out at this stage of the Europa League to Sevilla last season, while Shakhtar stormed to the semi-finals only to be thrashed 5-0 by Inter.

Shakhtar goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin, recently linked with Lazio, showed sharp reflexes early on when Gonzalo Villar deflected a corner on target with his hip that the 19-year-old had to palm off the line.

Both sides were struggling to break through a packed midfield area until a moment of magic from Pedro helped Roma go in front after 23 minutes. The Spaniard burst infield from the left and sent a perfectly timed pass through to Pellegrini, who stabbed a finish beyond Trubin.

Shakhtar almost hit back immediately when Dodo burst clear into space on the right and found Junior Moraes on the edge of the six-yard box, but Pau Lopez rushed out to charge down the striker’s shot with his chest.

Fonseca sprung a surprise with his starting line-up by naming a striker-less formation with former Shakhtar man Henrikh Mkhitaryan deployed as a false nine, but the experiment lasted 35 minutes before the Armenian hobbled off with an injury to be replaced by Borja Mayoral.

Marash Kumbulla was inches away from knocking in Bryan Cristante’s glancing header at the back post, but the Ukrainians responded strongly after the break as Tete forced Lopez into another good save.

El Shaarawy came on for Pedro and immediately spurned a glorious chance, scuffing a weak finish straight at Trubin with only the keeper to beat, while Moraes’ close-range snapshot was blocked by Lopez’s legs.

The Italy winger more than made up for his error when he scored a superb second for the hosts, darting between two defenders before dinking a finish over the goalkeeper to mark his first goal since returning to the club in January.

Mancini left Shakhtar’s hopes of qualification in tatters when he rose to power home a header just four minutes later.

It was his fifth headed goal of the season in all competitions, more than any other Serie A player, and subjected the visitors to another heavy defeat against Italian opposition after their 5-0 semi-final loss to Inter last season.


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