Roma stumbled their way through to the Semi-Final of the Europa League after a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Ajax on Thursday, securing a 3-2 aggregate win.
Banking on a late come-from-behind victory in Amsterdam last week, the Giallorossi had Edin Dzeko to thank for firing them into the final four, having been under pressure throughout.
Ajax substitute Brian Brobbey gave the Dutch club the lead on the night shortly after halftime and Dusan Tadic had another ruled out by VAR just moments later, before Dzeko struck to secure Roma’s passage to a Semi-Final date with Manchester United.
It was a must-win tie for the Giallorossi after their collapse in Serie A and their approach to the second leg told of a team struggling for confidence.
Coach Paulo Fonseca has come under increasing pressure as the prospects of Champions League qualification fade ever further away, and the Portuguese sent his team out to defend waves of Ajax attacks, with little outlet of their own.
Whilst this worked in the first half, Pau Lopez’s continued inconsistency reared it’s ugly head once more as he went from penalty-saving hero in the first leg to villain at the Olimpico. The Spaniard came rushing out and was caught in no-man’s-land to allow Brobbey to lob over him and ramp up the pressure on Roma.
The ruthless efficiency of Dzeko at the back post from a deflected Riccardo Calafiori cross swung the momentum back in Roma’s favour, but the Lupi flattered to deceive for much of the game and a more clinical opponent may well have put them to the sword.
Facing the prospect of an in-form Manchester United side, and without suspended defenders Gianluca Mancini and Bryan Cristante, Roma cannot afford such a timid approach and relying on wonder-strikes from Roger Ibanez in the first leg, or creating so few opportunities as they did in Rome.
The Giallorossi’s season and indeed Fonseca’s job are now completely dependent on winning the Europa League. Italy’s sole representatives in Europe must do more to convince if they are to lift the trophy in May.