Italian pride restored as Roma soars

AFP
AS Roma has restored some pride with a heroic victory over Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.
AFP

ITALY has spent five months grieving over the failure of the national team to take its customary place at the World Cup, but AS Roma has restored some pride with a heroic victory over Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.

The Azzurri, four-time world champions, are not going to Russia, but after Roma won 3-0, to overturn a 1-4 quarterfinal deficit and eliminate Barca on Tuesday on away goals, the club from the Eternal City can dream of going to a final in Ukraine.

“We must aim for Kiev,” Roma coach Eusebio di Francesco said after the match. “Why not believe in something even greater after such a match?”

Unless Italian league leader Juventus can perform an even more unlikely exploit, and overcome its three-goal deficit away to Real Madrid yesterday, Roma, a distant fourth in Serie A, will be the sole Italian representative in the last four of Europe’s most prestigious club competition.

On a heady night at the Stadio Olimpico, Edin Dzeko set the ball rolling in the 6th minute, and after Daniele De Rossi converted a penalty 13 minutes into the second half to get the home fans believing, Kostas Manolas glanced home a brilliant header with 8 minutes left to send the Roma supporters into raptures and leave Barca wondering what had hit it.

The joyous celebration continued long after the final whistle and spread out of the stadium and across the Italian capital.

Car horns blaring, flags waving, fans singing in the streets and wild cheers pouring from every household, the Italian capital came alive.

The feelgood factor was picked up yesterday by a jubilant Italian press.

The specialist sports newspapers played on the city’s past.

Rome’s Corriere dello Sport used the headline “Mythic Rome” while Milan’s Gazzetta dello Sport went with “Imperial”.

Several newspapers picked up the pun “Romantada,” a play on the “remontada”, as Barca’s comeback from a 4-goal first-leg deficit against Paris Sain-Germain last year is known in Spain.

“A crazy Olimpico” was the Corriere dello Sport’s headline on its main story, which offered a host of reasons why it was a privilege to be at the stadium on Tuesday night, called the players “extraterrestrials”.

Gazzetta dello Sport hailed a “night of dreams,” called Roma’s performance “titanic,” praised the team’s “aggressiveness” and Di Francesco’s tactics and pointed out that Roma could now be considered one of “the top four in Europe”.

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