Roma scores vs. Leverkusen

Group E of the Champions League seems like it’s just a race for second place. With Barcelona looking like a clear lock for the top spot in the group, AS Roma and Bayer Leverkusen are the favorites to join the Spanish club in the knockout rounds. When the two clubs met last matchday, they battled to a thrilling 4-4 draw in Germany that left Leverkusen two points ahead of their Italian counterparts. A win today for either club would put them second in the group and make them the clear favorites to advance onto the next round of Europe’s elite competition.

Both of the clubs went into Wednesday’s fixture with essentially equal form. Roma and Bayer had both won two of their three matches since that 4-4 draw, and both looked set to carry this winning form into Europe. It was Roma that struck first, however, after just two minutes. A brilliant through ball from Edin Dzeko sliced through Bayer’s defense and found the feet of a streaking Mohamed Salah on the right wing. The Chelsea-loanee used his electric pace to race past the German defense before powering his shot past Bernd Leno to give his side an invaluable early lead.

On the half-hour mark, the Italians doubled the lead and looked set to lock up the three points in the first half. This time it was Dzeko who found himself on the end of a great pass from the midfield. Radja Nainggolan slipped the Bosnian striker in past Bayer’s defense, and just like Salah, Dzeko made no mistake in placing his shot past Leno in net. The two-goal first half from the hosts had spirits high in the Italian capital, but memories of their blown lead last time against Bayer would have tempered any early celebrations.

Despite their rather disappointing opening period of play, the Germans came out firing in the second half. Less than two mintues in, Bayer finally found themselves on the scoreboard. Some great play from Kevin Kampl on the right wing, saw the 25-year-old wiggle past a couple of defenders before laying a pass off to Admir Mehmedi who rifled a shot into the back of the net. Bayer’s attack continued to push after Mehmedi’s early strike and just five minutes later they found the equalizer. Second half substitute Karim Bellarabi managed to play Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez into the penalty area, and the former Manchester United striker managed to slip his effort past Wojciech Szczesny in net.

The rapid response from the German visitors would’ve surely dampened the moods of Roma’s fans as well as those of Francesco Totti who was watching from the stands. The Italian club looked desperate for a winner in the closing stages of the game, and just before the 80th minute it looked like they would find one. After a goalmouth scramble, Mohamed Salah was inches away from tapping home his second goal of the game and scoring the winner, but Omer Toprak appeared to push the Egyptian winger out of the way, earning Roma a late penalty kick and sending Toprak for an early shower. Miralem Pjanic stepped up for the ensuing spot kick and without hesitation fired his shot into the bottom corner, sealing a much needed win for Roma.

Roma’s victory pushes them to second place in Group E, five points behind Barcelona and one point ahead of Bayer. Up next for the Italian club is a trip to Barcelona, where any points would be seen as huge victory. For Bayer, they must now hope that Roma slip up against BATE in their final group stage match, or that they can somehow upset Barcelona on December 9th.


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