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Champions League: Roma Narrowly Edges Qarabag 2-1

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It wasn’t as lopsided as we thought, but Roma did the job today.

Benevento Calcio v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

If you’re a functioning member of adult society in the Western Hemisphere, I’m not sure how you saw this match. Noon on a Wednesday? Come on, UEFA, you gotta do a better job building that brand. So, with that in mind, and in the spirit of openness, I didn’t see a lick of this match, though I was quite impressed with Qarabag’s Dothraki-style club crest; well done.

So, just as we did during last week’s businessman special, we’ll just pour over the goals. Should Roma have won this match with greater ease? Yeah, probably, but at the end of the day, three points is three points and Roma did just enough to garner their first Champions League road victory since 2010.

First up, Greece Lightning

Kostas Manolas: 7th Minute

Not a ton to dissect here since it was a set piece that was actually snuffed out by the keeper, but good lord, what a ball from Lorenzo Pellegrini! Not only did he keep the ball in play, but this off the cuff play was more accurate than the corner itself, finding Manolas in the perfect position. Full marks to Manolas for keeping his head in the play, shielding his man and meeting the ball.

Edin Dzeko: 15th Minute

After a lovely bit of buildup play, starting with Juan Jesus at the back, Edin Dzeko was able to settle Stephan El Shaarawy’s chipped cross, heading it down and then just lashing a boot to it at the last possible second, getting enough on it to tuck it under the crossbar as his momentum carried him towards the end line. It was another example of the patient buildup play the club has exhibited over the past few weeks, indicating that, perhaps, EDFs tactics needed a bit of breathing room before they took full effect. Kudos to Gregoire Defrel for holding off the defender at the top of the 18; without that, this goal doesn’t happen.

Conclusions

Well, as I write this, Chelsea just defeated Atletico Madrid at the death, putting Roma firmly in second place in Group C, two points behind undefeated Chelsea and three points ahead of Atletico. Now, this can be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, Roma has a decided advantage in the group—three points is nothing to sneeze at and should give them a tiny bit of breathing room—while on the other, Roma find themselves in a precarious position wherein Chelsea has to keep winning and Atletico keep losing.

Since it’s pretty slim that Atleti loses to Qarabag, that essentially means Roma has to a) steal at least a point from Chelsea on one or both legs, and b) beat Atletico at their new stadium to really put the clamp down on their Spanish adversaries.

Now, here is where it gets really dicey. The next two match days, October 18th and the 31st, are alternating home matches between the same clubs. So, that means Atleti gets Qarabag twice in a row, first in Azerbaijan and then in the Spanish capital. Presuming they take all six points, Atleti would sit on seven points, good enough to edge Chelsea by one point for top of the group (before we factor in the Roma/Chelsea fixtures).

In order to ensure they’re still sitting second after matchday four, they essentially have to win one of those two fixtures against Chelsea to stay ahead of Atletico. If, by some miracle, they drew both matches (again, assuming Atletico takes all six points against Qarabag), we’re looking at this: Chelsea (8 points), Atletico (7 points) and Roma (6 points), making the reverse fixture at Atleti’s new stadium an absolute must win. Chelsea could also do Roma a favor by defeating Atletico at the bridge later in the schedule.

October certainly won’t do Roma any favors, so they better hope it’s all hands on deck as we head into the tenth month of the year.