As Gandalf famously said, “There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope.”
Boy…that was tough to watch. As well all know, after an entertaining first half in which the Turkish Dybala handed Roma a 1-0 lead, Roma shot themselves in the foot once again and Shakhtar Donetsk came away with a 2-1 lead, which flatters Roma, as they easily could’ve lost by a two or three goal margin. We’ve been in these situations time and time again where Roma gets our hopes up in some capacity and then brings us back to Earth by the time the final whistle sounds. Naturally, I decided to go on Twitter to see some of the reactions to the game when I came across this “gem.”
.@FCShakhtar win just their 3rd ever @ChampionsLeague knockout game – all 3 wins have come against @OfficialASRoma pic.twitter.com/nmjUcXDwKl— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 21, 2018
For obvious reasons, that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence for us fans heading into the return leg. Prior to being matched up with Shakhtar this year, anytime I came across the Ukrainian side, whether it be on FIFA or through watching previous iterations of the Champions League, I became filled with an irrational amount of anger due to memories of Roma’s previous knockout round matchup with the Pitmen. However, strictly looking at the first leg of our matchup with Shakhtar, now and then, there are a couple silver linings for us to look at:
1. The Hard Part is Over
Unlike in 2011, when Roma hosted the first leg, the Giallorossi made the trip to Ukraine first this time around. Obviously, Roma doesn’t have an “easy” challenge ahead of them, as they’ll have to push for the goal to level the aggregate score while at the same time attempt to not leave themselves vulnerable to the counter. But the challenge definitely feels less daunting than it would have had this result happened in Rome. As has been well documented already, back in 2011 the Giallorossi blew a 1-0 lead and ultimately lost 3-2 at the Olimpico. It can be argued that if Roma play anywhere close to how they played the second half that they’ll be exiting the Champions League in a month’s time but there is no doubt that coming back from this deficit is far more likely to happen playing at home.
2. Roma Has an Away Goal
Personally, I detest the away goal rule. I understand the rationale behind it but I’ve just always hoped that it would go away at some point. This time around I’m banking on it to help Roma get through to the next round. A 1-0 win would see Roma through by virtue of this rule, although this is clearly easier said than done, especially after watching that performance in the second half today. Unlike in 2011 and going back to my first point, Roma have the advantage of not needing to score 3 goals in Ukraine to overcome any potential tiebreaker issue. Get the first goal in the return leg, and the pressure falls on the Pitmen to get one back, which hopefully will leave them vulnerable to the counter-attack, similarly to how things played out back in our last meeting with the Ukrainians.
It’s not over yet, and we have a month to get our hopes up. Fingers crossed we don’t get our hearts broken. Forza Roma!