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Roma Decade in Review: The Manolas Miracle & Comeback Against Barcelona

Roma didn’t win a trophy in the 2010s, but this one sure made it feel like the Giallorossi did.

AS Roma v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It wasn’t the most notable decade for the Giallorossi in terms of signature victories. There were no crucial wins to clinch a Scudetto. Nor were there any Coppa Italia, Champions, or Europa League trophies to be lifted. But there was one match that stood out above all the rest, a triumph that made you feel like Roma had conquered the world— or at least European football—for one night.

The match I’m referring to, of course, is the 3-0 victory over almighty Barcelona on April 10, 2018 at the Stadio Olimpico. After a 4-1 defeat at the Camp Nou just six days earlier in the first leg of the quarterfinals, it looked like another lopsided Champions League exit at the hands of a European powerhouse for Roma. There was certainly no way Roma, who had been thoroughly outplayed in Catalonia, had any chance of reversing a three goal deficit.

Even the most optimistic of us held out little hope. We could only ask that the Giallorossi came to play and at least make it interesting the second leg. Meanwhile, there were some who pondered whether EDF should just call it a day and save the legs of his big guns with a crucial Roma derby just days away. I was in the former camp, but, man, I never saw what transpired on that historic night at the Olimpico coming.

EDF may not have the tactical acumen of Paulo Fonseca, but on that day he played all the right cards and had the balls to play his best XI. Roma’s Champions League life may have been hanging on a cliff’s edge, but the Italian wasn’t going to let his side go out without a fight. And what a fight Roma put up.

Nine times out of ten, maybe even 99 times out of a 100, Barca would’ve found a way to dispatch of a wounded Lupi side. However, on this occasion, fortune favored the bold and a fearless Roma pulled off a miracle result.

The match started about as good as possible with Edin Dzeko putting Roma up early with a goal in the sixth minute. Roma had the lead and the slightest bit of hope, but it still needed at least two more without conceding. The second part of that equation being even more unlikely than the first.

AS Roma v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

The match wore on with neither side scoring again before half and the Giallorossi entered the break up a goal but down 4-2 on aggregate. As the minutes passed, it began to look more and more unlikely that Roma would be able to pull of the comeback. That was until Roma pulled another one back just before the hour mark.

Dzeko was pulled down by Gerard Pique as he barreled down on the Barca goal, resulting in a penalty, which Daniele De Rossi stepped up and buried. Suddenly, Roma was within one and the belief that they could somehow find a third grew.

AS Roma v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg Two Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

That new found faith would see Roma push hard for the all important third goal. After a couple of close calls, it finally arrived in the 82nd minute. Cengiz Ünder whipped in a corner from the right-hand flag, which Kostas Manolas connected on with a glancing header. The small touch was just enough to see the ball find its way into the far corner.

The Olimpico exploded and, as Peter Drury so accurately put it, “Roma have risen from their ruins...” The Giallorossi had done the unthinkable.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Roma without a couple near heart attacks before all was said and done. Barca had a couple chances at an aggregate winner. But, oh, what a night (or afternoon depending on where in the world you were watching) it was as the final whistle blew.

Roma’s Champions League dream would end in the semifinals to Liverpool in what almost turned into another miracle comeback. However, this is a match that will forever go down in Roma lore. It didn’t lead to a trophy, but Roma finally proved that it could handle one of the big boys in Europe. It’s a match that will forever fill us with indelible memories. So, sit back for a few moments and enjoy the highlights one more time.