Roma's 15-match unbeaten streak may have been upended by Wolfsburg last week (and then again by Juventus last Sunday), but neither those defeats nor the torrential downpour that greeted them in Latina last night when they hosted St. Pölten could dampen the Giallorosse's spirits. Thanks to their strong start to the Champions League group stage, including a 1-1 tie with two-time champion Wolfsburg, Alessandro Spugna and Roma were in prime position to advance to the quarterfinals of Europe's most prestigious competitions.
Even with the math on their side, Roma had to be shocked when they saw the state of the pitch at Stadio Francioni in Latina. With heavy rain saturating the area throughout the day, Roma's playing ground was better suited for a 100-meter medley than a football match.
After several minutes of laughable results, the referees wisely halted play, waiting for the rain to pass and giving the grounds crew a chance to essentially ring out the sponge, giving the two sides a chance to play something resembling football.
Once play resumed, Roma still needed 20 to 30 minutes to draw first blood but seized the first-half lead after Manuela Giugliano sprung Annamaria Serturini down the right channel with a lovely diagonal ball. With nary a defender in sight, Serturini pulled the keeper off her line before slotting the ball past her at the near post to put the Giallorosse on top.
And that's kind of how it went for the ensuing 50 minutes. Roma needed only a positive result to advance, so they had every reason in the world to keep it in neutral. Still, with probing efforts from Giada Greggi, Emilie Haavi, and Elisa Bartoli late in the first half, the Giallorosse made every effort to send St. Pölten packing early.
Spugna's crew would continue to hunt for a second goal early in the second half, with Andressa and Giugliano (two times) both coming close in the opening 10 minutes. While St. Pölten weathered the storm, they could only contain Roma for so long.
Frustrated by near misses throughout the second half, Roma saved their best for last, scoring four goals in six minutes to send their visitors home on the receiving end of a five-nil thrashing. After Benedetta Glionna tapped home a Valentina Giacinti rebound, Roma opened the floodgates, with Giugliano bagging a brace (including a beautiful assist from Glionna) before Glionna did the same.
With two goals and an assist each, Giugliano and Glionna stole the show, but this was a total team effort, as Roma dominated every facet of this match. And thanks to this win, Roma are now officially through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League...in their first-ever appearance, no less.
Things will get infinitely more difficult for Roma now, who will join the likes of Chelsea, PSG, Wolfsburg, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich, among others, in the next round. We'll have much more to say on this later, but for now, please enjoy the goal (and rain) infused highlights.