Roma’s bid to qualify for the round of 16 of the Champions League with a match to spare failed following a 2-0 defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on Wednesday. Antoine Griezmann’s wonderful bicycle kick and Kevin Gameiro’s late finish gave the home side a sniff of qualification and meant that the Giallorossi have to beat Qarabag next month to guarantee at least second place in Group E.
Roma came into the match boasting a fine recent defensive record, and for much of the game they comfortably held Atleti at bay. In the first half they managed to put the hosts on the back foot on a number of occasions, but poor final balls, in particular from Diego Perotti and Aleksandar Kolarov, meant that they didn’t make the most of promising positions while Diego Simeone’s side were yet to shake off their nerves. Roma’s midfield was inexplicably rushed in possession despite there being plenty of space to move in, and Lorenzo Pellegrini did himself no favours with an abominable display with the ball.
With Roma failing to settle, eventually the La Liga side found their feet, and once under-fire Griezmann took advantage of Roma ball-watching to lash home Angel Correa’s looping cross there was no way back. Bruno Peres’ stupid red card just minutes after the Frenchman’s opener closed the coffin, and Gameiro hammered in the nails with five minutes to go, collecting Griezmann’s fine through ball and rounding Alisson before slotting home the second.
Roma still have qualification in their hands and can even finish top of Group E if Chelsea and Atleti draw at Stamford Bridge in December, but Qarabag have shown, despite losing 4-0 to Chelsea on Wednesday, that they are no mugs and need to be taken seriously at the Stadio Olimpico in a fortnight’s time.
For 45 minutes Roma more than held their own at the Wanda, imposing their play for long periods and easily closing out Atelti’s struggling attackers. Federico Fazio looked calm and composed on his return to Spain, while Perotti got in behind Thomas Partey so many times in the first it looked like the Argentine could break through the hosts’ backline at will.
Play broke down in promising areas so many times that it seemed the players were desperate to offload the ball quickly rather than pick out the right pass. If you give a team like Atletico Madrid enough chances to get it together sooner or later they’re going to take the hint, and that’s what happened in the second half. After doing over Chelsea so spectacularly — and so professionally — this was a step backwards.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — It would be easy to criticise looking at the result, but Eusebio Di Francesco set his side up well. Slipping into a 4-5-1 without the ball, his team held Atletico at bay for long periods, and got in behind the home side’s backline on numerous occasions. He can’t be blamed for Roma’s sloppiness in possession but it might have been an idea to take off Pellegrini earlier.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 6 — Had much less to do than in the reverse fixture, but couldn’t do much about either goal.
DF Bruno Peres, 4 — Greizmann’s opener came down his side, and then he condemned Roma to defeat by being sent off.
DF Kostas Manolas, 6 — Started the night with a rash tackle and a booking, and that affected his play for the rest of the night.
DF Federico Fazio, 7 — Man of the match, despite the two goals conceded. Calm, composed and a leader at the back.
DF Aleksander Kolarov, 5 — Looks like he needs a rest. Got into great positions but made poor passes, and even his set pieces were weak.
MF Lorenzo Pellegrini, 5 — Did everything right off the ball, but when it came to him he was panicked and unsure.
MF Maxime Gonalons, 6 — Hard to decipher. At times brilliant at breaking up play, but also dilly-dallied on the ball too often.
MF Radja Nainggolan, 6 — Hit the post and did the most of any Roma player to impose play on Atleti. Unlucky to finish on the losing side.
FW Gerson, 6 — Not quite as lively on the right wing as he was at Chelsea and Fiorentina. Got into good positions but wasted them.
FW Edin Dzeko, 5 — Hasn’t scored in seven matches and never looked like doing so on Wednesday. Not as solid as usual in his hold up play.
FW Diego Perotti, 6 — Looked like he was going to take Atleti apart on his own for a while, but after wasting good positions he then fizzled out.
MF Kevin Strootman, 6 — Didn’t improve much on Pellegrini, truth be told.
FW Gregoire Defrel, N/R — Added very little in difficult circumstances.
FW Stephan El Shaarawy, N/R — Came on in the hope of changing the game with nine minutes left, only to see Atleti double their lead soon after.
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC’s AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley