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Nine-man Roma miss out on Champions League after Porto loss

Nine-man Roma miss out on Champions League after Porto loss

LONDON: AS Roma suffered another European humiliation on Tuesday when they had two players sent off, lost 3-0 at home to Porto and missed out on the Champions League group stage.

Roma had drawn the first leg of the playoff tie 1-1 after Thomas Vermaelen was sent off and they were again made to pay for poor discipline as Daniele De Rossi was dismissed in the 39th minute and Emerson Palmieri, followed him five minutes after halftime.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, Roma pushed hard but could not cancel out Felipe Augusto’s early opener and two goals in as many minutes from Miguel Layun and Jesus Corona sealed matters.

“We had prepared for it well, but we started badly,” Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman said. “We played one game in 10 and the other in nine. It could be a mental problem because physically we are fine. We knew what we had to do on the pitch, but we didn’t do it. We didn’t play well and I don’t know why.”

Though Roma tried to turn the game around, Strootman pinpointed Layun’s strike as the definitive blow.

“Even with nine men we tried everything,” he said. “But when we went 2-0 down it was all over. Now it’s difficult to get back up, we are all angry. But we have to think about the league because we have to do better. No one is to blame, we lost together.”

Monaco joined Porto when they beat Villarreal 1-0 after a stoppage time penalty by Fabinho sealed a 3-1 aggregate win, and Legia Warsaw, Celtic and Ludogorets Razgrad also qualified, although none of them won on the night.

Celtic squeezed through despite a 2-0 loss to Champions League newcomers Hapoel Beer Sheva, after winning the first leg 5-2, with 10-man Legia Warsaw ending the dreams of Irish champions Dundalk as a 1-1 draw sent the Polish club through 3-1 overall.

While Legia became the first Polish side to reach the group stage of Europe’s premier club competition for 20 years, Ludogorets of Bulgaria advanced 4-2 on aggregate over Viktoria Plzen following a 2-2 draw in the Czech Republic.

The losing teams go into the Europa League group stage.

Roma became the third successive Serie A team, and the sixth in the last eight seasons, to lose in the playoff round, leaving Italy with only two representatives — Juventus and Napoli — in Thursday’s group-stage draw.

Roma have had their fair share of recent European disasters after losing 6-1 to Barcelona last season and 7-1 at home to Bayern Munich two years ago, but not even they could not have imagined how Tuesday’s game would unfold.

Their initial confidence was shattered when Felipe headed Porto in front from Otavio’s cross in the eighth minute but the real trouble began in the 39th minute when midfielder De Rossi was sent off for a high tackle on Maxi Pereira.

Coach Luciano Spalletti took off Leandro Paredes to introduce Emerson but the Brazilian was also shown a straight red card for a horrendous challenge on Corona.

Roma upped the pressure but goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny gifted Porto their second of the night in the 73rd minute. Caught out in no-man’s land on a Porto counterattack, Layun rounded him far out from his goal before firing across into the empty net.

Corona scored the third moments later, when he blasted past Szczesny at the near post.

Villarreal were hoping to overturn a 2-1 first-leg defeat and ensure Spain once again had five teams in the group-stage draw.

But Monaco dominated and Fabinho scored from the spot after Mateo Musacchio handled the ball in the area.

Celtic had lost in the playoff round for the past two seasons and the perennial Scottish champion almost threw away the tie in the Israeli desert despite a commanding first-leg advantage with goals from Ben Sahar and Ovidiu Hoban setting up a nervy finish.

However, Brendan Rodgers’ side held on to progress and qualify for the group stage for the first time in three seasons, with Maharan Radi’s first-half penalty miss proving particularly costly for the Israeli champions.

Dundalk, beaten 2-0 at home, made a brave effort in Poland and went ahead when Robert Benson thundered home an unstoppable volley in the 19th minute.

The Irish side were given further hope when Legia’s Adam Hlousek was sent off in the 67th minute, but they were caught on the break as Michal Kucharczyk levelled in stoppage time, ending their dream.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2016

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