The finishing acts of the first two quarter-final matches see Roma become only the third club in history to overturn a three-goal first leg loss into a win, and Liverpool is back in the semi-finals after a decade’s absence.
Roma 3 v 0 Barcelona
I was reading Alice in Wonderland to my 18-month old daughter last night.
“Don’t like it.” She said.
The scene that upset her was when Alice ate the cake that said ‘Eat Me’ and ended up too big for the room. Tears streamed down the girl’s face and flooded the room.
“Tears aren’t a bad thing,” I told her.
“Don’t like it.” She said again, as the book went tumbling to the floor like Alice the nosey parker falling down the rabbit hole.
My lesson, lost.
I should have taken her to the pub to watch Roma play Barcelona.
On a night when Barcelona took a 4-1 lead to the Stadio Olimpico, and Liverpool took a 3-0 lead to the Etihad, all the pre-match talk was of the Premier League champions-elect making an incredible comeback.
Not on your nelly.
Before the teams lined up, Roma was a 250/1 shot to win the Champions League. Barcelona was the 9/4 joint-favourite.
And with good reason.
Roma entered the second leg knowing only three teams had ever overcome a three-goal first leg deficit in Champions League history. In 2004, Deportivo La Coruna trailed the reigning champs AC Milan by 4-1, only to win the second leg 4-0 to go through 5-4 on aggregate, and last season, Barcelona trailed Paris St Germain 4-0 before winning the second leg 5-1 to go through 6-5 on aggregate.
Roma sits fourth in Serie A, 21-points behind the leaders Juventus, and on the weekend they lost to Fiorentina.
And let’s not forget, they would have to score at minimum three goals, and Barcelona had conceded that many Champions League goals in their last ten matches combined.
In contrast, Barcelona lead La Liga, 11-points clear of Atletico Madrid, and their 3-1 home win against Leganes on the weekend was the Catalan club’s record 38th unbeaten game on the bounce. They are also in the final of the Copa Del Rey.
No, my dear readers, this tie only had one outcome.
Unless, like my daughter, you believe in fairy tales.
The Romans needed an early goal, and it came in the sixth minute. Edin Dzeko proved too strong for the Barcelona defender as he latched onto a long ball before calmly slotting home. Patrick Schick missed a golden opportunity to send Roma into the half-time interval when he headed wide, but the 1-0 lead gave them renewed confidence.
The Roma faithful began dreaming in the 57th minute. Gerard Pique brought Dzeko down in the box, and after a chat between the officials, they gave a penalty, which Daniele De Rossi scored.
And then the place went mental.
82 minutes were on the clock when Cengiz Under whipped in a corner, and Kostas Manolas met the ball at the near post to flick the winning goal into the net surrounding the far post.
Tears rained down from the stands at the final whistle as the enormity of the comeback dawned on everyone. I am sure there were also a few tears on the pitch.
Roma moves into the Semi-Final of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since 1984, when, incidentally, they lost to Liverpool.
And guess what else happened last night?
Man City 1 v 2 Liverpool
The five-time European Champions could face Roma in the last four after beating Man City for the third time this season, coming from behind to win 2-1 at the Etihad.
City has a team more than capable of overturning the 3-0 deficit they faced after losing at Anfield, and when Gabriel Jesus dispatched Raheem Sterling’s pinpoint pass as early as the second minute, hope exploded like a man achieving orgasm.
And then came the most controversial moment of the two-legged affair.
With 42-minutes on the clock, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz disallowed a Leroy Sane goal for offside when video evidence clearly showed James Milner was the man who set up the German.
Pep Guardiola was so incensed by the decision that he ran onto the pitch to remonstrate with the man in the middle who promptly sent him to the stand to watch the second half as a spectator.
I don’t think Pep will be complaining about it any longer.
The fact that it’s not in play in the most significant competition in the world is barmy.
City was never the same without their Commander-in-Chief at the helm. Ten minutes after the restart, a mazy run from Sadio Mane came to an end at the body of Loris Karius, but the ball fell to Mohamed Salah who chipped it into the net for his 39th goal of the season.
It was a pitchfork into the lungs of a City side who dominated the first half. Then, as City sped forward in search of a miracle, Nicolas Otamendi screwed up at the back to allow Roberto Firmino in to score his eighth Champions League goal of the season.
City loses for the third time in six days.
Liverpool will appear in the Semi-Finals of the Champions League for the first time in a decade.
The draw is on Friday at 12:00 (BST) in Nyon, Switzerland.
Here are the odds (courtesy of Bodog):
Real Madrid – 6/4
Bayern Munich – 2/1
Liverpool – 10/3
Roma – 10/1
Sevilla – 150/1
Juventus – 150/1