Romantada! Barcelona miracle will go down in Roman history

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On an emotional night at the Stadio Olimpico, the Giallorossi's coach, players and supporters combined to completely overwhelm Lionel Messi & Co.

"Even the most miserable life is better than a sheltered existence in an organized society where everything is calculated and perfected."

- 'La Dolce Vita'

Nothing about modern-day Rome could be considered calculated or perfected. It is a sprawling, chaotic city in which it is a chore to get anything done. James Pallotta knows this better than most.

The Roma president has been left bitterly frustrated by years trying to construct a new stadium for his club. The American has also come under fire from some of the Giallorossi's ultras due his compliance with the city prefect's decision to divide the Curva Sud, while there has also been criticism over the continued sale of the club's best players in order to meet Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

Late on Tuesday night, though, Pallotta was cheered on by hundreds of ecstatic fans as he emulated the protagonists from the Fellini classic 'La Dolce Vita' by taking a dip in a Roman fountain.

It was the only possible response to what had unfolded just a couple of hours before at the Stadio Olimpico, where they had all been bound together in disbelief, united by the fact that they had simply been there; one of 80,000 souls to have witnessed a miracle.

Roma had beaten Barcelona 3-0 to progress to the semi-finals of the Champions League on away goals. Every single person inside the sold-out stadium was, thus, in a state of shock.

Roma defender Kostas Manolas could barely stand up. His head was spinning. He needed to sit down. He found a seat on the bench and tried to take a minute to make sense of what was happening around him.

Thousands of fans were crying with joy. This was the greatest European night in Roma's history. This was beyond belief. Particularly for Manolas.

Six days previously he had put through his own net as Roma lost 4-1 at Camp Nou. Tonight, he had scored the decisive goal.

He was overwhelmed with emotion. The tears began to flow. 

The Greek defender wanted no individual credit for his role in Roma's remarkable comeback, though. This had been a collective effort, he insisted.

"We have our crowd behind us, nobody can beat us," he told Mediaset Premium immediately after full-time.

“We need these fans to give us a push. If they always flock here in these numbers, Roma can become one of the best teams in Italy."

De Rossi Roma Barcelona PS

After Tuesday night, nobody would dispute such a claim. The supporters were still there, still singing, some 35 minutes after the full-time whistle.

They were right to fully savour their moment of glory. Never before had Roma reached the last four of the Champions League and the fans played a pivotal part. 

Roma had been written off after the first-leg loss in Catalunya. The Gazzetta dello Sport had concluded, "Let's not even talk about a 'comeback'." 

The fans believed, though, and they convinced club captain Daniele De Rossi that they could do the seemingly impossible.

"I was almost moved to tears seeing the fans before the game," the midfielder confessed, "and I told my teammates, 'If they believe, we must do the same. 

"The very worst that could happen was not qualifying, the very worst. But the best..."

Well, that was "something unthinkable", as coach Eusebio Di Francesco had put it. He openly admitted that Roma needed "a miracle" to beat a side that remains undefeated in La Liga – but he produced one.

Roma's players had had their confidence rocked by Saturday's 2-0 loss at home to Fiorentina but Di Francesco set about reminding him that last week's 4-1 scoreline at Camp Nou had flattered the hosts. 

They had, in truth, beaten themselves, gifting their hosts three goals, while the referee had also denied them two clear penalties. 

"The first leg showed us Barcelona had a lot of quality, but not as much as a few years ago," De Rossi acknowledged. 

However, in order to overcome this offensively weaker but defensively stronger Barcelona, they would need an aggressive game plan. 

De Francesco took care of that. Just two days before the return leg, the former Sassuolo coach informed his players that they would be playing a completely untried and untested 3-4-1-2 formation, with Radja Nainggolan playing in behind Patrik Schick and Edin Dzeko.

“All credit to the coach," De Rossi enthused, "because he invented this formation two days ago, drilled it into our heads and it worked wonders."

He wasn't wrong. Barca conceded as many goals in 90 minutes as they had in their seven previous outings in this season's Champions League.

Cartoon ROMANTADA

Dzeko had led from the front, and right from the start, converting a stunning ball over the top from De Rossi after just three minutes of play, before winning the penalty from which his skipper doubled the hosts' advantage.

It was a personal triumph for the Bosnian, who had been offered a massive pay rise to move to Chelsea in January. He declined, though, because he wanted to play in the Champions League, having never before made it as far as the last eight.

"Money doesn't matter," he beamed afterwards. And it didn't at the Olimpico, as Roma bettered - or rather battered - a Blaugrana squad put together at a cost of €725m, almost three times the worth of the Roma panel.

The Giallrossi swept Barca away with a tide of emotion. "We wanted it more," Nainggolan claimed. The Belgian pointed out that Roma's players and fans have long been dismissed as "losers"; it has only made them more united, more determined to prove everyone wrong. 

They did just that against Lionel Messi & Co., hassling and harrying them into submission. 

Florenzi Roma Barcelona PS

"If Barcelona don’t get to play the ball to feet and pass it around comfortably, they really struggle," Alessandro Florenzi stated. Dzeko added: "I don't think I've ever seen Barcelona put in such difficulty."

However, they hadn't just shown the greater desire, though, they had shown the greater quality. They had 17 shots on the Barca goal. Pallotta was right when he said that they had "dominated" the runaway Primera Division leaders.

They were also rock solid at the back. Manolas, Federico Fazio and Juan Jesus were all immense, completely nullifying the threat posed by Barcelona's front two, Luis Suarez and Messi.

“To be honest, we never really felt it was at risk tonight, as Barcelona did nothing to cause us problems," Florenzi claimed. "We put in the perfect performance. Tactically, we were a step above them." 

Every single player had played their part in Roma's win, including the substitutes, with Stephan El Shaarawy and Cengiz Under both using their pace and trickery to excellent effect in the closing 15 minutes.

This had been a team effort, so it came as no surprise to see Di Francesco was waiting at the door with a hearty hug as each and every member of playing and coaching staff returned to the dressing room to begin the celebrations.

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As his team-mates sang and danced around him, Florenzi rubbed his eyes in disbelief and then proclaimed: "IT'S ALL TRUE!"

Indeed, this wasn't a dream. It was a footballing miracle. For Pallotta, his players and their fans, a reaffirmation of the team they've chosen; of the life they've chosen.

As club legend Francesco Totti enthused, "It's for moments like this that it's so beautiful to live for Roma." Such sweet success makes it all worthwhile.

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