Rome - A late penalty from Miralem Pjanic
revived Roma's chances of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League in
a dramatic 3-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.
With Roma in desperate need of a first win
in the group to maintain their last 16 qualification hopes, Mohamed Salah's
second-minute strike settled any early nerves at the Stadio Olimpico.
The hosts doubled their lead before the
half hour when goal-shy Edin Dzeko hit only his second goal for the Giallorossi
and his first Champions League goal since November 2013 to give the hosts what
looked like a commanding lead.
But, two weeks after the sides' dramatic
4-4 draw at the BayArena, Roma were stunned in five second-half minutes when
Admir Mehmedi and Javier Hernandez capitalised on spectacular defensive lapses
to pull Roger Schmidt's visitors level six minutes after the restart.
Roma were shaky for the remainder of the
second half but were handed a lifeline when Omer Toprak saw red late on for
pushing Salah into the net as the Egyptian was about to pull the trigger at the
Russian referee Sergei Karasev pointed to
the spot and Miralem Pjanic stepped up to beat Bernd Leno for a 3-2 lead on 81
Roma now move up to second place in Group E
but Garcia will be looking for improvements after a second-half display that
was completely at odds with Roma's impressive first half performance.
Salah put the hosts ahead after just two minutes
after a great one-two with Dzeko, who held the ball up well in the centre
circle to set the Egyptian free down the right and bundle the ball past Leno.
Astonishingly, Roma's last victory in the
competition was their 5-1 win over CSKA Moscow in September 2014 but Garcia's
men were quickly in command.
Leverkusen were showing little threat and,
worse, had their heads elsewhere when Roma doubled their lead before the half
hour in textbook fashion.
A long Levekusen cross found no takers, and
when 'keeper Wojciech Szczesny found Pjanic in space the ball was eventually
worked to Nainggolan, whose weighted through ball found Dzeko in space behind
The Bosnian took several strides before
firing past Leno and scoring his first Roma goal more than two months after his
maiden strike in a 2-1 win over Juventus.
Dzeko should have grabbed his second
moments later after another great run by Salah, only to first-time the
Egyptian's pinpoint delivery over the bar, and twice Salah then failed to find
his forward partners despite promising runs that left him in space down the
If Roma thought they had the match wrapped
up, they were soon brought back to earth in a stunning start to the second
The hosts stingy defence suddenly became
charitable and after less than a minute Kevin Kampl cut back for Mehmedi from
inside the area to fire past Szczesny into the top of the net.
Roma were all at sea and five minutes later
paid the cost when Hernandez was played through by Karim Bellarabi to power a
shot past Szczesny to hit his fourth goal of this season's competition.
Garcia, who saw claims for a penalty waved
away despite Dzeko falling under a challenge from Jonathan Tah at a free kick,
replaced Gervinho with Juan Iturbe on the hour.
But Roma only found salvation on 80 minutes
when the referee pointed to the spot after sending off Toprak for his push on