Champions League

Roma's chances hanging by a thread

2014-11-26 12:15
Francesco Totti (Gallo Images)
Francesco Totti (Gallo Images)

Milan - Stunned Roma captain Francesco Totti admitted a 1-1 draw with CSKA that has left the Serie A club's Champions League last 16 chances hanging by a thread felt like a "punch from Tyson".

Roma looked to have their Group E match won in freezing Moscow when Totti netted a free kick just before half-time to extend his record as the competition's oldest scorer at 38 years and 59 days.

But just seconds from the full-time whistle, late substitute Kevin Strootman lost possession in midfield, setting up a CSKA counter-attack from which Vasily Berezutsky's floated cross evaded the Roma defence to sneak inside Morgan De Sanctis's far post as the keeper was wrong-footed.

A Roma win coupled with a Bayern Munich victory at Manchester City would have secured the Italian side's qualification for the knockout phase alongside the Bundesliga giants for the first time since 2011.

Instead, CSKA's late leveller in the earlier Moscow fixture provided the inspiration for City ahead of a stunning 3-2 win over Bayern thanks to a Sergio Aguero treble, including an injury-time winner, at Etihad Stadium.

Totti, who had become the competition's oldest scorer when he levelled for Roma away to City in September, said the goal was like taking a wallop from former heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson.

"Everything was perfect, thanks to my goal we were two steps away from qualification," a stunned Totti told reporters.

"Instead, we conceded a goal that was like a punch from Tyson."

Although De Sanctis looked at fault for not tracking Berezutsky's floated cross from the left flank, the Roma goalkeeper quickly deflected the blame.

"Don't blame me, or this time I'll get angry," De Sanctis hit out in an interview with Sky Sport Italia. "We had possession in the 92nd minute, we shouldn't have allowed that to change.

"It's nothing to do with (my) reaction, I had three defenders in front of me. All we can do is accept they scored and shut up about it."

De Sanctis was later backed up by Totti, who added: "The only mistake we made in this instant was in our ball management. We shouldn't have lost it like that."

City forward Stefan Jovetic admitted CSKA's equaliser had "prompted big celebrations" among the players watching the earlier group fixture as they waited to kick off against Bayern.

Although Roma still sit second in Group E, the Italians, City and CSKA are all on five points -- setting up an enticing Group E finale that could see either Roma or City join Bayern in the knockout phase.

Roma will qualify if they beat City at the Olympic Stadium next month. A draw would also be sufficient, as long as CSKA also draw away to Bayern.

Thanks to their 1-1 draw at City in September, Roma can also go through with a scoreless draw against City, as long as CSKA lose to Bayern.

Any other result would almost certainly see Roma eliminated, although Roma coach Rudi Garcia insists the Italians have to "think positively".

"We have to think positively. Our destiny is in our hands and this is a great thing," said the Frenchman.

"We're not making calculations, we prefer to focus on beating City."


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