Pellegrini shines as Roma beats CSKA 3-1 in Champions League
MOSCOW, Russia—With Edin Dzeko having an off night, Lorenzo Pellegrini stepped up for Roma in the Champions League.
The Italy midfielder scored one goal and set up another as Roma beat 10-man CSKA Moscow 2-1 on Wednesday to close in on a spot in the next round.
Since losing its opening group game 3-0 to Real Madrid, Roma has won three in a row and only needs one more victory to put qualification for the knockout stage beyond doubt. Madrid beat Plzen 5-0 in Group G’s other game Wednesday to sit tied with Roma on nine points.
Despite the win, Roma coach Eusebio di Francesco said his team’s performance wasn’t good enough.
“After all, we reached the semifinals last year. We need to get our wins with more confidence and that’s how I want to improve the team,” he said through a translator.
The Italian team started fast with Kostas Manolas heading in the fourth-minute opener from Pellegrini’s curling corner.
After beating Madrid at home last month, CSKA’s young team showed a similar tenacious spirit to level the game at 1-1 in the 51st, the 20-year-old Ilzat Akhmetov sending a pass through the Roma defense for 19-year-old Arnor Sigurdsson to hold off two defenders and score with a calm finish.
However, the game changed when CSKA lost its other Icelander, defender Hordur Magnusson, to a second yellow card and Pellegrini pounced for his first Champions League goal.
Three minutes after the sending-off, Pellegrini took advantage of the disarray in CSKA’s defense to beat the offside trap, latching onto Bryan Cristante’s pass before shooting past goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
“We needed to see the game out when we were in a winning position,” di Francesco said. “I’m not happy that the players relaxed a bit and I always demand they give 100 percent concentration.”
Dzeko came into the game as the Champions League’s top scorer with five goals but his finishing against CSKA was wayward. At one point he dodged two CSKA defenders with excellent footwork only to send the ball straight at goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
CSKA is third in the group with four points from four games and has won just one of its last seven games since beating Madrid. CSKA hasn’t gone past the group stage since 2011-12.
“We played a bit adventurously in defense at times, you could say,” said CSKA coach Viktor Goncharenko, but paid tribute to his young team’s courage as the underdog. CSKA suffered a blow when right-back Mario Fernandes was forced off in the 12th minute after taking a blow to the head during a tackle.
“According to the information we have it could be a concussion along with a broken cheekbone and nose, all together,” Goncharenko said. If confirmed, it would be the third time the Brazilian-born Russia player has broken his nose since 2015, and last year a serious break forced him to miss the Confederations Cup.
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