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Roma’s Dzeko, Di Francesco relish Barcelona stunner

Sergi Roberto, Daniele de Rossi

Roma’s Edin Dzeko runs with the ball after scoring his side’s first goal during the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between between Roma and FC Barcelona, at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

AP

Like Liverpool, AS Roma’s domestic season hasn’t gone according to plan. In a battle for third, not first, i Lupi is not in the running for an elusive scudetto.

Like Liverpool, they don’t care much about that right now.

[ RECAP: Roma 3-0 (4-4 agg.) Barcelona ]

AS Roma has reached its first UEFA Champions League semifinal, and has done it in stunning fashion by defeating a Barcelona team which is unbeaten in league play and has lost a single match -- a Jan. 17 Copa del Rey first leg -- since La Liga’s slate started Aug. 20.

Oh, and that defeat was a 3-0 home romp which overturned a 4-1 away deficit.

Edin Dzeko scored the away goal, one which looked like a mere door prize at the time, and also scored Tuesday as Roma rallied for glory. He was asked if the best was yet to come.

“The best came tonight but it could come again in a few weeks’ time! We can beat anyone playing the way we did tonight. We could have scored more too. We got at them right from the off - I’ve never seen Barcelona struggle like that before.”

Dzeko told PST before the season that he’d love to meet old club Man City in the Champions League. We’re sure he didn’t expect to outlast them.

Manager Eusebio Di Francesco is relishing the win, a second time he’s split results against Ernesto Valverde in his career dating back to last season’s Europa League group stage split between Sassuolo and Athletic Bilbao.

“You must always aim higher, but we’d produced some great performances in the league too. We’re reaping the rewards for all the hard work we’ve put in. I’m the coach so I’ll take the praise just as I take the criticism but I want to look forward. Why shouldn’t we believe we can reach the final? That has to be our target. I don’t want to stop here.”

Who should Roma want to draw in the next round (assuming Bayern Munich and Real Madrid hold onto their leads over Sevilla and Juventus)? The easy answer is Liverpool, but one thing’s for sure: When you control Barcelona in the second leg after deserving better in the first, no one’s going to take you for granted.

Follow @NicholasMendola