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Roma turn generous hosts, Fiorentina progress easily

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Viola defenders steal the show during a first-half Roma implosion, sending Fiorentina on to the Europa League quarterfinals

Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

ROMA 0 - FIORENTINA 3 

It's hard to even begin talking about this Europa League Round of 16 return match. It was a tie so bizarre that no summary does it justice, no matter how descriptive one might be. So I suppose it is best to stick to the facts. Roma lost heavily at home for the second time in a week, failing to score both against Sampdoria over the weekend and again today against Fiorentina, with a European quarterfinal on the line. Fiorentina advance 1-4 on aggregate, and have now knocked Roma out of both the Coppa Italia and the Europa League, both times in Rome. And, to cap it all, Fiorentina still has not lost an away match in European competition under Vincenzo Montella. In 11 away games in Europe over the past two years, the Viola have 8 wins, 3 draws, 0 losses.

But let's set the big picture stuff to the side for the moment to dwell on the game, especially the farcical first half. Fiorentina began the game playing well in a 3-5-2, which featured the return of a Khouma Babacar and Mohammed Salah forward duo. While both - especially Salah - played well, the Viola goalscoring burden was carried by Fiorentina defenders once again today. It only took a couple minutes for Salah to fire a dangerous shot just over the Roma goal after being set up by Joaquin, and it was the in-form Spaniard to again prove dangerous on 6', where he fed Matias Fernandez in the box. The Chilean was brought down quite blatantly from behind by Jose Holebas. Gonzalo Rodriguez had to take the penalty twice, but he dispatched it both times to give Fiorentina the early advantage.

Roma attempted to respond through wide areas, crossing some dangerous balls into the box. Their best chance of the half came on 16', when Vasilis Torosidis put a free header wide from a corner kick. Soon after, the sporting gods had their vengeance when a lofted Milan Badelj switch for Marcos Alonso was nodded back to (backup) keeper Lukasz Skorupski. In attempting to avoid a corner kick, Skorupski tossed the ball to the hustling Marcos Alonso, who tucked it into the open net to give Fiorentina an imposing advantage away from home. Rudi Garcia's side went into absolute tilt at this point, and conceded a third to an unmarked Jose Maria Basanta from a corner only 3 minutes later, a goal that effectively ended the tie after only 22 minutes.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Roma&#39;s first half <a href="http://t.co/fmP64aKhjN">pic.twitter.com/fmP64aKhjN</a></p>&mdash; Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) <a href="https://twitter.com/Viola_Nation/status/578629437559803905">March 19, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Roma had a couple more good chances in the first half, with the again-poor Adem Ljajic drilling straight at Neto and Borja Valero clearing a goal bound set-piece header off the line, but the scoreline never felt in doubt. In fact, the show in the stadium (for some) was happening in the stands, with the Roma ultras evacuating the Curva Sud in protest, and then generally voicing their displeasure for the rest of the game.

While the commentators were desperate for Roma to make a game of it after the interval, it was Fiorentina who had the better opportunities in the second 45', and were suddenly uncharacteristically profligate in front of goal. Babacar had a couple of decent efforts, but Salah turned on the magic for a bit, hitting both the left post and the crossbar in the second half. He really should have scored after this magnificent run instead of hitting the woodwork:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Mohamed Salah&#39;s brilliant run! <a href="http://t.co/uT5ALasoAH">pic.twitter.com/uT5ALasoAH</a></p>&mdash; KingFut.com (@King_Fut) <a href="https://twitter.com/King_Fut/status/578634922497306624">March 19, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Roma's last big chances fell to Gervinho - who was masterfully crowded out by Basanta - and Florenzi, who couldn't get hold of a lofted ball and tapped it to Neto. There was even time for an oddly satisfying Ljajic red card as time ran down, and Montella & company left Rome with another famous victory. Despite Roma mistakes playing a part in all three Viola goals, the boys in purple were much the better side throughout, while barely having to work that hard. While this does reflect on how poor Roma were, for now let us enjoy how brilliant this team is, how close we are to a major European final, and what a huge win this was, one that had the Fiorentina faithful packing the train station awaiting for the team to return.

Excited yet? Join me below the line for the quarterfinal draw tomorrow!

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Neto ⚓️&#10;Savić &#10;Gonzalo &#10;Basanta &#10;Alonso &#10;Badelj &#10;Mati &#10;Borja &#10;Joaquín♠️&#10;Salah ✈️ &#10;Baba &#10;Montella &#10;Skorupski </p>&mdash; Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) <a href="https://twitter.com/Viola_Nation/status/578648515582259200">March 19, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>