UEFA Europa League quarter-finals first-leg report: Ibañez volley crowns AS Roma comeback over Ajax (1-2)
Roma came from behind to earn an impressive win away to Ajax in the first leg of their quarter-final, Roger Ibañez's fine volley sealing victory late on.
Match in brief
Both sides had chances in the first half but it was a defensive error that prompted the opening goal, Davy Klaassen cutting out an underhit Amadou Diawara pass and advancing before finding Dušan Tadić and tapping in the Serbian's unselfish return pass.
Tadić had the chance to double Ajax's advantage when he was felled by Roger Ibañez, but Pau López stood tall to block his penalty and instead it was Roma who got back on terms, Lorenzo Pellegrini's free-kick squirming beyond 21-year-old European debutant Kjell Scherpen in the Ajax goal. Ibañez then supplied the late winner, smashing in on the volley from a corner to give Roma the edge in the tie.
Derek Brookman, Ajax reporter
Ajax found it hard to break down the Roma defence in the first half but profited from a mistake by Diawara to go into the break ahead. In the second half the Ajax midfield took a firmer grip of the game, with Antony a menace down the right and Brian Brobbey bringing a new attacking threat, and the Dutch champions will be wondering just how this one slipped away from them.
Vieri Capretta, Roma reporter
What a turnaround for the Giallorossi. A deserved win overall, with that crucial penalty save and the ability to react against a great Ajax side. It won't be easy in the return leg, but this away win is massive.
Roger Ibañez, Roma goalscorer: "I need to thank Pau López for saving the penalty [that I had given away]. Then I scored a goal I really wanted to score. We won an important game; now we must look forward."
Pau López, Roma goalkeeper: "That penalty save shifted the momentum of the game. The goal we conceded was avoidable too. I'm happy for the win, it's a great win, but there's a long way to go still."
Paulo Fonseca, Roma coach: "It's an important win for us, in a difficult time. Winning here is huge; Ajax are a great side as we saw today. The tie is by no means over, but this is a big win. The team saw it was a difficult time and everyone gave their all. The team knew we could do it."
Dušan Tadić, Ajax captain: "This was a painful lesson, because we should have won by a couple of goals. I should have scored from the penalty, but I chose to hit it straight and the keeper saved it. That happens."
Kjell Scherpen, Ajax goalkeeper: "The free-kick was where I expected it to go, and there were a lot of bodies in the way, but nonetheless I should have stopped it. Maybe I dived too early."
- Roma have now won all five matches in this season's knockout stage.
- Eight of Roma's last nine away goals have been scored in the second half – their previous 11 had all come in the first half.
- Both of Ibañez's goals for Roma have come in the UEFA Europa League.
- Pellegrini's goal was his second in this season's UEFA Europa League, the first time he has scored more than once in a European campaign.
AFC Ajax: Scherpen; Rensch (Klaiber 79), Timber, Martínez, Tagliafico; Álvarez, Klaassen, Gravenberch; Antony (Idrissi 88), Tadić, Neres (Brobbey 64)
AS Roma: Pau López; Mancini, Cristante, Ibañez; Bruno Peres, Diawara, Veretout (Villar 77), Spinazzola (Calafiori 29); Pellegrini, Pedro (Péres 89); Džeko (Mayoral 77)
Both teams are back in action on Sunday, when Eredivisie leaders Ajax travel to Waalwijk and Roma host Bologna. The second leg then takes place on Thursday, with Manchester United or Granada awaiting the victors in the semi-finals.
Photo credit: UEFA