EL: Unlucky Roma crumble in Manchester

Roma were 2-1 up at half-time, but losing three players to injury in the opening 37 minutes left them shattered by the end, as Manchester United ran riot 6-2 in the Europa League semi-final.

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The second leg is next Thursday at the Olimpico, and while it’s not quite their historic 7-1 defeat here, it’s still a mountain to climb.

Pedro Rodriguez, Riccardo Calafiori, Nicolò Zaniolo and Stephan El Shaarawy missed out, with Gianluca Mancini suspended, although Chris Smalling, Leonardo Spinazzola and Jordan Veretout returned from injury. United had Anthony Martial and Phil Jones side-lined, but could start ex-Serie A men Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes.

Just as the injury crisis was easing, it hit back, as Veretout pulled up after two minutes with a muscular problem and had to limp off for Gonzalo Villar.

It went from bad to worse, as Manchester United took the lead with their first real attack. Paul Pogba dribbled away from Smalling and Cavani set up Bruno Fernandes for a delicate dink over on-rushing Pau Lopez.

The horror start did break for Roma when Rick Karsdorp’s cross was charged down by Pogba’s arm as they both came sliding in at the by-line. The referee awarded a penalty after consulting with his linesman and Lorenzo Pellegrini converted in the absence of Veretout.

Their abysmal luck continued, as Pau Lopez made his first save of the game on a Pogba long-range strike and dislocated his shoulder in the process, so made way for Antonio Mirante.

Bryan Cristante had to nod clear a Bruno Fernandes free kick in the six-yard box, but Roma turned the game around completely to lead 2-1.

Mkhitaryan’s slide-rule pass allowed Pellegrini to spring the offside trap and he rolled it across for Dzeko to bundle over the line from a couple of yards. That was his 10th goal against Manchester United, confirming he has never played at Old Trafford without either scoring or assisting a goal.

However, the Roma curse struck again with Leonardo Spinazzola limping off moments later. Roger Ibanez got away with a shocking square ball straight at Cavani, because the Uruguayan saw two attempts parried by Mirante and Smalling.

Paulo Fonseca did not make any substitutions at half-time, so was therefore out of slots for changes in the second half.

Manchester United equalised straight away, Cavani completing a give and go with Bruno Fernandes and holding off Rick Karsdorp to bend his finish into the top corner.

Cavani wasted another chance by blasting over on a Luke Shaw pull-back, but Roma also threatened with Scott McTominay risking an own goal from his shinned clearance, then Harry Maguire using his entire body to stop Dzeko tapping in the Pellegrini assist.

Manchester United did take the lead with Cavani’s second of the game, but it was a simple tap-in after Mirante only parried the weak Aaron Wan-Bissaka angled drive.

David De Gea smothered a Dzeko glancing header and Mirante beat away Shaw’s solo effort, but Manchester United received a very, very soft penalty. Cavani had already attempted and failed the back-heel flick and was practically off the field by the time Smalling connected, but VAR did not rule against it and Fernandes converted for 4-2.

An exhausted Roma crumbled and a short corner allowed Fernandes to float a ball in for Pogba’s relatively free header.

Mason Greenwood came off the bench and his right-foot finish squirmed under the defender’s legs to beat Mirante from a tricky angle.

Man Utd 6-2 Roma

Fernandes 9, pen 71 (M), Pellegrini pen 15 (R), Dzeko 34 (R), Cavani 48, 64 (M), Pogba 75 (M), Greenwood 86 (M)

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred (Matic 83); Rashford (Greenwood 76), Fernandes (Mata 89), Pogba; Cavani

Roma: Pau Lopez (Mirante 28); Smalling, Cristante, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Diawara, Veretout (Villar 5), Spinazzola (Peres 37); Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko

Ref: Del Cerro Grande (ESP)

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