Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez found the net again, but even the prolific Mexican superstar could not prevent Bayer 04 Leverkusen slipping to a 3-2 defeat at AS Roma to leave the Bundesliga outfit's UEFA Champions League challenge in the balance.
On a warm evening in the Italian capital, Leverkusen were caught cold as Mohamed Salah raced clear before beating Bernd Leno with a low shot that only those fans who had settled quickly into their seats in the Stadio Olimpico managed to see. Miralem Pjanic had a shot saved by the Bayer goalkeeper before Roma doubled their lead. There was more than a touch of deja vu as former VfL Wolfsburg forward Edin Dzeko was played through and slipped the ball deftly beyond the advancing Leno.
Identical poise 60 seconds later would have surely allowed Dzeko to add a third and all but extinguish Leverkusen's hopes. Instead, as Roma had done in Germany barely a fortnight earlier, Roger Schmidt’s men roared back to level. Half-time substitute Karim Bellarabi started the move that led to Admir Mehmedi rifling high into the net before he also slipped through the pass that allowed Chicharito to level soon afterwards.
But for a slip, the in-form Mexico international may have struck again before Mehmedi saw Wojciech Szczesny kick away a shot with Leverkusen having decidedly turned the tables on their hosts. Roma then regained the initiative, however, and Pjanic cemented their superiority by drilling home from the spot after Ömer Toprak had been sent off for a foul on Salah.
Man of the match
Karim Bellarabi orchestrated Leverkusen’s renaissance within six minutes of coming off the bench. What might he have done had he played from kick off?
Leverkusen looked more effective with Hernandez their sole out-and-out forward and Mehmedi, Bellarabi and Kevin Kampl all storming through to help him.
- Leverkusen are now third in Group E, a point behind second-placed Roma with two games left.
- Leverkusen play BATE Borisov in Belarus on Matchday 5 before hosting champions FC Barcelona in their final group game.
- Leverkusen have scored 17 goals in their last five competitive outings – Chicharito has contributed seven of them.
- Leverkusen have won just once in nine visits to Italy.
- Roma have won two of their last 9 home games in UEFA competition.
- Salah's strike was Roma’s fastest in their Champions League history.
Roma:Szczesny – Florenzi (Maicon 56’, Torosidis 76’)), Manolas, Rüdiger, Digne – De Rossi (c), Pjanic, Nainggolan – Salah, Gervinho (Iturbe 68’) - Dzeko
Leverkusen:Leno – Donati, Tah, Papadopoulos, Wendell – Toprak (c), Kampl – Calhanoglu, Mehmedi (Brandt 88') – Kiessling (Bellarabi 46’ (Kramer 73’) Hernandez