Roma 1 Qarabag 0: Giallorossi leapfrog Chelsea to top Group C


Roma advanced to the Champions League knockout stages as Group C winners following a narrow 1-0 victory over Qarabag at Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday.

Knowing three points would put their progression beyond doubt, the home side enjoyed the perfect sequence of results as Diego Perotti's second half winner - and Chelsea's draw with Atletico Madrid - saw them earn a seeding for the Round of 16.

The Giallorossi were initially made to sweat by a scoreless first half, with a draw not enough to go through had Diego Simeone's side won at Stamford Bridge.

But they only had to wait a further eight minutes for the vital breakthrough, 29-year-old Perotti nodding home after Edin Dezko's initial close-range effort spooned kindly into the air.

And with a better head-to-head record over fellow qualifiers Chelsea, Eusebio Di Francesco will be delighted to take top spot into the club's second last-16 appearance in the space of three seasons.

Attention will now turn to winning through to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2007-08, when they were dumped out by Manchester United for the second successive campaign.

Roma looked at ease over the early exchanges and were content to steadily constrict the availability of time and space.

Openings did begin to appear closer to the half-hour as Dino Ndlovu tried a curler on a Qarabag counter-attack, while Stephan El Shaarawy's indecision meant onrushing goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic went unpunished for being second to a loose ball outside the area.

El Shaarawy and Richard Almeida next traded harmless shots over the bar, before an unmarked Kostas Manolas was put off a header by the nearby presence of Dzeko.

And, moments after Dzeko fired well wide from the edge of the box, the home side were further frustrated in their attempts to make a first-half breakthrough as Sehic managed to parry Radja Nainggolan's powerful low drive.

However, within eight minutes of the restart, the Giallorossi were ahead. Dzeko's close-range effort on the turn was well blocked by Sehic, but the rebound popped kindly into the air for Perotti to nod in the all-important opener.

Sehic prevented the margin from doubling by next turning Nainggolan's low shot around the left post.

While Atletico's concession of an equaliser at Stamford Bridge meant their passage into the next round looked even safer, Roma were increasingly keen to sew up top spot by adding a cushion in the shape of a second goal.

Instead, they almost coughed up an equaliser with just under 10 minutes remaining, only for Michel to head straight at Alisson from point-blank range.

Dzeko screwed one final opportunity wide on a breakaway, but it mattered little as the Serie A side did enough to maintain their fine form at home and abroad.