After the 31-year-old’s proposed move to Chelsea fell through in the winter transfer window, Dzeko helped the balance sheet of the club’s US owner James Pallotta by securing Roma’s place in the last eight of Europe’s lucrative elite competition.
“I didn’t want to go in January because I want to play these kind of games,” explained Dzeko after his 52nd-minute goal clinched a place in the last eight after a 2-1 first-leg loss in Ukraine amid scenes of euphoria in the Stadio Olympico.
Cengiz Under’s goal in the first leg last month ultimately proved crucial for Roma, but Dzeko was the hero on the night and also proved instrumental in Shakhtar defender Ivan Ordets being shown a straight red card with 12 minutes left.
“We managed to do something that had been missing for 10 years,” said Dzeko. “Going forward and playing with big teams is a pride for all of us.”
Dzeko proved to be a leader on the pitch with coach Eusebio Di Francesco giving him a standing ovation at the end.
“It is not for me, but for everyone, we are deservedly in the quarter-finals,” said the Bosnian after his fourth Champions League goal, and 18th in total for the club this season.
“Dzeko is our diamond,” said Italian defender Alessandro Florenzi.
“It’s my first Champions League quarter-final, so it’s a euphoric moment,” added Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan as Roma qualified for a third quarter-finals of the modern Champions League.
“It’s really satisfying for me because I think we saw a team being born this evening,” said Di Francesco. “We played a team game, a man’s match. We didn’t give them anything.”
After Italy’s shock failure to qualify for the World Cup, Roma’s progress to the last eight along with Juventus is a boost for the country.
Juventus have reached two finals in the last three seasons. The last Italian club to win the title was Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho in 2010.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 13, 2018
“There aren’t any teams I want to avoid,” continued Di Francesco looking ahead to Friday’s draw. “Roma must not fear anyone. I want to continue to dream with this team.”
There will also be at least three Italian coaches in the quarter-finals – Di Francesco, Massimiliano Allegri of Juventus and Vincenzo Montella of Sevilla.
“I spoke a few days ago with Montella. We said we’d meet in the final,” said the Roma coach.
“Joking aside, whatever the team we meet they will be welcome. In the meanwhile we’ll prepare for the (Serie A) match against Crotone.”
Provided by AFP Sport
Chelsea have never been short of heroes during their trips to the Camp Nou.
Who could forget club icon Frank Lampard’s lob against Victor Valdes from an impossible angle in 2006? Or the remarkable raid six years later which set the path for Champions League glory, with dogged Ramires pulling off an artisanal chip from right-back and the bemoaned Jose Bosingwa performing like a warrior in the centre of defence for the Blues’ 10 men?
Such redoubtable displays have been required to gain an unbelievable statistic.
During a spell in which Barcelona have boasted arguably football’s strongest club side, Chelsea have remained unbeaten in four visits since 2006.
No victories were gained in this time. That’s no surprise.
But after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in which the hosts exceeded expectations, this faultless run should provide welcome cheer for embattled manager Antonio Conte.
A new talisman is required on Wednesday night to carry them over the line – and red-hot Willian is the outstanding candidate.
Amid Spain striker Alvaro Morata’s descent into a goalscoring abyss and the grumbles from Belgium livewire Eden Hazard about his false-nine deployment, the Brazil forward has burned red hot.
50 - Willian is making his 50th consecutive Premier League appearance today - the longest current run in the competition among outfield players. Ubiquitous. pic.twitter.com/WUex5cHstb— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018
During this run, the 29-year-old has rocketed in five goals from five matches. This figure would have been boosted further if the woodwork hadn’t twice denied him last month before he fired in a resounding opener against Barca.
That’s a goal every 87.6 minutes. Half of his shots on target (10) have led to the keeper picking the ball out of his net.
During this timeframe, only Olivier Giroud and Pedro have joined him on the scoresheet – and both of these efforts came in the 4-0 FA Cup rout of a bedraggled Hull City who could be bound for League One.
The 2-1 weekend win against Crystal Palace was, of course, earned through Martin Kelly’s own goal.
Willian is the proud possessor of 13 strikes in 2017/18, already making this term his most productive in west London. A handsome return made more surprising by the fact he waited until October 10 to break his duck, at the 14th time of asking.
Since he was stolen from Tottenham’s grasp in 2013, the limelight has rarely been Willian’s at Stamford Bridge. A subservient role and occasional thunderbolt are all that’s been asked of him him as Hazard and – departed – Spain centre forward Diego Costa dominated.
Collective knowledge within Chelsea’s core details special effort is a necessity to come away from Camp Nou in the quarter-finals.
From Barca’s last 48 home matches, only twice has a scoreline been recorded that would send the Blues through without needing penalties.
On home territory in 2017/18, they’ve registered 60 times from 22 games in all competitions – including a 3-0 humbling of Conte’s beloved Juventus in the group stage.
In the absence of any likelier source, the Blues will look to Willian to pull off this epic feat.
It’s a scenario few expected. But one he’s ready to pull off.
Sevilla pulled off the shock result of the round as they stunned Manchester United in a 2-1 win at Old Trafford to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.
Wissam Ben Yedder’s two goals off the bench knocked United out after Sevilla had struggled in the first half.
Here’s how their players fared in this historic result.
Sergio Rico 6 – Would’ve expected to be busier on a trip to Old Trafford. Instead, had little to do, a symbol of how toothless United were.
Gabriel Mercado 5 – United didn’t exploit Mercado’s flank enough – he looked shaky enough the few times they put him under pressure.
Simon Kjaer 7 – The 28-year-old was immense at the back, helping contain United’s attack alongside Lenglet.
Clement Lenglet 8 – The young defender was an absolute beast, sticking to Lukaku as best as he could and absorbing United’s attacks.
Sergio Escudero 6 – Escudero was wasteful when he joined the attack, but solid enough – and untested – in the rearguard.
Ever Banega 5 – After his performance in the first leg, this was a surprisingly quiet display from the Argentine.
Steven N’Zonzi 8 – A superb display from the French midfielder. Always in the right place, helped his defence with Lukaku, and commanded his midfield.
Pablo Sarabia 5 – Wasteful in possession, doing little with the many opportunities in attack that he had.
Franco Vazquez 5 – Picked as Sevilla’s main attacking midfielder, but didn’t carve out many chances when on the ball.
Joaquin Correa 5 – Time and again, Correa found himself in good position at the edge of the United box, only to waste it.
Luis Muriel 4 – Even if Ben Yedder hadn’t come on and scored, Muriel was awful enough to show the Frenchman should haev started.
Wissam Ben Yedder 9 – Two questions: how did he not start? And how did he not score a hat-trick? A stunning cameo from the Frenchman.
Guido Pizarro 6 – Came on as a time-eating substitute at the end. Helped Sevilla withstand United’s late charge.
Johannes Geis 5 – Another late substitute sent on to kill time, as well as absorb the United pressure at the end.