Gervinho stars, Roma returns to Champs League with rout of CSKA
ROME (AP) — Gervinho scored two goals and set up another as Roma returned to the Champions League after a three-year absence with an impressive 5-1 victory over CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.
Roma scored four goals in the opening 31 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico and CSKA supporters turned violent in the second half, causing the Group E match to be suspended briefly.
Juan Iturbe put Roma ahead six minutes in after being set up by Gervinho. Then it was Iturbe's turn to be the provider when Gervinho doubled the lead in the 10th. Brazil defender Maicon added another in the 20th and Gervinho found the target again in the 31st.
In the 50th, CSKA defender Sergei Ignashevich headed into his own net.
Ahmed Musa pulled one back for CSKA in the 82nd.
In the 71st minute, the match was stopped for about two minutes as CSKA supporters began throwing flares at Roma fans. Riot police had to intervene and take control from stadium stewards.
There were also reports of skirmishes between opposing fans outside the stadium before kickoff.
Bayern Munich beat Manchester City 1-0 in the group's other match.
Roma's win matched its biggest margin of victory in the competition, a 4-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2006-07 group stage.
"We had high expectations. We wanted to put on a good showing after three years away from the Champions League and we imposed ourselves immediately," Roma goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis said. "I was surprised by our intensity in the first half. ... The result was really deserved."
"If we're able to advance from this group that would really be something," De Sanctis added.
The only negative note for Roma came when Iturbe walked off with an apparent thigh injury in the 26th.
The 21-year-old Iturbe was Roma's biggest offseason signing, having joined the capital club on a €22 million ($30 million) transfer from Hellas Verona.
With Iturbe and Gervinho providing speed on the wings, flanking 37-year-old captain Francesco Totti in a full-throttle attack, the Russian champion had no answers.
Gervinho has also performed well in Roma's opening two Serie A matches, and had a strong campaign last season with the Giallorossi after a difficult two years at Arsenal. The Ivory Coast international first played for Roma coach Rudi Garcia in France with Lille, combining to win the Ligue 1 title in 2010-11.
Roma's last Champions League appearance came when it was eliminated by Shakhtar in the second round in 2010-11 and the Giallorossi did not play in Europe at all for the past two seasons.
But the club's new American ownership is starting to make an impact and the scene was electric before kickoff, as fans in the "curva sud" — south curve — lit flares and set off smoke in the squad's colors of yellow and red.
Roma took control immediately as Gervinho slotted a pass between three defenders to Iturbe, who then had only goalkeeper Igor Afinkeev to beat and calmly found the target from the center of the area.
Four minutes later, Gervinho collected a pass from Iturbe, stood in place as he faked one shot and then fired the ball in with the tip of his boot.
A defensive error nearly sliced the lead in half as Seydou Doumbia had only De Sanctis to beat — but the Ivory Coast forward slipped just as he was preparing to shoot and De Sanctis smothered the ball.
Maicon then made it 3-0 with a sharply angled shot that Afinkeev got his hands on but couldn't stop.
A pass from Totti at Roma's end set up Gervinho's second strike, which also came from a sharp angle.
Roma's fifth goal came following a cross from left back Vasilis Torosidis, who started in place of the dropped Ashley Cole — the former Chelsea defender who is struggling to adapt to Italy.
In the next round of group matches Sept. 30 Roma next visits City and CSKA hosts Bayern.
Likely facing more punishment, CSKA already will have to play Bayern behind closed doors after its supporters displayed racist and far-right symbols in the Czech Republic during a 2-1 loss to Viktoria Plzen during last season's Champions League, when it lost all three away games.
The Russian club was also fined €50,000 ($65,000) after being warned previously for racist fan abuse during an October home game against Manchester City.