Barcelona took a huge step towards reaching the UEFA Champions League semi finals for the first time since 2015 on Wednesday night, as they secured a 4-1 win over Roma.
Although the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez featured in the Catalan's starting lineup, La Blaugrana only took the advantage, and doubled their lead through own-goals; the first coming from Daniele De Rossi and the second via Kostas Manolas.
So there is 25% of chances to have Barcelona-Real Madrid as Champions League final.— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 4, 2018
Just imagine the armageddon...
However, Gerard Pique's finish from close range on the stroke of the hour added a touch more respectability to the scoresheet, as Barca's monumental efforts across three competitions this season finally began to surface; which was no more evident than when Edin Dzeko slotted home with 10 minutes to go.
But Luis Suarez, who had been enduring a difficult evening, restored his side's three-goal cushion three minutes before the end. And despite Barcelona now visiting the Stadio Olimpico next week with a two goal advantage, the Spanish champions-elect will be wary their task is not complete yet, having never claimed victory against their opponents in Rome previously.
Despite an early warning from the visitors which almost resulted in Roma crafting a close-range opportunity inside the opening minute, the hosts settled and took the initiative in the opening quarter of an hour, with Suarez seeing his strike ruled out for offside as the Catalonians searched for a foothold in the contest.
And although Giallorossi had joy in limiting Ernesto Valverde's outfit to speculative efforts, the Italians had Alisson Becker's left-hand upright to thank for keeping the scores level shortly before the midway point of the first half, as Ivan Rakitic tested his range with a curling effort.
Immense game by Rakitic. Culés can deny it as much as they want but Iván The Terrible has improved so much. I'll be happy when a midfielder arrives who is better and who can replace him but until then I'm glad seeing how he's giving this kind of performances.— sj (@sun2jay) April 4, 2018
After clipping the woodwork, Barca continued to turn the screw, but once again were denied. This time via a smart stop from Eusebio Di Francesco's number one, who did well to palm Suarez's low effort from a tight angle away to safety.
However, Barcelona's consistent pressure eventually paid off seven minutes before the break - even though the home side had lacked quality in the final third for the most part - as De Rossi unfortunately but emphatically slammed the ball into his own net.
Iniesta and Messi's intricate play on the edge of the Roma area looked sure to finish up at the Argentine's feet in a goalscoring position, only for the veteran's interception to quash that opportunity via an outstretched boot, but subsequently fire past Alisson into the Brazilian's bottom left-hand corner.
After going behind, the Serie A giants tried to hit back almost immediately through Lorenzo Pellegrini's free kick. But shortly after the youngster's effort came to nothing, referee Danny Makkelie called a halt to the opening 45 minutes in which the hosts trundled off the pitch with a somewhat fortunate advantage.
#BarçaRoma 1-0 HT: Barcelona the better side so far, just. Typical LaLiga-esque showing from the hosts in the opening 45 - a slower pace with a distinct lack of ruthlessness in the final third. Suarez has been uncharacteristically sloppy, but Roma are certainly still in the tie.— Joe Owens (@jwpowens) April 4, 2018
After the interval, Valverde's men, as they did in the first half, started slowly, with Diego Perotti gifted a superb opportunity to level things up within just 30 seconds. But the 29-year-old, less than six yards from goal and unmarked, somehow failed to find the target.
And the visitors' lacklustre offensive prowess came back to haunt them 10 minutes later, as Manolas was this time the man to find his own net after a sublime piece of Barca build up play.
Rakitic and Messi's slick one-two from a corner eventually found the Croatia international in space inside the area, before the 30-year-old's dangerous cross was fired towards the feet of Samuel Umtiti.
UMTITI GRABS THE BARÇA BADGE, BEST THING OF THE NIGHT!— TalkFCB (@FCBNewsRoom) April 4, 2018
The centre back's initial effort - from no more than four yards - initially hit the woodwork, but fortunately for Barcelona, the rebound found the leg of the Roma defender, whose touch eventually took the deflection past Alisson for the second time of the evening.
And less than five minutes later, the 25-year-old was picking the ball out of his net again after Pique was quickest to react to the Brazilian's save.
Suarez, who had been quiet for the preluding hour, shimmied his way into a shooting position before unleashing a curling effort; which I Giallorossi shot-stopper was equal to. However, again unfortunately for the visitors, the strong palm fell kindly to the Spanish centre back, who slammed home into an unguarded net from close range.
But as the final quarter beckoned, Roma eventually received reward for their professional display, with Dzeko getting the better of Marc-Andre ter Stegen after the Germany international had superbly denied two attacks during the minutes prior.
However, the hosts' three-goal cushion was restored minutes before the full time whistle as Suarez netted his first Champions League goal of the season after taking advantage of some sloppy Federico Fazio defending before blasting his first time effort past Alisson.
That is the way things ended, with Barcelona heading to Rome next week with one foot firmly in the Champions League semi final.