One year on from Roma v Barcelona

10th April, 2018 is a date that no Roma fan will ever forget.

It was the date on which the Giallorossi pulled off one of the most miraculous comebacks in the history of the Champions League, as they dominated five-time winners Barcelona to reach the semi-finals for the first time since the competition changed its name from the European Cup.

It was the date on which the unthinkable became reality. For a team of Roma’s size to overcome one of the biggest clubs in Europe, whose lineup featured two of the very best footballers of all-time in Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, alongside several more stars of the modern game, was beyond even the most optimistic fan’s wildest dreams.

But there was something about that night that felt like it was destiny for Roma to win. When Edin Dzeko opened the scoring six minutes in, it didn’t feel like an ordinary goal. It felt like a platform for Roma to build on. It was the spark they needed to believe in a most unlikely victory.

The players ran back to their own half, ready for kick-off. It was clear already that the Lupi weren’t there to make up the numbers. Even if everyone had already written them off, they had a game to win, and they weren’t going to stop until it was impossible.

They proved that night that it wasn’t impossible. They approached the game with the right hunger and desire. It was generally accepted that they had been unlucky to lose 4-1 in the first leg. The game had been much closer than that, and conceding two own goals was extremely unfortunate. But nobody could have predicted the way they would go about the return fixture.

For once, in the second half, luck was on Roma’s side. They were correctly awarded a penalty after Gerard Pique brought down Edin Dzeko in the penalty area underneath the Curva Sud. There was only one man who was going to take the spot kick: the inspirational captain Daniele De Rossi.

De Rossi may have been nearer the end of his career than most of his teammates, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t dream as well. After more than 15 years of service to his beloved club, DDR was more determined than anyone to record another remarkable achievement. As he began his run up for the penalty, his eyes were fixed firmly on the ball. He had the focus of the consummate professional that he was, is, and always has been. He could make no mistake from that spot kick. 2-0 Roma.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s side had a little over half an hour to get the one more goal they needed to write their names in history. The fans in the Stadio Olimpico had been singing all through the night – they didn’t need anyone to tell them it was possible to believe – and their voices were only getting louder, as the chances of completing the comeback became ever-more realistic. With eight minutes remaining, it couldn’t have got any more real.

Roma won a corner, and Cengiz Under delivered the ball to the near post. Watching the movement of the ball every step of the way was Kostas Manolas, and he timed his run to perfection to get into the space. He had a clear view of the ball, but still had a lot of work to do. Arching his neck, he connected with the ball, sending it across goal. A second later, it dropped into the net. The Stadio exploded.

The buzz around the last 10 minutes was palpable. The crowd were one body, willing Roma on for the final push they needed. At the start of the night, the focus had been on scoring. Now, for the last hurdle, they had to switch their attention to keeping the ball out of their own net.

That they managed to do, and the scenes upon the final whistle were incredible. The squad and coaching staff raced around the pitch in excitement, trying to make sense of the significance of what they had just achieved. They had controlled the game against a side far superior in quality to them, sealing the perfect win and ensuring their European adventure would continue. And the remarkable thing was, they hadn’t got lucky. They fully deserved to win in the manner they did.

It was an atmosphere like no other. No supporter wanted to leave the venue. This was a magical night and they wanted to live every moment of it, to share it with the players who had done them so proud.

Even outside the stadium, the jubilant atmosphere continued. The city was alive that night. Car horns were blaring in celebration, fans on the streets screaming ‘FORZA ROMA’ as loud as they could. Flags and scarves were waving out of the windows of people’s homes. Everyone was a part of it. It didn’t matter if people had met before; everyone was celebrating together that night.

One year on, it still feels dreamlike. There are so many questions that still don’t have a clear answer – most beginning with the word ‘How’. How did it happen? How was that possible? How wasn’t it a dream?

But it wasn’t a dream. It was all real. It was a monumental event that can never be taken away from this club and its fans. Through the highs and the lows, the memory of that extraordinary April night will live on. As the players who were part of that miracle leave one by one, they will still remain a part of Roma’s history, for the scale of what they achieved. Every single one of them will be remembered for the part they played.

The story of 10th April, 2018, will live on in the hearts of every Romanista across the world, serving as a reminder of what is possible when the belief is there. That result was colossal, on a level that is unlikely to be matched for a long time. Rome was the centre of the world once again.

It’s a story of a team who never gave up. A story of a squad who refused to listen to the odds. It’s a story of a club whose history has been filled with ups and downs; but that night, they created a positive to outweigh every negative that had gone before. They won a football match that nobody thought they could. But it was far more significant than that. They brought joy to their people, who hadn’t felt it for such a long time. That night, they made themselves heroes.

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