Riccardo Calafiori marked his presence in the UEFA Europa League with an inspiring performance that helped AS Roma knock Ajax out of the competition.
AS Roma secured their place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League thanks to a 1-1 draw with Ajax on Thursday. The second leg stalemate meant the the Serie A side through 3-2 on aggregate, having secured a 2-1 win in the first leg in Amsterdam.
It was a nervy game for the Giallorossi, though, as they once again had to soak up the pressure exerted by the Ajax attack. However, it was a closely fought comeback nonetheless, as Roma did create scoring opportunities, one of which even came inside the first five minutes. Both sides, though, failed to find the back of the net, drawing goalless at half-time.
Ajax upped the ante after the restart, controlling more possession as Roma were seemingly intent on sitting deep. The move proved to be costly as substitute Brian Brobbey found the breakthrough in the 49th minute. The Dutch outfit even thought doubled their lead seven minutes later, but Dusan Tadic’s goal was ruled out due to a foul in the build-up.
It saved the blushes of a Roma side that completely sat deep during the final phase of the game. To their misfortune, Ajax could not really trouble little and ended up conceding from a counter in the 72nd minute that effectively sealed the tie. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides following this hard-fought encounter in the Europa League this midweek.
Pau Lopez: 5/10
Pau Lopez made a grave mistake early on in the game and was lucky to get away with it. Also got beaten by Brobbey just after half-time, but was not troubled much after.
Gianluca Mancini: 7.5/10
Gianluca Mancini kept David Neres quiet for almost the entirety of the game while also making a bunch of crucial interceptions and clearances throughout the ninety minutes. A real defensive leader.
Bryan Cristante: 6.5/10
Bryan Cristante had a slow start to the game, particularly when it came to defending the threat of both Tadic and Brobbey. He was solid for the most part but was troubled by his lack of pace, at times.
Roger Ibanez: 7.5/10
Roger Ibanez had problems dealing with the threat of Antony, at times and was put under pressure heavily by Ajax on certain occasions. However, the Brazilian stood out strong, clearing everything in his way.
Ibañez made 11 clearances against Ajax, the most by a Roma player in a #UEL game this season.
He also made more ball recoveries (8) and more tackles (3) than any other Roma player. 💪 pic.twitter.com/jYNV1YGsC2
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 15, 2021
Rick Karsdorp: 6.5/10
Rick Karsdorp was solid enough in defence to see out the threat of Neres defensively. Was hardly influential going forward, however.
Amadou Diawara: 7.5/10
Amadou Diawara was one of the better performers for Roma, most notably making a goal-saving block to deny Davy Klaassen. Also played a key role in disrupting Ajax’s flow with tackles and tenacity in midfield.
Jordan Veretout: 6/10
It was a faulty performance from Jordan Veretout, who struggled with a lack of tactical identity. He was also very rash in his challenges and failed to improve Roma’s game in possession.
Riccardo Calafiori: 7.5/10
Riccardo Calafiori was the star of the show for AS Roma. The youngster played a key role in defence by helping out Ibanez on the left flank, but it was his inspiring run forward on the counter that led to the equaliser from Dzeko. Could turn out to be a prospect for Roma at left-back.
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) April 15, 2021
Lorenzo Pellegrini: 7/10
Lorenzo Pellegrini was the primary threat for the Ajax defence during the first half as he troubled the opposition with his runs in behind the defence. Had a relatively quiet second half, but played his role in the first line of press.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 6/10
Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s return to the pitch was a welcome sight for Roma fans. The Armenian, though, could not do a great deal to trouble the Ajax backline.
Edin Dzeko: 6.5/10
Edin Dzeko did what he does best by scoring the all-important equaliser that sealed the tie in Roma’s favour, despite having a quiet game by his standards.
Borja Mayoral: N/A
A late replacement for Dzeko. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Gonzalo Villar: N/A
A late replacement for Calafiori. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
A late replacement for Mkhitaryan. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Maarten Stekelenburg: 6/10
Maarten Stekelenburg could not have done anything to keep out Dzeko’s effort as the cross from Calafiori had deflected. Was not troubled much otherwise, with Ajax controlling most of the possession.
Sean Klaiber: N/A
Sean Klaiber’s night was cut short by an unfortunate injury that forced him off within the first quarter of the game. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Jurrien Timber: 6.5/10
Jurrien Timber should have done much more to prevent Calafiori from that darting run across the byline, as the move eventually led to the equaliser from Roma. It was a massive dent in an otherwise solid defensive performance.
two-legged xG map for Ajax – Roma
football is, as we have long maintained, a dumb game no one likes pic.twitter.com/GMKkAQKS1J
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) April 15, 2021
Lisandro Martinez: 7/10
Lisandro Martinez was the main protagonist in the Ajax backline, using his physicality and aggression to keep Roma at bay for the most part. Also played a key role in the build-up.
Nicolas Tagliafico: 6/10
Nicolas Tagliafico committed the foul that forced the referee to rule out Tadic’s goal in the second half. Not the best of performances from the Argentine, who needs to improve his temperament.
Davy Klaassen: 5.5/10
Davy Klaassen had an early attempt blocked by Diawara, but the effort itself was too tame by the experienced midfielder. Should have done a lot more to influence the game going forward.
Edson Alvarez: 6/10
Edson Alvarez was perhaps the pick of the Ajax midfielders as he used his physicality and aggression to prevent the likes of Diawara and Veretout from dominating the proceedings.
Ryan Gravenberch: 5/10
Ryan Gravenberch was simply not involved in the game enough to make any kind of impact for Ajax. The youngster often looked passive, devoid of any real ideas.
Antony had a poor game on the right-hand side. Although his pace was often an asset up against Ibanez, the Brazilian simply could not offer the penetration.
Dusan Tadic: 6/10
Dusan Tadic once again had a poor game against Roma, struggling to offer the productivity and penetration that was required from the captain.
David Neres: 4/10
David Neres was by far the worst-performing player for Ajax in this game. The Brazilian caused no trouble at all for the Roma backline and it was a surprise to see him remain on the pitch for over 80 minutes.
Perr Schuurs: 6.5/10
Replaced the injured Jurrien around the 22nd minute mark. Looked solid defensively, but was replaced by Oussama Idrissi in the final ten minutes.
Brian Brobbey: 8/10
Brian Brobbey changed the complexion of the game after coming on at the start of the second half. He scored the all-important opener while it was also his effort that forced Lopez into a save, with the move ultimately leading to Tadic’s goal that was ruled out. RB Leipzig are the ultimate winners, from this performance.
Brian Brobbey for Ajax:
📊directly involved in a goal every 43 minutes
— Football Talent Scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) April 15, 2021
Mohammed Kudus: 5/10
Mohammed Kudus was introduced midway through the second half to offer more creativity in the middle of the park but to no avail.
Oussama Idrissi: N/A
A late replacement for Schuurs. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Lassina Traore: N/A
A late replacement for Neres. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.