‘Messi’s worst performance of the season’ – view from the Nou Camp
Barcelona 4-1 Roma
This was a far better result than performance for Barcelona, who needed two own goals to establish a surely insurmountable advantage against a relatively weak Roma team.
The Spanish side lacked fluency and control in their attacking play throughout the game, and were looking at a potentially uncomfortable second leg before Suarez restored the three-goal margin near the end thanks to a poor piece of Roma defending.
Particularly notable was a rare off night from Messi, who was desperately lacking in rhythm as he made his first start in two and a half weeks and lost possession on seven occasions in the first half alone.
Messi improved after the break but still could not get on the scoresheet despite a couple of decent chances – one of which he uncharacteristically smashed miles over the bar after being well picked out by Jordi Alba. That summed up his night and this was probably his worst performance of the season.
Barca were also less than solid at the back, where Marc-Andre ter Stegen nearly gifted a goal to Roma with a terrible clearance and the usually reliable Umtiti was lucky not to concede after ponderously failing to clear a routine cross.
Tactically, the chief point of interest was the decision of Valverde to overlook flying winger Ousmane Dembele, who adds another dimension to his team’s attacking play but can be a liability defensively. Whether Valverde can afford to be so cautious against Liverpool, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the semi-finals is highly debatable.
‘Roma should have had a penalty’
Roma striker Dzeko felt he should have had an early penalty when he went down under pressure from Nelson Semedo – with referee Makkelie awarding a goal-kick.
“The penalty could have changed the game,” he said. “The referee needs to have the courage to give a penalty against Barcelona, because we are also in the quarter-finals and all of the teams here have earned the right to play.
“I don’t know whether it’s a question of mentality; they are a better side than us and everyone is aware of this – 3-1 would have been a better result but when you make so many errors against a side this good you get punished.”
Valverde said: “Football is a game of errors. You want to make your rivals commit them and to avoid them yourself. We all want our players to be perfect and never make errors but we all do. Even coaches.
“During the season there are all types of games. Ones where you merit more than you get and ones were you get more than you merit.
“We scored the goals we merited, they attacked us and got the goal they were looking for, which made our fourth very important.”