Roma, Leverkusen trade goals in high-scoring Champions League draw
Admir Mehmedi scored late on to complete the second sensational comeback as Leverkusen and Roma played out a thrilling 4-4 draw in the Champions League.
The substitute hit the net on 86 minutes, following up Kevin Kampl’s goal two minutes before to rescue a point for Leverkusen after the Germans lost a 2-0 first half lead.
Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic carved out two goals from set-plays before then executing a marvelous free kick – his eighth strike since 2013-14 – from 25 yards to put Roma ahead. Leverkusen had taken the lead through a Javier Hernandez double, but Daniele de Rossi canceled the striker’s efforts out before the interval.
Roger Schmidt’s men have started the domestic season sluggishly, sitting seventh in the table, six points off second place and well below their pre-season expectations. Coming off the back of a 0-0 draw at Hamburg on Saturday, Schmidt recalled Wendell, Kevin Kampl and Hakan Calhanoglu back to the side. Omer Toprak continued in central-midfield with the prolonged absence of captain Lars Bender.
Leverkusen, who beat Roma’s rivals Lazio in qualification, made the perfect start – with the help of the match referee. Calhanoglu’s cross from the left struck the arm of Torosidis and Hungarian official Viktor Kassai pointed to the spot to the frustration of the Italians.
After recent misses, Calhanoglu stepped aside and Hernandez sent the keeper the wrong way to put Leverkusen in front – the Germans have led in all of their group games this season.
Roma was started without Edin Dzeko and Francesco Totti in attack, but Pjanic threatened minutes later, forcing the first action from Bernd Leno.
But Leverkusen instead took advantage of their chances in the early exchanges, the creativity of Calhanoglu a constant danger around the 18-yard-box. On 19 minutes, he split the Roma defense and Hernandez finished at the second attempt after former Arsenal goalie Wojciech Szczesny had made an initial save.
On matchday two, Barcelona scored two in the last quarter of an hour to turn the game around as Leverkusen stood on the verge of a historic win at the Camp Nou. When De Rossi bundled home Miralem Pjanic’s free kick on 29 minutes, there was a sense of inevitability. The Roma captain reacted quickest to prod home after Leverkusen failed to clear the set piece.
Hernandez – who scored one of Mexico’s goals in the win over USA last week – ought to have snapped up his third on 31 minutes. The former Manchester United and Real Madrid poacher threw himself at Karim Bellarabi’s cross yet somehow managed to miss from around four yards out with the goal open.
And that slackness in front of goal was punished on 37 minutes – Pjanic delivered once again and De Rossi bundled home the equalizer with his knee. The last time the Roma captain played at the BayArena, he was shown his marching orders.
Leverkusen has earned the tag ‘Neverkusen’ in Germany for their propensity to throw away a lead at the death. This time, however, the Werkself were undone by a moment of brilliance on 54 minutes as Pjanic beat Leno with a 25-yard free kick.
From then onwards, Roma was in control. Rudi Garcia’s men drew with Barcelona on matchday one but lost 3-2 at BATE Borisov on matchday two. A quick counterattack on 73 minutes was finished off impressively by substitute Ingo Falque.
But proceedings weren’t finished there. Leverkusen mustered up extra effort and determination to salvage a point with two goals in the space of two minutes.
On 84 minutes, Kampl, who joined from Borussia Dortmund this summer, cut inside from the left-flank on to his right-foot and he beat Roma’s Polish keeper all ends up with a brilliant strike. And then two minutes later, Kampl took the game by the scruff of the neck, linking up with Wendell and the Brazilian put it on a plate for Mehmedi who cushioned into an empty net.
"We dropped two points today and deserved to win because we played well from the start," Roma’s Radja Nainggolan told Mediaset Premium. "The penalty so early knocked us down, but we did well to get back in front. We can be disappointed with the result today, but that’s football."
He added: "With the last two goals we lost the ball in a stupid way and ran risks when we shouldn’t have done. Perhaps we felt too confident being 4-2 up."
A point for each side leaves the battle for second place wide open with the pair winning once and losing one in their opening two Champions League matches. The pair meet in a fortnight at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.