Florenzi long-range goal gives Roma 1-1 draw with Barcelona

ROME (AP) Alessandro Florenzi scored an incredible goal from near the halfway line to earn Roma a 1-1 draw against title-holder Barcelona in Group E of the Champions League on Wednesday.

There was also some questionable conduct from Luis Suarez in an entertaining match at the Stadio Olimpico.

After an opening goal from Suarez, Florenzi’s equalizer came just after the half-hour mark.

Two strides after dribbling past the halfway line on the right flank, Florenzi looked up and saw goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen far out of his goal and launched a shot from more than 60 meters (yards) over the German’s head that went in off the post.

”It will be something to remember,” Florenzi said. ”It’s not something that happens often.”

In the 21st, Suarez met a cross from Ivan Rakitic by the far post and headed into an empty net. Roma protested for a perceived foul moments earlier by Lionel Messi on Lucas Digne.

Messi, making his 100th Champions League appearance, hit the crossbar in the 78th – the closest either side came to a winner.

Suarez, who gained notoriety for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at last year’s World Cup, later appeared to kick Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the chest after being denied by the Poland international.

It’s not the first time ter Stegen has conceded a goal while out of position this season.

It also happened in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Bilbao, when Mikel San Jose lobbed a long clearance back over the goalkeeper’s head with a shot from inside the center circle.

”You can concede a goal when you least expect it, as we showed,” said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who managed Roma for the 2011-12 season. ”But it was a very good match for Barcelona and I’m very satisfied with what I saw on the pitch.”

In the other Group E match, Bayer Leverkusen beat BATE Borisov 4-1.

”It’s a draw that’s worth as much as a victory,” Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi said.

Barcelona won four of six away games in last season’s competition, going on to beat Juventus in the final. But defeating Italian clubs on the road has been a different story.

Barcelona has won just one of their last seven matches in Italy – 3-2 at AC Milan in the 2011-12 group stage. Their overall record from 20 away matches against Serie A sides is six wins, eight draws and six losses.

Roma, meanwhile, appears vastly improved from last season when it was routed 7-1 at home by Bayern Munich. The Giallorossi already beat four-time defending champion Juventus 2-1 in Serie A. With an impressive array of new players in Edin Dzeko, Iago Falque, Mohamed Salah and Szczesny, Rudi Garcia’s club now looks for real in Europe, too.

”We’ve improved,” Roma coach Garcia said. ”The experience we had last year in the Champions League helped.”

Still, it was a nervous start for Roma as Messi made his presence known immediately with a warning shot four minutes in that went a whisker over the bar.

Roma showed composure as Dzeko evaded two defenders near midfield and dribbled all the way into Barca’s area before coughing the ball up directly to a defender.

Suarez may have had a case for a penalty when Szczesny made contact with the center forward in the 24th, but the referee ruled to play on.

With the sold-out crowd coming to life after Florenzi’s goal, Roma was more energized and just before halftime Salah raced on to a long ball and beat two defenders, but shot off mark.

Roma’s reserve goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis replaced Szczesny after the Poland international appeared to injure his right hand while stopping Suarez early in the second half.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar each produced more chances for Barcelona, and an inspired Florenzi missed a good opportunity in the 76th.

Messi’s shot off the bar came two minutes later, with an expert volley after the ball bounced off the thigh of defender Antonio Rudiger.

De Sanctis did the rest, saving a dangerous effort from Sergi Roberto in added time, seconds after Kostas Manolas headed away danger.

Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf