Roma beats Leverkusen 3-2 to revive chances of advancing
ROME (AP) Miralem Pjanic scored a late penalty and Roma edged Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 Wednesday to revive its chances of advancing in the Champions League.
Leverkusen captain Omer Toprak was shown a red card for pushing Mohamed Salah as the Egypt international chased a rebound and Pjanic converted the penalty 10 minutes from the end.
Salah and Edin Dzeko gave Roma a 2-0 lead at the break before Admir Mehmedi and Javier Hernandez scored for Leverkusen early in the second half.
''We should have closed the match out earlier, in the first half when we created a lot of chances,'' Pjanic said. ''We often have problems controlling a lead. We're not able to close matches out. But fortunately it went well today.
''We absolutely had to win and we did,'' Pjanic said.
Barcelona extended its lead in Group E with a 3-0 win over BATE Borisov and has 10 points. Roma is next with five points, Leverkusen has four and BATE three.
''The standings are very tight. When you put together Italian, German and Spanish clubs in the same group it's going to go down to the final match,'' Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt said.
The victory ended a five-match winless streak at home in Europe for Roma and gives the Giallorossi confidence entering Sunday's derby against Lazio.
Since beating CSKA Moscow in last season's group stage, Roma's home record in Europe included draws with Barcelona and Feyenoord and losses to Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Fiorentina. A 7-1 loss to Bayern last season was particularly painful.
Aiming to turn things around, Roma dominated at the start and Dzeko provided an excellent through ball for Salah, who finished off a swift counterattack to give Roma the lead after just 100 seconds.
The second goal was much like the first, but with Dzeko on the receiving end of a pass from Radja Nainggolan, setting up Dzeko to score from the edge of the area near the half-hour mark.
It was the second goal in all competitions this season for Dzeko, who has been under pressure to perform after transferring from Manchester City.
''I'm definitely not happy that I've only scored two goals so far but I'm happy with the goal today and even more happy that the team got victory today,'' Dzeko said. ''Recently I played a lot for the team but didn't score goals. But when you're a striker your job is to score goals. I definitely have to do better in the future.''
Mehmedi pulled one back for Leverkusen less than a minute into the second half, firing in a shot just under the crossbar after getting set up by Kevin Kampl.
Hernandez then beat the offside trap and scored on an angled shot with fullback Alessandro Florenzi to blame.
It was the fourth goal in as many matches for the Mexico international Hernandez.
Mehmedi nearly won it with a shot that Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny deflected with his boot.
It seemed as if another draw was in order after the teams produced a 4-4 result two weeks ago in Germany but then Salah was denied a sure goal off the rebound of a shot from Daniele De Rossi when he was pushed by Toprak. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno dived to the correct side but couldn't stop Pjanic's spot kick.
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf
(This story has been corrected to show Barcelona is in Group E, not Group B.)