UEFA Europa League
Round of 32, First-leg
Estadio de la Cerámica, Villarreal, Spain
Roma all but ensured their progression into the UEFA Europa League Last-16 after thrashing Villarreal 4-0 in the first-leg of their Round of 32 tie at the Estadio de la Cerámica in Villarreal.
Emerson’s fantastic first-half strike put the Italian side ahead before a second-half hat-trick from Edin Džeko extended their first-leg tally and all but eliminate last season’s Semi-finalists.
The visitors started well and went close in the 19th minute when Stephan El Shaarawy initially did well to control the ball and find Džeko, who dragged an effort wide of the target on the turn.
Four minutes later the hosts went close when Samu Castillejo exchanged a string of passes with Manu Trigueros before firing an effort just over the bar from-range.
In the 29th minute the hosts had a good chance when Bruno Soriano’s delivery from a freekick was met by Mario Gaspar but his header was tame and Allison made a comfortable save.
A minute later the visitors had a great chance themselves when a fine cross from El Shaarawy was met by Džeko but his header was straight at Sergio Asenjo.
A minute later the Giallorossi took the lead. Castillejo was dispossessed by Emerson, who cut-inside before firing home a fantastic swerving effort from-range with his weaker right-foot.
On the stroke of half-time the Italian side went close to doubling their lead and Emerson was involved yet again. The Brazilian surged forward before firing an effort that Asenjo palmed away at his near-post.
Six minutes into the restart the hosts went close when Cédric Bakambu surged forward, beating a number of Roma players in the process, before firing an effort just over the bar.
Three minutes later the hosts went close again when a Trigueros cross following a corner was flicked-on by Gaspar, whose header forced Alisson into a fine save at his near-post.
A minute later Villarreal went close again when a deflected Castillejo strike tested Alisson. Alisson was tested again three minutes later by Castillejo’s effort from a tight-angle following a corner, but the keeper made a good save at his near-post.
Trigueros was next to force the Brazilian into a save, a minute later but the Villarreal midfielder’s powerful strike was straightforward for the Roma goalkeeper.
In the 65th minute the visitors doubled their lead when substitute Mohamed Salah’s pull-back found Džeko, who feinted to beat Mateo Musacchio before firing home across Asenjo.
Ten minutes later the hosts went close to pulling goal back when a Soriano freekick went through the wall but Alisson made a good save.
Four minutes later the visitors made it three when Džeko latched onto a fine cross-field pass from substitute Juan Jesus, before firing an effort that Asenjo couldn’t keep out.
Seven minutes later Džeko completed his hat-trick. Radja Nainggolan’s pull-back found Džeko, who shifted the ball onto his left foot before firing home past Asenjo.
Three minutes later the hosts went close to reducing the deficit when a Villarreal freekick was cleared to substitute Rafael Santos Borré, whose volley flew just wide.
In the second minute on injury, the visitors had a good chance to make it five when a swift break led by Kevin Strootman found Salah, who looked set to score, but he dragged his effort just wide although the flag was up for offside.
The result meant that Roma will go into the second-leg with a four-goal margin, a margin with four away goals too and will just need to prevent the Spaniards from scoring four. Villarreal will somehow need to find five away goals at the Stadio Olimpico but even that may not be enough should Roma score in the Italian capital. The defeat was also Villarreal’s heaviest home defeat since 2007.