ROME: Roma put one foot in the quarter-finals of the Europa League on Thursday (Mar 7) after hammering Brighton 4-0 as Daniele De Rossi dominated his good friend Roberto De Zerbi.

First-half goals from star strike pairing Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku gave Roma the platform for a convincing last 16, first-leg win over their Premier League opponents at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Gianluca Mancini and Bryan Cristante completed the rout as Roma continued to love life after Jose Mourinho and with their former captain De Rossi, who has turned his boyhood club’s season around in less than two months.

A thumping eighth win in 10 matches for De Rossi since replacing Mourinho in January has Roma all-but in the last eight before next week’s second leg in England.

“All teams have hard periods, it’s not like I’ve done anything special,” said De Rossi to Sky Sport.

“I’m very happy but they’re really good players. They’re winning matches that they should be winning… It’s a good team and it wins matches, I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary.”

De Rossi’s expansive style of play is inspired by De Zerbi, and both men are also close friends to the point that their daughters meet in London to watch Roma matches.

They will have been impressed with what Roma served up in front of their raucous support, who made a huge racket while their team racked up the goals in a way that would have been almost unthinkable under Mourinho.

“It’s difficult to explain. He’s a coach with very good ideas, he’s surprised me. He’s also a very positive person who helps the team to believe in itself,” said Mile Svilar to Sky.

Brighton are in their first-ever European knockout tie and their inexperience showed against Roma who have gone deep in both the Europa and Champions League in recent seasons, as well as winning the inaugural Europa Conference League under Mourinho.


“The only positive thing is that I lost to a friend, imagine how bad it would have been to lose like that to someone I didn?t like,” De Zerbi told reporters.

“I think today will teach something to everyone from the president down… It will help my players because when you have regrets you know exactly what to expect the next time.”

Roma started off on the front foot and could have been ahead with less than three minutes on the clock when Jason Steele did brilliantly to keep out Romelu Lukaku’s close-range header.

Lukaku scuffed wide shortly afterwards, before Evan Ndicka nearly handed Brighton the lead in the seventh minute by diverting Simon Adingra’s cross onto his own post.

But Dybala did strike first blood for the hosts in the 13th minute, and it was a brilliant goal.

The Argentina forward raced through unopposed to meet Leandro Paredes’ superb through ball before skipping past Steele and rolling home a finish, which was initially ruled out for offside but then given after a VAR check to the delight of home fans.

Roma were much the better team but Danny Welbeck twice forced excellent saves from Adingra crosses.

The second save in first-half stoppage time made sure that Roma were two goals to the good at the break, after Lukaku had shortly before robbed Lewis Dunk and rammed home his second goal in as many games.

Welbeck sliced another good chance wide in the 57th minute and seven minutes later Mancini got on the end of Stephan El Shaarawy’s inswinging cross to poke in Roma’s third.

Brighton were reeling and Cristante gave De Zerbi’s team a mountain to climb, heading home another pinpoint El Shaarawy cross at the end of a sweeping Roma move which highlighted the difference between the two sides.

The Roma fans were in fine voice and will start to dream of getting to Dublin in May, after having already seen their team get to European finals in the last two seasons.


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