Things got weird as Barcelona beat Roma on two own goals

Roma’s Diego Perotti tries to stop Barcelona’s Luis Suarez during the Champions League quarterfinal first leg at Camp Nou. (AP)
Roma’s Diego Perotti tries to stop Barcelona’s Luis Suarez during the Champions League quarterfinal first leg at Camp Nou. (AP)

For all the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal games FC Barcelona has won – and there have been many in recent years, with the Catalans reaching this stage for an 11th straight year – few have been as strange as Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over AS Roma.

Consider first that the last time these two met at the Camp Nou in this tournament, Barca prevailed 6-1 in the group stage of the 2015-16 edition. This time around, the score sounded convincing, but the performance was much less so.

Because the home side benefited from two own goals; two probable Roma penalties that were denied; a third goal by a defender, Gerard Pique, who hadn’t scored in this competition in more than a year and a half; and a fourth from Luis Suarez, getting his first European goal in just over a year.

Late on, Edin Dzeko got Roma on the board, briefly salvaging some hope for the return leg with the precious away goal – only for it to be snuffed out by Suarez.

Barca was utterly dominant, endlessly knocking on the door – and knocking … and knocking … But it was a constricted game, as a deeply frustrated Lionel Messi’s dribbles ran aground again and again in the narrow channels of Roma’s defense. The Catalans needed a great deal of good fortune to emerge with a strong hand to get to the semifinals for the first time since 2015, when they won the entire tournament.

Because early on, Barca defender Nelson Semedo clipped Dzeko in his own box. It should have been a penalty kick. But there is no Video Assistant Referee in the Champions League, and that would redound to Barca’s benefit on several occasions.

The home side first went close in the 18th minute in weird fashion, befitting this bizarre game. Ivan Rakitic picked up his own mis-cleared corner and whipped it off the bottom of the far post with a tight curler.

But Daniele De Rossi would put Barca on the scoreboard as the Roma veteran, captain and talisman finished superbly with a sliding shot. He tried to keep the ball away from Messi, who would have had a juicy shot in full stride, but sent the ball soaring around his own goalkeeper and into the net.

Before halftime, Samuel Umtiti was spared the same fate as Semedo as he, too, probably surrendered a legitimate penalty, only to be bailed out by referee Danny Makkelie. He brought down Lorenzo Pellegrini on the very edge of the box, sending the midfielder to ground inside the area.

And right out of the intermission, Roma’s Diego Perotti was granted a promising header but nodded it unforgivably wide.

Roma’s fate was more or less sealed by a second own goal. Kostas Manolas slid to keep the ball away from Umtiti in the goal mouth. He pinged the ball off the near post, only for the rebound to skip back to him and trickle in off his knee. Umtiti tried to claim the goal, but the replay didn’t lie.

Before the hour, Pique got his annual Champions League goal. A low Suarez shot forced a save from Alisson, but he pushed it right into the path of Pique, gifting him a tap-in. It was his first continental goal since Sept. 28 of 2016.

Barca netminder Marc-Andre Ter Stegen kept things interesting with a bad turnover, followed by a panther-like prowl to recover the chance he’d himself created for Roma.

In the 80th minute, Dzeko saved Roma’s honor. He bodied off Jordi Alba in the goalmouth and rolled his finish just past Ter Stegen.

But the in-form Suarez would finally get his goal, and break his European hex, with a tidy finish in tight space in the box in the 87th minute. That was his first tally in this competition since the round of 16 last season.

In the end, if Barca is to win another Champions League title, and possibly complete a third treble in a decade, this game won’t be remembered as some seminal performance that accelerated a building momentum. If anything, it will likely be forgotten if the Catalans prevail again with a fourth European crown in 10 years. (Conversely, if Barca falls short again, this game might be held up as evidence that something was amiss even before its elimination.)

They say it’s better to be lucky than good. That theory tends not to hold up over the long run in a competition like the Champions League. But at the moment, Barca will happily report that it is both.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports communication lecturer at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.