Moscow: Roma inched closer to a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League yesterday thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 win over 10-man CSKA Moscow in the Luzhniki Stadium.
Roma are now five points ahead of third-placed CSKA with two games remaining and can seal qualification for the last 16 round against Real Madrid at the Stadio Olimpico later this month.
Valencia cranked up the pressure on Manchester United in Champions League Group H by beating Young Boys 3-1 as the Spanish side registered their first home win of the season.
Carlos Soler, the talented 21-year-old, teed up two Santi Mina strikes in the first half before finding the net himself to seal a rare win for a team whose season has so far been ravaged by draws.
An early Kostas Manolas header and Lorenzo Pellegrini’s neat finish just before the hour mark gave Roma a win that puts them three points clear of second-placed Real Madrid at the top of Group G ahead of the European champions’ clash with Viktoria Plzen later yesterday.
Iceland midfielder Arnor Sigurdsson, meanwhile, was on target for CSKA.
Manolas got Roma off to a flying start when he glanced Pellegrini’s fourth-minute corner past CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
CSKA poured forward trying to pull level but the visitors’ defence stifled the home team and left them trying fruitless long-range shots.
The hosts had a rare chance to score in the 26th minute when Slovenian midfielder Jaka Bijol met Nikola Vlasic’s corner but could only direct his header straight at Roma ‘keeper Robin Olsen.
Five minutes later, Roma replied with a powerful free-kick by Aleksandar Kolarov, which forced Akinfeev to push the ball to Edin Dzeko, whose attempt on the rebound flashed over the crossbar.
However CSKA came out all guns blazing in the second half and Sigurdsson levelled five minutes after the break, expertly taking a fizzing Ilzat Akhmetov pass under pressure in the area and stroking the ball past Olsen’s outstretched hands.