From a possible sacrifice for his cash-strapped club in January, Edin Dzeko proved his worth to Roma Tuesday, sealing a first Champions League quarter-final berth in a decade.
After the 31-year-old’s proposed move to Chelsea fell through in the winter transfer window, Dzeko helped the balance sheet of the club’s US owner James Pallotta by securing Roma’s place in the last eight of Europe’s lucrative elite competition.
“I didn’t want to go in January because I want to play these kind of games,” explained Dzeko after his 52nd-minute goal clinched a place in the last eight after a 2-1 first-leg loss in Ukraine amid scenes of euphoria in the Stadio Olympico.
Cengiz Under’s goal in the first leg last month ultimately proved crucial for Roma, but Dzeko was the hero on the night and also proved instrumental in Shakhtar defender Ivan Ordets being shown a straight red card with 12 minutes left.
“We managed to do something that had been missing for 10 years,” said Dzeko. “Going forward and playing with big teams is a pride for all of us.”
Dzeko proved to be a leader on the pitch with coach Eusebio Di Francesco giving him a standing ovation at the end.
“It is not for me, but for everyone, we are deservedly in the quarter-finals,” said the Bosnian after his fourth Champions League goal, and 18th in total for the club this season.
“Dzeko is our diamond,” said Italian defender Alessandro Florenzi.
“It’s my first Champions League quarter-final, so it’s a euphoric moment,” added Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan as Roma qualified for a third quarter-finals of the modern Champions League.
“It’s really satisfying for me because I think we saw a team being born this evening,” said Di Francesco. “We played a team game, a man’s match. We didn’t give them anything.”
After Italy’s shock failure to qualify for the World Cup, Roma’s progress to the last eight along with Juventus is a boost for the country.
Juventus have reached two finals in the last three seasons. The last Italian club to win the title was Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho in 2010.
“There aren’t any teams I want to avoid,” continued Di Francesco looking ahead to Friday’s draw. “Roma must not fear anyone. I want to continue to dream with this team.”
There will also be at least three Italian coaches in the quarter-finals — Di Francesco, Massimiliano Allegri of Juventus and Vincenzo Montella of Sevilla.
“I spoke a few days ago with Montella. We said we’d meet in the final,” said the Roma coach.
“Joking aside, whatever the team we meet they will be welcome. In the meanwhile we’ll prepare for the (Serie A) match against Crotone.”
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