A late header from Luiz Henrique gave Real Betis a 2-1 win over AS Roma in Italy and maintained their 100% start to the Europa League group stages.
The visitors, who made nine changes from their weekend defeat to Celta Vigo, nearly broke the deadlock early on when Nabil Fekir rattled the post with a low effort. That proved to be his final involvement though, as the French international limped off minutes later through injury.
Roma, who in typical Jose Mourinho fashion were sat very deep, showed little attacking threat, but opened the scoring through Paulo Dybala’s penalty after being gifted a cheap penalty, via VAR, for handball against Andres Guardado.
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Five minutes later, the game was all square again as Guido Rodriguez unleashed an unstoppable thunderbolt from 25-yards that arrowed into the bottom corner. There was still time for Nicolo Zaniolo to rattle the woodwork from Nicola Zalewski’s cross before the break, while Dybale forced a sensational finger-tip stop out of Claudio Bravo seconds later.
The former Manchester City goalkeeper was on hand to make another excellent save, this time from Bryan Cristante, after half-time. Chances though were rare, as both teams struggled to break down sturdy opposition defences.
In the final minutes Henrique's brilliant header beat Patricio for what proved to be the winner whilst Roma's frustration boiled over in added time when Nicolo Zaniolo was shown a red card.
TALKING POINT - Harsh penalty opens door for Roma’s opener
It is fair to say that not everybody knows exactly how the handball rule works in terms of VAR, but certainly the awarding of a penalty for such an infringement seemed harsh against Andres Guardado.
The referee waved away the incident initially, with Roma barely protesting as Dybala’s free-kick hit the Mexican international near the six yard box, deflecting into the path of Chris Smalling.
Certainly, he made no movement of his arm towards the ball, but VAR ordered the referee to have a look at the replay, and as is so often the case, after watching it in slow motion, he decided to award a penalty. Had it not been for that, the hosts may not have scored at all.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH - Claudio Bravo (Real Betis)
The goalkeeper showed no signs of old age as his sublime stops earned Real Betis a thoroughly deserved point at the Stadio Olimpico.
At 39, the Chilean international wasn’t even the oldest player on the pitch - that honour went to 41-year old Joaquin, but he certainly shone the brightest, first spectacularly arching his back to tip a Paulo Dybala thunderbolt over the bar in the first half.
After the break, he was on hand again, this time to deny Bryan Cristante, who unleashed a vicious point-blank range strike that was palmed clear, while the former Manchester City man also crucially diverted a Nicolo Zaniolo cross away from danger just moments before Henrique’s winning strike.
Roma: Patricio 6; Ibanez 6, Smalling 7, Mancini 7; Celik n/a, Cristante 6, Matic 6, Zalewski 7; Dybala 7, Abraham 5, Zaniolo 5.
Subs: Spinazzola 6, Belotti 6, Camara n/a, El Shaarawy n/a
Real Betis: Bravo 8; Ruibal 6, Pezzella 6, Felipe 6, Miranda 6; Canales 6, Rodriguez 6, Fekir 7, Guardado 7, Joaquin 7, Jose 6.
Subs: Henrique 8, Rodri 6, Carvalho n/a, Iglesias n/a, Morena n/a
13’ BETIS HIT THE POST That's an excellent bit of play by Fekir, who dips inside and eyes the bottom corner, only to hit the post with a low left footed strike. Patricio was well beaten. Terrific effort
35’ GOAL! ROMA 1-0 REAL BETIS (Dybala) Dybala swings a free-kick into the box and it hits Andres Guardada on the arm. It’s a very harsh penalty, awarded by the referee after VAR told him to look at the replay. Dybala steps up to take and sends Claudio Bravo the wrong way. 1-0!
40’ GOAL! ROMA 1-1 REAL BETIS (Rodriguez). Oh my days! What a goal that is! Guido Rodriguez nets just his second European goal with a thumping drive from 25-yards that arrows into the bottom corner. You don't save those. Stunner!
45’ ROMA RATTLE THE BAR! Zaniolo's shooting hasn't always been accurate tonight, but he's just been picked out but a beautiful Zalewski cross, only to hit the bar from close range
88’ GOAL! ROMA 1-2 REAL BETIS (Henrique) That is a stunning header! You won't see many better! The Brazilian is picked out at the back post and he brilliantly nods back across goal, over Patricio and into the back of the net. That is incredible
90’ RED CARD! A petulant kick out by Zaniolo is spotted by the assistant referee and he gets a straight red.
- Roma were previously unbeaten in 20 home European matches, stretching back to 2018
- Real Betis, who have never been past the last-16 of the Europa League, have won their opening three group games for the first time
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