STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): Andrea Belotti and Paulo Dybala found the net in an electrifying first half as AS Roma overturned a first-leg defeat to beat Salzburg 2-0 in the capital and reach the last 16 of the Europa League with a 2-1 aggregate victory.
Jose Mourinho’s men conceded late to lose 1-0 in Austria last week and knew they needed at least two goals to go through in 90 minutes on home turf.
They came flying out of the blocks in search of an opener and wing-back Leonardo Spinazzola was at his dazzling best as he flew down the left wing to set up goals for Belotti and Dybala before the break.
Shorn of first-choice striker Tammy Abraham, who was on the bench with a facial injury that has left him needing a mask, Roma still dominated and created numerous chances before sitting on their lead after the break to see out the win relatively comfortably.
Roma’s progression topped off a superb week for Italian clubs in Europe, with the Lupi and Juventus reaching the Europa League last 16, Lazio and Fiorentina doing likewise in the Conference League, and Napoli and Inter earning Champions League victories.
At times this season Roma haven’t looked like a side naturally suited to chasing a comeback win, but they had aggression and intensity from the off in a superb first half.
Roared on by yet another packed and vociferous Olimpico crowd, the Giallorossi first threatened when a Dybala header came back off the crossbar after his initial effort from the back post at a corner had been pawed back out to him by goalkeeper Philipp Kohn.
Kohn made himself an unpopular figure with some shameless time-wasting at goal kicks that drew the ire of the Lupi faithful, while at the other end Salzburg’s first chance fell to Maurits Kjaergaard, who snatched at a volley and sliced it wide.
Roma soon seized the momentum as Roger Ibanez fizzed an effort just over, Dybala had a dangerous shot deflected wide and Lorenzo Pellegrini stung the palms of Kohn, and it was no great surprise when the breakthrough goal eventually arrived.
Spinazzola did some fine work down the left to beat his man, get into the box and put a cross on a plate for Belotti to head in his third Europa League goal of the season.
The wing-back was creator-in-chief again for Roma’s second in the 40th minute, bursting into space down the left and picking out a team-mate, this time Dybala, who cushioned a volley into the corner.
Mourinho’s side were content to consolidate their advantage after the break, but they were given a warning when Junior Adamu steered a good chance wide from close range at the back post.
Bryan Cristante’s long-range piledriver forced a sharp save from Kohn before Noah Okafor found himself in space inside the Roma area, only to roll a tame shot into Rui Patricio’s arms.
Roma will now be in the pot for the last 16 draw, where they could face the likes of Arsenal, Real Betis, Fenerbahce, Real Sociedad, Feyenoord, or a handful of others.