Valverde under fire for cautious tactics

Roma's Edin Dzeko is fouled by Barcelona's Gerard Pique, resulting in a penalty which Daniele de Rossi converted to put his side 2-0 up.
Roma's Edin Dzeko is fouled by Barcelona's Gerard Pique, resulting in a penalty which Daniele de Rossi converted to put his side 2-0 up.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID • Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde's conservatism was cited by the Spanish media as the main reason for their 3-0 defeat at Roma on Tuesday that led to a shock Champions League quarter-final elimination being regarded as "a historic debacle".

Barca outclassed Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final at the Olympic Stadium but the venue will now be remembered as the scene of one of their biggest humiliations after they surrendered a 4-1 advantage from the first leg.

Valverde was also harangued for his failure to react to Roma's dominance after they took an early lead through Edin Dzeko, before Daniele de Rossi's penalty and a late Kostas Manolas header sent the Italians through on away goals.

"To be in the semi-finals of the Champions League, you need spark and the capacity to take risks. That is what has defined Barca over the years, but the players and the coach woke up too late," wrote Barcelona-based newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

Roma coach Eusebio di Francesco overhauled his formation after the first leg, fielding a 3-5-2 shape which overwhelmed Barca with relentless pressing that also nullified talisman Lionel Messi.

Valverde did not make any changes until it was 3-0 in the 81st minute, bringing off an exhausted Andres Iniesta for Andre Gomes, and throwing on the speedy Ousmane Dembele and forward Paco Alcacer only in late desperation.

"With his team at a clear disadvantage but still in the tie, Valverde didn't go for an attacking solution like putting on Dembele when there was still space," Marca added.

"When the Frenchman finally came on, Roma had their three goals and closed their defence. It was a missed opportunity."

Valverde addressed his lack of substitutions after the game and appeared to lay the blame on his players. "I thought that when the game was equal, with them needing one more goal, there was enough experience in the team to see the game out," he said.

Captain Iniesta said: "It's painful because no one expected this after the advantage we had, but you realise what the reality of the Champions League is like when you do things badly, when you make lots of errors, when you don't adapt to the game."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2018, with the headline 'Valverde under fire for cautious tactics'. Print Edition | Subscribe