September 12, 2017 / 8:46 PM / 11 days ago

Roma cling on for draw thanks to Alisson heroics

Soccer Football - Champions League - AS Roma vs Atletico Madrid - Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy - September 12, 2017 AS Roma's Diego Perotti in action with Atletico Madrid's Nicolas Gaitan REUTERS/Max Rossi

ROME (Reuters) - AS Roma clung on a for a 0-0 draw at home to Atletico Madrid in their opening Champions League group game thanks to a string of fine saves from goalkeeper Alisson on Tuesday.

The Italian side were also indebted to a superb goal-line clearance by defender Kostas Manolas in the first half and enjoyed a slice of luck when Atletico’s Saul Niguez missed an open goal in stoppage time of the Group C game.

Despite the relief at the final whistle, it was still a poor result for Roma in a group where Atletico and Chelsea are favourites to qualify and they extended their winless run in the competition, including qualifying games, to seven matches.

The Serie A side have not won a Champions League match since they beat Bayer Leverkusen in November 2015 and have managed only one win in their last 16 games in the competition.

“The good teams have good goalkeepers. Tonight he was decisive and I hope he will continue to be,” said Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco.

Soccer Football - Champions League - AS Roma vs Atletico Madrid - Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy - September 12, 2017 AS Roma's Konstantinos Manolas clears the ball off the line REUTERS/Max Rossi

The first half was reasonably even with Radja Nainggolan’s piledriver forcing Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak to make a difficult save and Edin Dzeko firing wide from a good position.

In between those chances, Roma somehow survived when Manolas managed to block Koke’s point-blank effort on the line and Alisson, who spent most of last season as a reserve to Wojciech Szczesny, then stopped Antoine Griezmann’s effort.

Slideshow (15 Images)

Diego Simeone’s side took the game by the scruff of the neck after halftime and Alisson came into his own.

The 24-year-old tipped Luciano Vietto’s shot on to the bar after the Atletico forward broke through the Roma rearguard and then saved Niguez’s side-footed effort from the edge of the area.

He then made a splendid one-handed save from Angel Correa and turned Yannick Carrasco’s long-range effort over the bar before saving the best for last.

Niguez rose to meet a corner with a powerful downward header which looked goalbound until Alisson stuck out his hand to block it on the ground and, although Niguez was first to the rebound, he fired over from point-blank range.

Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Clare Fallon

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