Roma and Atlético Madrid weren't separated in a 0-0 draw in the Italian capital despite a lively game at the Stadio Olimpico.
Atlético had the better of the chances in the 90 minutes, as Koke’s open goal effort in the first half was brilliantly denied by Kostas Manolas, who made a inch-perfect goal-line clearance to deny the Atlético midfielder before halftime.
Saúl Ñíguez should had won the game for the visitors in the final moments of the game, when the Spanish international was denied by Alisson from a corner as the Brazilian pulled off a fantastic, low save, and the rebounded effort from Saúl smashed off the frame of the bar in the final chance of the game.
A lively start
Both sides started the game intensely, with Roma and Atlético both looking eager to snatch an early goal in their opening game of the Champions League group stage. Saúl came close just three minutes in when the Spaniard was teed up by Filipe Luís outside the penalty area, but Saúl‘s first time strike scrapped past the post.
Saúl continued to be the danger man for the Atlético as the first half progressed, constantly bombing down the right wing with intent and pace, and occasionally cutting in from the channel and finding creative ways to unlock the Roma defence. Despite a stinging strike from Luciano Vietto 16 minutes in, Alisson was barely tested in the opening stages of the game despite the possession Atlético.
A minute of madness ensued on the 32-minute mark, when Radja Nainggolan was denied by Jan Oblak after a textbook set-piece from the edge of the area saw the Belgian midfielder fire a strike from distance, only to be met by a strong hand from the Atlético keeper.
From there, the visitors countered as Antoine Griezmann burst through the deep Roma defence, and as the Frenchman cut the ball back to Koke, it looked like a certain goal for the Spanish winger. However, Manolas timed his tackle perfectly as the Greek defender managed to clear the ball off the line, and the danger was cleared up field.
The atmosphere of the second half was calmer and slower to that of the first half. Both teams were more cautious in their approach to the other team, taking long and meticulous passages of play to find ways to attack their opponent.
Atlético vs. Alisson
Atlético were still the stronger side on the break, though. Los Colchoneros twice came close to breaking the deadlock in a two minute spell 56 minutes in, when Vietto’s close range strike was parried away by Alisson, and moments later, Saúl too was denied by the Brazilian shot stopper.
The introduction of Ángel Correa and Yannick Carrasco past the hour mark instantly caused Roma problems, as the two pacey attackers found it easy to find pockets of space within the tired Roman defence. Carrasco should had it 1-0 63 minutes in, as the Belgian playmaker forced his way into the 18-yard box, and firing a low strike into the corner of the goal, but Alisson was there once again to deny Atlético the opening goal.
A change to Roma
It was at this point that Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco noticed that a change had to be made, and that change came 67 minutes in when winger Grégoire Defrel was replaced by former Tottenham Hotspur defender Federico Fazio, as Di Francesco decided to switch Roma’s shape to the classic Italian formation of 3-5-2.
The switch to a five-man midfield worked wonders on Roma and how they attacked. Bruno Peres and Aleksandar Kolarov were both given the freedom to bomb down the wings, and Diego Perotti was finally given the freedom to test the Atlético defence with his elegant and free-flowing creativity on the ball.
One last chance
With time running out fast, it looked like no team would score in what had been an entertaining game. And that fact was confirmed one minute into stoppage time, when an Atlético corner found the head of Saúl. Despite the Spanish midfielder making a good connection with the ball, Alisson again was able to get down low and make a vital save, but the ball fell back to Saúl. However, the Atlético number 8’s rebounded shot smashed against the frame of the post, and the ball flew out for a goal kick.
The chances and possession were there, but in the end neither side could find the back of the net, as the opening game of the Champions League for Roma and Atlético ended 0-0.