Roma had won only three of their previous 19 matches in the competition before Tuesday’s game. Their poor series of results included a 7-1 home defeat by Bayern Munich, a 6-1 thumping at Barcelona and a 3-0 home defeat by Porto, which cost them a place in last season’s group stage.
Go further back and a 7-1 defeat against Manchester United also sticks in the memory.
“We said in the dressing room before the match that we have not had many great nights in the Champions League and there have been a few where we have been battered,” captain Daniele De Rossi said.
“Few believed in us, but we are top of the group and deservedly. But we don’t win matches like this so we can take photos and put them on the mantelpiece; we must to push on from here.”
Roma lead Group C with eight points from four games and are one win away from a place in the last 16.
They have won eight out of 10 matches in the league and not conceded a goal in their last four outings in all competitions.
Yet they started the season amid uncertainty.
Two of their key players, winger Mohamed Salah and defender Antonio Ruediger, left during the transfer window and, for the first time since 1993, there was no Francesco Totti in the squad, the talismanic player having retired at the age of 40.
Coach Luciano Spalletti also departed despite guiding them to second place in Serie A with a record points haul last season and was replaced by Eusebio Di Francesco, who had no previous experience coaching a big club.
But the 48-year-old has galvanised the team and the players have adapted quickly to his 4-3-3 formation.
“I like the results and the way we are trying to play,” said De Rossi.
“The coach has changed the way we confront the opponent. We are always aggressive, against everyone, even against teams that in the past we would have waited and been timid with.”
Remembering their goalless draw at home to Atletico Madrid in September, De Rossi was quick to point out that opinions can change very quickly in football.
“We didn’t deserve the stick we got for that result and we mustn’t get carried away now,” he said.
“Football is much more difficult that it seems when people are talking about it in a bar.” (Earlier story on Page 23).REUTERS