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EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

CITY

Manchester City see off Roma to reach last 16

Manuel Pellegrini hailed his depleted Manchester City side's resolve after a 2-0 win over Roma secured the English champions' an unlikely ticket for the knockout phase of the Champions League on Wednesday.

Manchester City see off Roma to reach last 16
Manchester City's Argentinian defender Pablo Zabaleta celebrates after scoring during Champions League football match against AS Roma. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

City, requiring at least a score-draw to go through to the knock-out phase, were dominated for large periods of the match at a packed Stadio Olimpico where a win would have secured Roma's passage for the first time since the 2010/11 season.

However, Pellegrini's men made up for the absence of key players including top scorer Sergio Aguero and defender Vincent Kompany to turn the match on its head on the hour mark when Samir Nasri fired a superb shot past Morgan De Sanctis and in off the keeper's near post.

It settled City's nerves and after Roma spurned a series of late chances to level the Frenchman coolly set up Pablo Zabaleta inside the box for his first Champions League goal in the 86th minute.

City finished second in Group E behind already-qualified Bayern Munich with Roma finishing third to drop into the Europa League.

But Pellegrini said he had plenty of faith that City, whose Group E campaign was revived by a stunning Aguero treble in a shock 3-2 win over Bayern a fortnight ago, would rise to the challenge.

"Maybe in this moment if we hadn't qualified for the next round, it would be easy for me to say we were missing a lot of players, but I have a lot of trust and confidence in this squad," said Pellegrini.

"I always repeat the same answer. I don't think this team is just one player and I think that today demonstrated that."

City could welcome back Aguero if the Argentinian striker, who has scored 14 Premier League goals and 19 in all competitions so far this season, recovers in time for February's last 16 ties.

Ahead of that challenge, Pellegrini was quick to play down City's dreams of making it into the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time in the history of the competition.

"We're not trying to send any message to anybody. We're just happy to make it to the next stage, which was our target from the start," said Pellegrini, whose side were eliminated in the last 16 by Barcelona last year.

"Last year we qualified with 15 points from 18, the best second in the history of the champions league, then we played against Barcelona and you can't afford to make the kind of mistakes we made against them."

As City look ahead to February, Roma turn their attention back to Serie A and the Europa League.

For Garcia, it was all part of a "learning experience" for the club which he has helped turn into  title contenders for the first time in the best part of a decade.

But he admitted the hosts should have been more clinical early on.

"We just didn't capitalise on our chances, especially in the opening 15 minutes," said Garcia. "We need maturity and experience but we were also unlucky today. (Kostas) Manolas hit the post and we missed other opportunities."

He added: "Efficiency is a trademark of great teams and they were a lot more efficient than us in that respect tonight.

"City didn't start their group campaign very well but improved as time went on. Even with so many players missing they still have a top quality side, and part of that is down to the budget they have.

"It was avery tough group, especially with Bayern in there. Going through would have been a feat and upset all odds."

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ROMA

Italy makes move to clear out ‘illegal’ Roma camps

Italy's anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini ordered a report Tuesday on the country's Roma population, with a view to shuttering overcrowded, "illegal" camps, provoking an angry response from rights campaigners.

Italy makes move to clear out 'illegal' Roma camps
Illustration photo: AFP

The head of the far-right League ordered the country's regional prefects to draw up “a report on the presence of Roma, Sinti and Caminanti” within two weeks, the interior ministry said in a statement.

“The aim is to verify the presence of illegal camps to draw up an eviction plan,” it said.

The Roma, Sinti and Caminanti are traditionally nomadic ethnic groups who have lived in Europe for centuries.

The Sinti are traditionally from west and central Europe, while Roma have their origins in the east and southeast of the continent. The Caminanti are believed to have their origins in the Norman occupation of Sicily.

The pro-Roma group Associazione 21 Luglio said Tuesday it was “deeply worried” by Salvini's order.

It slammed “a measure which clearly discriminates against these communities, since it does not affect, for example, formal or informal settlements inhabited by persons not belonging to these ethnic groups”.

Some 25,000 Roma, Sinti and Caminanti live in conditions of “housing segregation”, according to the association, accusing the government of maintaining “ethnic ghettos”.

About 15,000 members of the three groups reside in 127 formal settlements in Italy, often in the suburbs of large cities, according to the group.

The rest live instead in informal settlements, some of which are made up of just two to three families.

There are about 300 such informal settlements in Rome, the Associazione 21 Luglio told AFP.

Threats against the Roma and Sinti have increased under Salvini, who sparked controversy last year with his call for a new census of Roma, and for all non-Italians among them to be expelled from the country.

Salvini has also barred Italy's ports to charity vessels rescuing migrants at sea.

The Council of Europe estimates there are between 120,000 and 180,000 Roma, Sinti and Caminanti in Italy — one of the lowest concentrations in Europe.

Over half are Italian citizens with regular jobs and homes, but hate crimes against their less fortunate peers are rife.

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