The return of Nicolo Zaniolo, who had been out for nearly a month with a dislocated shoulder, gave Roma hope after their 2-1 loss to Ludogorets.
After initially receiving a booking for a bodycheck on Andrea Belotti, Helsinki captain Miro Tenho was dismissed after just 14 seconds after the VAR on-field review changed the booking to a red. Belotti was heading clear on goal through the middle, so it was deemed a clear scoring opportunity even though the last man rule was no longer in effect.
Despite HJK’s 10 men nearly taking the lead when Arttu Hoskonen was given a free header that smacked the post, Belotti pulled back from the by-line for Zaniolo to flick it across the goal. After Zaniolo’s initial shot was blocked by Lorenzo Pellegrini, who then turned wide, Zaniolo shot directly at the goalkeeper following a deft Belotti through ball.
Before the half, there were two chances: first, Bryan Cristante’s rocket was blocked, and then Belotti nodded wide at the back post from the ensuing corner.
At the half, La Joya and Chris Smalling were substituted, and he made an immediate impact by scoring with his first touch. When Pellegrini was quickly laid off by Spinazzola, Dybala swept in from the edge of the area with his left foot.
A short while later, Zaniolo received a long pass from Nemanja Matic; his attempt to roll across the field from the left took a significant deflection from Soiri; and Pellegrini was ready to bundle the ball over the goal with his chest.
Zaniolo should have scored, but a brilliant Dybala slide-rule pass sent him wide when he was sent clear. Matic poked the goalkeeper’s gloves, and Belotti added his first goal for Roma with a tap-in from six yards on a Zaniolo pull-back from the byline.
Roma defeated HJK with ease in this matchup. After being reduced to 10 men early on, the Finnish champions were always going to struggle, and Mourinho’s half-time substitutions gave the hosts the boost they required. At the start of the second half, Dybala and Pellegrini scored consecutive goals to put the game beyond the reach of the visitors. Later, Belotti made it 3-0.