Roma looked to be heading for a damaging defeat when Davy Klaasen put Ajax ahead in the 39th minute and Dusan Tadic won a penalty shortly after the restart.
But Pau Lopez saved from 12 yards before European debutant Kjell Scherpen’s huge error at the other end allowed Lorenzo Pellegrini to equalise.
And a late moment of magic turned the tide firmly in Roma’s favour, the defender unleashing an unstoppable volley to give the Serie A side the lead in the tie going into next week’s return leg.
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