Once again the European showcase shows Jose Mourinho, who a year ago led Roma to victory in the new Conference League and now has them one step away from the final in the upper echelon, the Europa League. The hallmarks are invariable, those of an armed team that if it catches a glimpse of disorder has the capacity to stop the games, competitive to the maximum in a scene that demands expertise in managing efforts and talents. Roma is a headache, canchera because it also optimizes its resources to the maximum. In the first leg of the semifinal, he left behind Bayer Leverkusen, a team that was nice to watch, much improved since Xabi Alonso arrived last October when he was in the relegation spot in the Bundesliga. In the first play of the game, his boys braided a succession of walls, heels and pipes to reach the front line and demand the Roma goalkeeper, Rui Patricio. After five minutes, the outstanding Wirtz looked for a wall on the front line and was about to score. From there it was over: Roma turned into marble and no matter how much Bayer chiseled, it didn’t even tickle.
Rui Patrício, Ibañez, Cristante, Gianluca Mancini, Edoardo Bove (Wijnaldum, min. 76), Matic, Leonardo Spinazzola, Zeki Celik, Belotti (Paulo Dybala, min. 76), Tammy Abraham and Lorenzo Pellegrini
Hradecky, Edmond Faycial Tapsoba, Jonathan Tah, Kouakou Odilon Kossounou (Mitchel Bakker, min. 35), Exequiel Palacios, Piero Hincapie Reyna, Robert Andrich (Nadiem Amiri, min. 92), Jeremie Frimpong, Moussa Diaby (Amine Adli, min. 72), Adam Hlozek (Azmoun, min. 72) and Florian Wirtz
goals 1-0 min. 62: Edoardo Bove.
Referee michael oliver
Yellow cards Robert Andrich (min. 49), Moussa Diaby (min. 56), Jonathan Tah (min. 57), Tammy Abraham (min. 75), Ibañez (min. 89) and Leonardo Spinazzola (min. 93)
Everything happened for a Rome that had Dybala and Wijnaldum between cottons. Mourinho kept them on the bench and turned to the pair in the final quarter hour of the game, when he already had to manage a good goal from the young midfielder Edoardo Bove. Roma scored just after the hour mark, but until then they did not seem very uncomfortable with the goalless draw. It’s been a long time since Mourinho resolved that this is a favorable score for a local team in a semifinal. So his team settled into a game that, after the rival’s initial exuberance, got mixed up between stoppages, injuries and the odd brawl.
Bayer lost the thread at the start. Wirtz faded, the tall full-backs, especially the almost always hyperactive Frimpong, disconnected from his teammates. The striker Hlozek barely contributed as the game drifted towards nothing, which for Roma was everything. A set piece action warned that he was on the lookout. The central Ibañez headed towards the net, but the arm of the goalkeeper Hradecky avoided the blow. Bayer received the warning, but failed to change the course of the game. And the goal gave him a reality check because the advantage seemed like a mountain even with two hours of play to go in the tie.
Roma withdrew shamelessly. Bayer got stuck and barely found an option in the final moments of the game with a cross into the area in which Rui Patricio and Ibañez collided when going for the ball. The rejection fell at the feet of Frimpong, who finished off without the fang that the situation required. Cristante stopped, under sticks, the ball with his chest. The episode seemed accidental, a mistake by Roma more than a success by the German team, which will have to find other ways to score in the second leg next week.
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