In a match with a special aroma for the reunion between José Mourinho and Xabi Alonsoit was the professor who won the first game of these Europa League semifinals between Rome and Leverkusen (1-0) to the student, a result that puts the Italian team ahead for a round in which everything is yet to be decided.
The smiles that existed in the initial greeting between Mourinho and Xabi Alonso, both with a Real Madrid past, disappeared as soon as the referee signaled the start of the clash. Each took a path and tried to anticipate the other’s moves, but it was the luso who took the cat into the water relying, once again, on a dedicated stadium that carried his team up even without their star in the starting eleven, the Argentine Paulo Dybala on the pitch, limping from an injury.
The Setubalense, greatly conditioned by the multiple casualties of his squad, bet on a double striker made up of Abraham and Belotti. Without Wijnaldum or El Shaarawy, among others, the opportunity for Belotti and Abraham to vindicate themselves and establish themselves as a dangerous duo could not be better. But the game started better for Leverkusen.
Xabi Alonso’s team came out very intense at the Olímpico in Rome, with two approaches that, although they did not end the dangerous occasions, put Roma on notice, a team that despite everything knows how to make the most of its virtues and minimize those of the team. rival. That’s why when the referee pointed out a foul in a no-man’s zone, Olímpico celebrated, aware that in difficult moments the set pieces are their best ally. And from there came the best chance of the first half, the one that changed the game and tipped the balance in favor of the ‘giallorosso’ team. Pellegrini served, Ibáñez finished off and Kradecky had to save ‘in extremis’, leaving the ball dead in an area that Abraham could not reach.
From that occasion, Roma was more Roma and Leverkusen smaller and smaller. And in the second half the trend with which the first act had ended was confirmed. Much more vertical than at the beginning, the ‘Loba’ began to percussion. Spinazzola, always well covered by Frimpong, managed to overwhelm. And Belotti and Abraham started carbureting.
Another set piece scared Alonso’s team again. But the match was going to be unblocked by a youth player, a player born in Rome, a player to whom Mourinho has always given his confidence and who is very dear to his fans. He recovered the ball near the front of the Italian, gave way to Abraham inside the area, but the striker had to return the ball to his teammate, who he unleashed the madness in Rome in the 63rd minuteapproaching what would be the second consecutive European final.
Mourinho asked all his players for an effort on each ball. More involved than usual from the bench, he did not want Leverkusen, who showed quality in each possession near the area, to pierce Rui Patricio’s door, knowing that traveling to Germany without conceding was almost like scoring another goal. He got it, but not without scare in the final bars. The one caused by Ibáñez and Rui Patricio when they collided and let loose the ball in the area that Frimpong did not know how to take advantage of. But nothing could bring down the ‘giallorosso’ wall. Abraham left his lungs in each race. Dybala and Wijnaldum brought freshness under pressure, and Cristante played as if he had spent his entire career as a centre-back.
Mourinho won his student’s first duel. But the tie is still very open. Leverkusen will decide everything, although Roma travel with an advantage.
1 – Rome: Rui Patricio; Mancini, Cristante, Ibanez; Celik, Bove (Wijnaldum, m.76), Matic, Spinazzola; Pellegrini; Abraham and Belotti (Dybala, m.76).
0 – Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky; Kossounou (Bakker, m.36), Tapsoba, Tah; Frimpong, Palacios, Andrich (Amiri, m.93), Emphasis; Diaby (Adli, m.72), Wirtz; Hlozek (Azmoun, m.72).
goals: 1-0, m.63: Bove.
Referee: Michael Oliver (ENG). He showed a yellow card to Mancini (m.57), Abraham (m.76), Ibáñez (m.89), Spinazzola (m.93) by Roma; and Andrich (m.50), Diaby (m.57), Tah (m.58) by Leverkusen.
incidents: Match corresponding to the first leg of the Europa League semifinals, played at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.