Bayer Leverkusen travelled to AS Roma’s Stadio Olimpico on Thursday, as the two sides prepared for battle. With a place in the UEFA Europa League Final up for grabs, it would certainly be interesting to see how these two sides would fare – having fallen down their respective domestic leagues.
ASR: Patricio; Ibanez, Cristante, Mancini; Spinazzola, Matic, Bove, Celik; Pellegrini; Abraham, Belotti
B04: Hradecky; Tapsoba, Tah, Kossounou; Hincapie, Andrich, Palacios, Frimpong; Wirtz, Diaby; Hlozek
Bayer Leverkusen looked to take an early lead as Diaby and Hincapie combined on the left flank in the opening minutes, but ultimately Andrich’s shot was directed straight into the arms of Patricio – who dealt with the danger well.
It was the Germans that dominated the early stages of the game, with Adam Hlozek creating numerous chances within the opening ten minutes. His first chance was flagged offside though, and Florian Wirtz sent his strike wide of the post after being sent through on goal by the striker.
After about twenty minutes, Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma side started to show their quality – forcing a great save from Hradecky to keep the game goalless. Pellegrini’s free-kick was nodded towards goal by Ibanez, but the Finnish ‘keeper did well to deny the defender’s effort.
The Italian side then began to enjoy a dominant spell – but the stop-start nature of the game prevented them from building any real momentum, and there was nothing to separate the two sides as they headed down the tunnel for half-time.
The game seemed to lack clear-cut chances, even after play resumed for the second half. Belotti attempted to open the scoring in the 52nd minute, but his volleyed strike from the edge of the box sailed well over the crossbar without ever threatening the ‘keeper.
It was the hosts that took the lead just after the hour mark, as Edoardo Bove found the back of the net to claim his first European goal, and what a time to do it! The youngster powered through midfield, playing in Tammy Abraham – and while the Englishman’s strike was parried away by Hradecky, the Italian midfielder was onsite to slam it into the back of the net.
Bove could have bagged a brace just five minutes later, as yet another rebounded opportunity fell to him – though he volleyed over the crossbar. Belotti had created the chance, finding space on the right flank but yet another superb save from Hradecky was enough to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
As had happened at the end of the first half, Roma looked to dominate possession – but pressure from Frimpong was enough to earn Bayer Leverkusen a corner. That seemed to swing the momentum in their favour, and they came unbelievably close to bagging a late equaliser following an error by the hosts.
Patricio collided with Ibanez – with the ‘keeper spilling the ball as a result. Frimpong was primed and ready to power it into the back of the net, but a great goal-line block from Cristante saw AS Roma preserve their lead.
It had certainly been a nervy end to the game, but Jose Mourinho’s side managed to hold out and they have the advantage ahead of next week’s return fixture. They’ll head to the BayArena with one foot already in the final, and Xabi Alonso’s side will need to work through the gears if they’re to overcome the deficit.