The student faced the master once more on Thursday, as Xabi Alonso and his Bayer 04 Leverkusen side sought redemption against his former boss, Jose Mourinho – whose European pedigree proved pivotal in the last showing at the Stadio Olimpico, as the Italian side defended resolutely.
Despite criticism over the years of his brand of football, Mourinho is continuing to prove the naysayers wrong as he looks determined in his quest to win another European title following on from last year’s Conference League triumph. Winning is all Mourinho knows, after all!
B04: Hrádecky, Tapsoba, Tah, Hincapié, Frimpong, Demirbay, Palacios, Bakker, Diaby, Wirtz, Azmoun
ROM: Patrício, Mancini, Cristante, Ibañez da Silva, Çelik, Bove, Matic, Pellegrini, Spinazzola, Belotti, Abraham
A wild shot from Spinazzola summed up the opening exchanges, but for the most part it was Leverkusen in the final third dictating play. Demirbay tried to capitalise on this by whipping the ball at goal, but it was nothing more than catching practice for Patrício.
Diaby had the first real chance, thundering down the wing before striking a thunderous effort towards goal from a tight angle. It didn’t find the back of the net, but it certainly caused anxiety across the faces of the traveling fans.
Demirbay had another shot causing Patrício to spill the ball out for a corner – yet still after 20 minutes, Leverkusen had nothing to show for their stranglehold on the match. There was worry among the travelling supporters however when Patrício scurried out of his net to punch the ball away from the ensuing Azmoun, just beating the striker to it to deny a certain goal.
Azmoun felt he should’ve had a free-kick for the challenge, as he was bearing down towards goal – giving the ref a crucial decision to make. Had the set piece been awarded, it could’ve been a sending-off for Roma. However, the ref correctly took no notice of it and waved play on in the face of the jeering home support.
Roma failed to threaten throughout the first half – managing just one shot in the opening 45 minutes. Azmoun had the first chance of the second period, breaking in between the lines but his header was taken with ease.
With 66 minutes on the clock, Demirbay drove a low-driven crack towards the bottom corner – but again, it failed to ripple the net as the Roma ‘keeper was put to work.
Tah had an audacious attempt blocked from long range, and there would soon be more frustration for the Bundesliga side when Azmoun received the ball from a deflected shot before dragging a strike painfully wide of the post.
And so as the final whistle rang out, it marked back-to-back European finals for Mourinho. There was a lot of defensive effort and strategy put into this performance and it paid dividends, as Mourinho and his team will head to Budapest on a high. While Leverkusen were certainly all over Roma, they lacked the killer instinct to really pressure Mourinho’s side and will need to learn from this and adjust in the future.