Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 (4-2 agg) Roma: Alonso’s side do the unthinkable yet again to reach Europa League final

Bayer Leverkusen scored yet another added-time goal – their 17th of the season – to keep their invincible dreams alive.

There just aren’t enough superlatives to describe what Bayer Leverkusen have achieved this season. 49 games; not a single defeat. This is a team which has defied reason, logic and everything we thought we knew about football, and they’ve done it again today at the expense of Daniele De Rossi’s stubborn Roma.

Despite a pair of Leandro Paredes penalties, AS Roma now bow out of Europe after Bayer Leverkusen came from behind again to send themselves to Dublin for an enthralling matchup with Atalanta.

As it happened

It was a first half utterly dominated by the hosts. 17 shots, six of which on target and a whopping seven blocked; Roma’s keeper Mile Svilar and his backline were kept as busy as possible.

In fairness to the Giallorossi, they started the opening ten minutes with a couple of chances of their own and it was clear that their strategy hinged on deep balls to men running in behind or waiting in the box.

The first of those chances fell to Romelu Lukaku in the fourth minute, who was played in behind by a terrific ball from captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, but his heavy, chested touch allowed Matej Kovár to come out from his goal and snuff out any semblance of a chance.

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Roma would keep trying for the next fifteen minutes or so, and their best chance so far came from the captain, with Pellegrini latching onto a brilliant cross into the area with a diving header, but Kolár did brilliantly to get down low and keep it out.

But that was really it for Roma in the opening 45 minutes, because from then on out, it was all Bayer Leverkusen, and it was chance after chance after chance.

Granit Xhaka was first to try his luck from distance, but his effort ballooned over the bar. Next it was Adam Hložek, then it was Palacios, then Frimpong, Grimaldo, Hofmann; every Leverkusen midfielder or forward tried their luck with a shot in the first half and the pressure looked unbearable for Roma.

Die Werkself kept pushing in the first half but couldn’t force the ball in for love nor money. Palacios perhaps came the closest, hitting the post before the ball bounced of the Serbian shot-stopper into the six-yard box before Evan Ndicka came to Roma’s rescue. Then there was Svilar, whose heroics kept his side in it for quite some time, with his double-save to deny Amine Adli and then Adam Hložek.

Amazingly, after all of that, it was Roma who scored first. Angeliño whipped a deep ball into the area in search of Azmoun, but the Iranian could never get to it, with Jonathan Tah pulling him down in the area to grant Roma a golden chance to take the lead from the penalty spot.

It’s a chance Leandro Paredes took, sending Kovár the wrong way and smashing it down the middle. Half time came and Roma, against all odds, were in the lead.

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They were clearly invigorated in the second half, too, as they took the game to the hosts, with a big chance falling to Bryan Cristante in the 50th minute, but his shot was too weak and easily claimed by Kovár.

Serdar Azmoun, on loan at Roma from Leverkusen nearly scored against his parent club too with an ambitious effort in the 56th minute, but again it was kept out by the keeper. Like the first half, it was a strong start for the Giallorossi, but then it was Leverkusen’s turn.

If it wasn’t for Mile Svilar, Roma would’ve lost the game by the middle of the second half. Saves to deny Adli and Hofmann kept his side in it early in the second half – and it kept them in it long enough for Roma to double their lead.

It was Déjà Vu. Hložek’s hand was in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the ball flicking his fingers to grant Roma a penalty, which Paredes cooly dispatched, this time into the bottom left corner. 2-0 down and with only 25 minutes left to play before added time, Bayer Leverkusen looked like they could’ve lost it.

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But this is Bayer Leverkusen. This is Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen. One thing we know about them is that they always find a way.

Despite an unbelievable 32 shots, it wasn’t a member of die Werkself who scored. Instead, Grimaldo’s corner was looped over Svilar and hit Mancini in the face, diverting it into the empty net. For all Leverkusen’s attacking threat and Svilar’s resistance, it was the keeper who made the error that led to the goal.

Football, eh?

They still had more to do though. With eight minutes left to play and an extra seven to be added on, they could’ve just sat back and won the tie at the expense of the game’s high tempo.

But they were never going to do that. By the turn of the 97th minute, it was still 2-1. But Josip Stanišić had other ideas about that, cooly rolling the ball into the area and sliding it into the far corner to beat Svilar.

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It was the last kick of the game. Right at the end, Leverkusen did it again. 49 games and 17 goals in extra time this season; they still haven’t lost once. Now, they have a Europa League final with Atalanta to look forward to as they chase an unprecedented invincible treble – and you’d be brave to bet against them.

The lineups

B04: Kovár; Hincapié, Tah, Tapsoba; Grimaldo, Xhaka, Palacios, Frimpong; Hložek, Hofman, Adli

ASR: Svilar; Angeliño, Mancini, Ndicka, Spinazzola; Pellegrini, Paredes, Cristante; El Shaarawy, Lukaku, Azmoun


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