Advantage Roma as Giallorossi chase Mour European glory
Roma will take a narrow advantage into their UEFA Europa League (UEL) second leg against Bayer Leverkusen after a 1-0 win that ended a nine-match unbeaten run away from home for Xabi Alonso’s men.
Usually, the hosts would apply the early pressure on such a grand occasion, but it was Die Werkself who took control early and almost silenced the home crowd early on. Both Robert Andrich and Florian Wirtz had chances to shoot from the edge of the box but couldn’t take advantage, before the momentum began to swing back towards Roma and they came desperately close to taking the lead after 18 minutes. Roger Ibañez powered a free header toward the far corner from a free-kick, but he was denied by Lukáš Hrádecký who made a fine flying stop and the rebound was scrambled into the side-netting.
Set-pieces offered the most threatening situation for Roma as the half wore on, but they couldn’t find a way to break the deadlock and the rest of the first half fizzled out with minimal goalmouth action. The second half started in a similar vein, with Roma threatening from a dead ball situation just after the restart, but Edmond Tapsoba produced a fine piece of defending to divert the ball away from Ibañez who looked set to break the deadlock.
The opener finally came just after the hour mark from an unlikely source in Edoardo Bove, who scored his first UEL goal of the campaign. Tammy Abraham showed skill and power to force another good save from Hrádecký, but this time the Leverkusen stopper could only divert the ball back into the danger area for Bove to stroke it into the bottom corner.
Instead of pushing for a second, Roma became noticeably defensive and dropped deeper into their own half, perhaps wary of the visitors’ devastating speed on the break. Leverkusen were lacking their usual verve though, appearing happy to settle for a narrow margin of defeat rather than chasing a goal. They weren’t without chances however, and their best opening fell to Jeremie Frimpong who had the chance to profit from a defensive mix-up, but his effort was crucially blocked on the line by Bryan Cristante.
Consequently, Leverkusen will need to find a way to overcome José Mourinho’s men in the second leg after a cagey affair in Rome, as the Portuguese looks to guide the Giallorossi to back-to-back European titles and into the Champions League.