In what was a nervy Europa League showdown on Thursday night, Roma snatched a first-leg advantage thanks to a 1-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen at the Stadio Olimpico.
Although Jose Mourinho’s side might have endured an extended domestic wobble, it was 20-year-old starlet Edoardo Bove who stole all of the headlines in Rome.
Producing a smart finish 17 minutes after the interval, the Giallorossi now find themselves sat in pole position to reach back-to-back European finals.
Although Roma might have once again not been at their best here, the Italian giants will be fancying their chances of finishing off the job when they travel to Germany next week.
However, although Bayer Leverkusen might have received plenty of plaudits from across Europe this season, the German outfit will feel like they missed out on a real opportunity to spring an upset on foreign soil.
On what was a cagey affair on Thursday night, we have taken a look at the main talking points from the Stadio Olimpico.
The exact boost that Roma were hoping for
Although Roma might have marked their return from March’s international break with their sights set on clinching a lucrative top-four finish, it is no secret that Mourinho’s side have faced some real domestic scrutiny this season.
Slumping to a 2-0 loss at home against a high-flying Inter Milan last weekend, Thursday’s hosts were in the midst of a four-match winless run and their Champions League ambitions have taken a major dent.
However, making real Conference League history last season as they lifted the inaugural trophy on an emotional night in Albania, the Giallorossi have largely saved their best performances for the European stage.
Now knowing that they’re sat in pole position to reach back-to-back European finals this season, the one-time Chelsea boss will be desperate for his squad to find some much-needed stability over the final few weeks.
Accepting that it will take a minor miracle if they’re to claim a Champions League return via Serie A this season, it is no secret that Roma have now placed all of their eggs in the Europa League basket.
Although Mourinho’s side might have recorded just a single win from any of their last five appearances across all competitions, Thursday’s first-leg win could prove to be a real turning point.
Alonso’s missed opportunity
Punching their Europa League semi-final ticket on April 20th as they stormed their way to a 5-2 aggregate romp against Royale Union, Alonso’s side have been tipped as a genuine dark horse this year.
However, although Leverkusen might have gained a string of plaudits on either side of the World Cup’s winter break, the one-time Liverpool midfielder will know that he missed out on the chance to get one over on his former Real Madrid boss.
Failing to pick up any real momentum last weekend as they suffered a downbeat 2-1 defeat at home against Koln, it is fair to say that the Bundesliga outfit have shown some recent inconsistencies.
Now recording just a pair of wins from any of their last seven appearances across all competitions – a run that stems back to a 3-1 victory against Eintracht Frankfurt on April 8th – Leverkusen now face a real uphill battle when they return to that BayArena next week.
Although Alonso’s side might still fancy their chances of completing a famous second-leg comeback in seven days time, they have shown some extended European issues on home soil.
Including an action-packed 3-2 loss at the hands of Monaco on February 16th, Thursday’s guests have recorded just a sole win from any of their four Europa League showdowns in front of their own supporters.
Mourinho’s attacking headache continues
While Mourinho might have eventually been relieved to see his side claim what could turn out to be a crucial first-leg advantage on Thursday night, the ex-Manchester United boss will have a continued headache over Roma’s attacking issues.
Heading into their first-leg battle by slumping to a deserved 2-0 loss at the hands of Inter Milan last weekend, the midweek hosts have now failed to record more than a single strike in any of their last five appearances across all competitions.
Although the impressive Bove might have dragged the Giallorossi over the finish line here, the likes of Tammy Abraham and Paulo Dybala have struggled to find any kind of form this year.
Although Abraham might have gained plenty of praise after making the move to Italy last season, the England international has recorded just a pair of goals from any of their last 20 appearances across all competitions.
Likewise, while there might have been a huge amount around the Stadio Olimpico when Dybala arrived from Juventus in a blockbuster move last summer, the Argentinian ace has not made a single start for Mourinho’s side since back on April 8th.
With the job far from done as they travel out to Germany next week, Roma will know that they must find some sort of clinical edge if they are to secure back-to-back European finals.
Roma: Patricio, Mancini, Cristante, Ibanez, Celik, Bove, Matic, Spinazzola, Pellegrini, Belotti, Abraham
Subs: Dybala, Wijnaldum
Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky, Kossounou, Tah, Tapsoba, Hincapie, Andrich, Palacios, Frimpong, Diaby, Wirtz, Hlozek
Subs: Adil, Amiri, Azmoun, Bakker
Goals: Bove (62’)
Yellow Cards: Roma: Mancini, Ibanez, Spinazzola, Abraham – Bayer Leverkusen: Andrich, Diaby
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Michael Oliver
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