Thursday, May 18, 2023 at 10:58 PM• Sam Fearwijk

AS Roma qualified for the final of the Europa League on Thursday evening. Despite a very dominant Bayer Leverkusen, the team of coach José Mourinho held on to the BayArena: 0-0. That was enough after it had already won 1-0 at home last week. In the final, Roma will face the winner of the game between Sevilla and Juventus, where extra time is required.

Roma coach Mourinho chose to rest many players against Bologna (0-0) last Sunday. Against Leverkusen, however, Roma returned with the same eleven names as in the first game against Leverkusen. Rick Karsdorp and Georginio Wijnaldum therefore had to do it again with a reserve role. Leverkusen started with three other players compared to the first game: Odilon Kossounou, Robert Andrich (both injured) and Adam Hložek (bench) were missing, leaving Kerem Demirbay, Mitchel Bakker and Sardar Azmoun in the starting line-up. Dutchman Jeremie Frimpong was also allowed to show it again from minute one.

Leverkusen was the better in the first half, and had the best chances for the opening goal. However, Xabi Alonso’s team barely got through the Roman defense and therefore mainly tried to break the spell with long shots. That did not result in a goal, as Demirbay and Azmoun’s attempts were turned by Roma goalie Rui Patrício. The closest to the 1-0, however, was the home team via Moussa Diaby, who shot the ball hard on the crossbar after a counter. Roma’s only pinprick came from Lorenzo Pellegrini, who shot well wide early in the game.

Even after the break, with Wijnaldum now lined up, it was one-way traffic towards Roma’s goal. Patrício was able to save again on a shot by Demirbay, after which Gianluca Mancini prevented Azmoun from using the rebound with an excellent intervention. Moments later, the same Iranian just missed a cross from Diaby, but had the greatest chance ten minutes before the end. However, his shot went wide. Roma also held out in the final phase, making the second European final in a row (after the Conference League last year) a fact for the Italians.