Where the UEFA Europa Conference League final was won and lost
Wednesday, 25 May 2022
UEFA.com's reporters dissect Roma's victory against Feyenoord in the 2022 UEFA Europa Conference League final in Tirana.
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UEFA.com team reporters Vieri Capretta and Derek Brookman put their heads together to examine where the final was won and lost, and we look at the players' and coaches' points of view.
Where our reporters thought the final was decided
Notching his fifth goal in this competition, Nicolò Zaniolo was simply the right man in the right place at the right time. Having already propelled Roma into the semi-finals with a hat-trick in their quarter-final decider against Bodø/Glimt, the Italian international did it again. Being able to seize opportunities is what makes a difference in finals – and so it proved here, with Roma making the most of their chances thanks to their front man.
Roma: Solid, yet attack-minded
Mourinho's tactical game plan was almost perfectly executed: the Giallorossi scored a first-half goal and did well to give Feyenoord as little space as possible at the back, defending as a solid unit and quickly hitting in transition, aided by the quality of Lorenzo Pellegrini plus the runs of Nicola Zalewski and Rick Karsdorp. After going in front, the Giallorossi held on tight to take the victory. A narrow one, yes, but that was all they required to secure the trophy.
Vieri Capretta, Roma reporter
Attack is the best form of defence...
So the expression goes, and that's where Feyenoord came up short. By failing to seriously pressurise the Roma back line in the first half, either with or without the ball, they allowed the game to swing back too easily in their opponents' favour. It was, after all, a long pass from deep by Gianluca Mancini that led to Zaniolo's goal.
Dessers no problem for Smalling
Feyenoord's talisman in this competition and the overall top scorer, Cyriel Dessers was extremely well marshalled by Chris Smalling. The big Englishman won most of the duels, didn't even give the Feyenoord forward the space to function as a target man, and – crucially – denied him a clear sight of goal again and again. No one else managed to step up from the Feyenoord ranks to take over goalscoring duties.
Derek Brookman, Feyenoord reporter
Where the players and coaches thought the final was decided
José Mourinho, Roma coach: "Winning is very difficult. You need many ingredients. Our team has played 55 games. We reached the final being tired, but we worked on it, kept it hidden [...] We struggled in the second half; our opponents played well and they forced us to make defensive changes."
Chris Smalling, Roma defender: "We knew how much it would mean to everyone in Rome and you can see how together we are until the end. We dropped a bit deeper than we needed to, but you could see strikers running back – everyone knew we had to win."
Arne Slot, Feyenoord coach: "I told the players during the break what they had to do better. In the second half, we were sharp from the first moment, but you need a bit of luck and we didn't get it. We had the time and opportunity to score, and we didn't. Maybe that's to do with the quality of the opponent."
Justin Bijlow, Feyenoord goalkeeper: "The first half, we didn't put them under as much pressure as we did in the second. We played the ball round at the back, and that suits them. In the second half, we had more possession and opportunities. It's a pity we didn't start this way."