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Roma 1-0 Leverkusen: Bove gives Giallorossi slender first-leg lead

Roma continued their quest for back-to-back European silverware as Edoardo Bove struck against a spirited Leverkusen side in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League semi-final at the Stadio Olimpico.

Highlights: Roma 1-0 Leverkusen

UEFA Europa Conference League holders Roma kept up their hopes of more European glory with a narrow 1-0 UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg win at home to Leverkusen.

Key moments

1' Rui Patrício alert to Andrich effort
Wirtz side-foots fine chance wide
19' Ibañez forces fine Hradecky save
63' Bove guides in first European goal
87' Cristante blocks Frimpong's shot

Match in brief: Homegrown hero Bove

Edoardo Bove places his shot just out of Lukas Hradecky's reach
Edoardo Bove places his shot just out of Lukas Hradecky's reachGetty Images

Roma, who had failed to win the first leg of a UEFA competition semi-final in their previous six such ties, started this latest opening last-four fixture on the back foot. José Mourinho and his players warned of the counterattacking threat posed by Leverkusen ahead of this contest, and it took all of 42 seconds for the Serie A side's caution to be warranted.

From a throw-in deep inside their own half, Die Werkself produced a sweeping passing move to advance to the edge of the hosts' penalty area. Piero Hincapie got the better of Zeki Çelik on the flank before putting in a low centre for the advancing Robert Andrich, whose crisp, first-time effort was held well by Rui Patrício.

Xabi Alonso, a former player under Mourinho at Real Madrid, was clearly intent on getting one over on his former coach early on in proceedings. Just seven minutes in, Florian Wirtz wriggled past three defenders on the edge of the area before his clever flick found Adam Hložek. The Czech attacker repaid the favour to give Wirtz a clear sight of goal, but he could only side-foot wide.

Roma slowly regrouped and almost snatched the lead themselves. Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini whipped in a sumptuous free-kick from out near the left flank, picking out the run of Roger Ibañez whose powerful header looked destined for the far corner, but Lukas Hradecky pushed it wide with a fine one-handed stop.

The hosts continued their control of proceedings after the interval and got the breakthrough from an unlikely source just after the hour. Twenty-year-old Edoardo Bove linked up with Tammy Abraham, who tested Hradecky with a fierce shot on the turn. The Finnish international could only push the ball back into the centre of the box, with Bove guiding a left-footed finish out of the goalkeeper's reach.

Midway through the second half, Andrea Belotti stung Hradecky's palms with a low drive, but Bove was unable to capitalise on the rebound on this occasion.

Leverkusen went in search of an equaliser and almost capitalised on a mix-up in the home defence with three minutes left. Rui Patrício and Ibañez went up for the same ball, meaning it squirmed out of the keeper's hands and fell kindly for Jeremie Frimpong. His goalbound effort was stopped on the line by the well-placed Bryan Cristante, and Roma held on to their narrow advantage.

As it happened: Roma 1-0 Leverkusen

Francesco Corda, Roma reporter

The dream of back-to-back European finals is edging closer for Roma. Mourinho's team gained a narrow victory thanks to a goal by an unexpected hero, who was in the right place to finish a move he had instigated. The Giallorossi, who were on the back foot in the opening stages, slowly regained control of the contest and will now try to complete the job in Germany next week. But it won't be easy at all.

James Thorogood, Leverkusen reporter

Given the location and occasion, losing by a single goal is nothing to be ashamed of for Leverkusen. There will be elements of their first-leg performance that will install a belief that they can get a result on home soil, as they look to reach their first major European final since 2002. However, Alonso will know better than most just how hard it is to come from behind against a Mourinho team.


José Mourinho, Roma coach: "You have to give the boys credit. They have this mentality, this desire and this empathy. It wasn't an easy match because it was mentally tough. It's difficult to play against Leverkusen, to stay focused for 90 minutes. They can kill you off when you lose the ball."

Edoardo Bove, Roma midfielder: "I felt a sea of emotions inside me and I'm happy with the goal but, above all, with the result. It was crucial to win this first leg and we'll go to Germany with the same desire."

Xabi Alonso, Leverkusen coach: "We are not satisfied with this result – we didn't want to lose. But we also know that next week there is another chance and we are clear on what we have to do. We have to win the game. There is no room for mistakes. We have to stay focused."

Abraham: 'We had to sacrifice'

Lukas Hradecky, Leverkusen goalkeeper, speaking to UEFA.com: "It could have been 0-0. We had a couple of good chances at the start of the game, it's too bad they weren't taken. After that, in the second half we weren't that dangerous and I was hoping for a 0-0 to take with us. But at 1-0 it's still possible to turn it around."

Florian Wirtz, Leverkusen midfielder: "Roma sat deep and one player always poked out when we were on the ball. They gave us very little time on the ball and made it really difficult to find space or depth because there was no space between the back line and keeper. Therefore, it was difficult for us to tap into our pace because they stayed so compact."

Lothar Matthäus, RTL

"A deserved victory for Roma. They invested more and played more maturely. Leverkusen did well in the first ten minutes but could not convert their two early chances."

The Giallorossi players celebrate their narrow victory
The Giallorossi players celebrate their narrow victoryAFP via Getty Images

Key stats

  • Rui Patrício made his 67th European League appearance – a new competition record.
  • Bove struck his first UEFA competition goal on his full Europa League debut.
  • The Rome-born midfielder became the youngest player to score for the Giallorossi in a European semi-final, aged 20 years 360 days.
  • Roma have suffered just one defeat in their last 26 European home matches (W19 D6).
  • Leverkusen have now lost their last seven games against Italian sides.


Roma: Rui Patrício; Mancini, Cristante, Ibañez; Çelik, Bove (Wijnaldum 76), Matić, Pellegrini, Spinazzola; Belotti (Dybala 76), Abraham

Leverkusen: Hradecky; Kossounou (Bakker 36), Tapsoba, Tah; Frimpong, Palacios, Andrich (Amiri 90), Hincapie; Diaby (Adli 72), Wirtz; Hložek (Azmoun 72)

What's next?

The second leg takes place in Germany next Thursday.

The aggregate winners are the nominal away side for the final against Juventus or Sevilla in Budapest on 31 May.

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