Sevilla and Roma punched their tickets to the Europa League Final in two weeks’ time with dramatic results. Roma withstood a Bayer Leverkusen onslaught in Germany. Meanwhile, Sevilla required extra time to get past Juventus in a classic.
Jose Mourinho into another European final
Much like the first leg of this semifinal tie, the first half in Germany was fairly devoid of clear chances. It took one moment for Roma’s Edoardo Bove to find the breakthrough in Italy. That made it so Roma simply had to defend a lead to advance to the final.
From the start, it was always Leverkusen to test the Roma net. The best chance, though, was ever so slightly off target. Moussa Diaby let a shot go from, but it met the corner where the post meets the crossbar. Rui Patricio was left watching and thankfully saw it avoid the back of the net.
That was the trend for the entire game. Roma sat back and welcomed the German attack. Even though Roma attempted one shot, it was not the side that had to score. Leverkusen, despite ripping away 21 shots at Rui Patricio, only managed to get six of those on target. The Portuguese was equal to each of them. Leverkusen held the ball for over three-quarters of the game.
Despite Leverkusen’s dominance and an astonishing eight minutes of stoppage time, it is Roma through to another European final. Last season’s Europa Conference League winners are through to Budapest for a clash against another European power on May 31.
A Europa League classic
That opponent came down to a thrilling contest in Spain between Sevilla and Juventus.
Federico Gatti, the man who secured a late equalizer for Juventus in Turin, almost had the breakthrough at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. The Italian found himself alone on a corner and he pumped a header on net. However, a reactionary save from Yassine Bounou did enough to keep the game, and the tie, level.
Having played 23 minutes, Sevilla had its best opportunity with Lucas Ocampos. A low-driven cross from Sevilla’s right flank met a diving header from Ocampos. The Argentine guided the ball toward goal. However, a fantastic save from Wojciech Szczęsny did enough. Goal line technology showed half the ball was in, but not the entirety of it.
Not long after, Angel di Maria was wasteful following terrific work through the Juventus midfield, especially Adrien Rabiot. The left-footed star opted to scoop the ball up with his left foot instead of going with his right or laying off to Moise Kean. The ball did not even test Bounou in goal.
Three minutes after, Szczęsny saved a goal at his end, after Marcos Acuña fired a stinging shot from 25 yards that was moving away from the Polish goalkeeper.
First-half chances continued to flip as Moise Kean hit the post just a minute before Ivan Rakitic lashed a volley over the Juventus net. Regardless, it was Juventus to have the ball in the back of the net first. Rabiot’s strike did not count, as the visitors were offside in the build-up play.
Substitutes make the difference
Based on the first half, a goal was coming. However, both teams required substitutes to deliver a goal. For Juventus, that was Dusan Vlahovic, who was on the pitch for a total of 56 seconds before he scored. The Serbian took advantage of poor Sevilla defense. While Bounou charged at Vlahovic, he dinked it up and over the Moroccan.
Yet, that lead in both the game and the tie lasted all of six minutes. For Sevilla, it was Suso, who came on in the 62nd minute. He delivered a powerful shot with his left foot from just outside the area to beat an outstretched Szczęsny.
Szczęsny did well to keep the game level after that. In the 90 minutes, Sevilla fired off 26 shots, and nine of those reached the Italian net. Another sensational stop in the 88th minute on Youssef En Nesyri kept Juventus alive to force extra time.
Sevilla reaches Europa League Final to face Roma
Erik Lamela delivered an inch-perfect header to beat Szczęsny four minutes into the 30 minutes of extra time. The out-swinging cross from Bryan Gil the left side met the Argentine, who guided the header past the goalkeeper. It had to be in such an ideal placement given Szczęsny’s performance in the game.
The game slugged on, as Sevilla did everything it could to get across the finish line. In the 115th minute, for example, Marcos Acuña picked up a second yellow, this time for time wasting. That gave Juventus the man advantage with around seven minutes including stoppage time.
Juventus played cross after cross over those last several minutes. None of it tested Bounou. The Spanish side is through to its seventh Europa League Final, even if it will be without Marcos Acuña due to his red card. The kings of the competition have never lost in a Europa League Final, and Roma has the challenge of ending that run.
PHOTO: IMAGO / CordonPress
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