AS Roma saw their Europa League dreams slip away from them as they fell to a 4-1 penalty shootout defeat to Sevilla, after a 1-1 draw in the final at the Puskas Arena, and were left ruing their lack of attacking prowess.
Having taken the lead through Paulo Dybala, the Giallorossi were pegged back when Gianluca Mancini turned the ball into his own net, and ultimately saw two penalties saved as they fell to defeat in the shootout.
Despite hitting the crossbar in extra time, Roma lacked the guile needed to take control of the game and the defeat is set to have much wider ramifications than missing out on a prestigious trophy.
Champions League gamble fails to pay
The capital club had been banking on winning the Europa League to secure a return to the Champions League, sacrificing Serie A results to focus on a continental campaign and forsaking a top-four finish.
Recent results have suggested that the Giallorossi are simply out of form and were fortunate to reach the final, where their luck eventually ran out, but Jose Mourinho‘s gamble on lifting the trophy in Hungary has not paid off.
Without a win in seven Serie A matches and sitting in sixth place, Roma needed a Europa League success to move into the next phase of the project set out by owners the Friedkin Group, as well as Mourinho.
Now their participation in the Europa League itself next season is far from secure and it may well depend on the legal wrangles of Juventus, who could be banned from European competition by UEFA as punishment for salary manoeuvres.
Attack lets Roma down when it counts
Roma were made to pay for their lacking of cutting-edge in attack, and the final third is where the root of their problems this season lie.
With a half-fit Dybala impressing in the first half and firing the Lupi into the lead with an excellent low finish, Roma looked good value for the trophy.
Yet, as the Argentine tired and his influence waned, Mourinho’s side showed little sign of being able to regain the lead, and neither Tammy Abraham nor Andrea Belotti offered the attacking threat needed to snatch the win.
Abraham drifted in and out of the match and spent much of his time on the pitch dropping deep. His replacement, Belotti, fared little better and squandered a glorious opportunity late in the game, whilst Stephan El Shaarawy barely touched the ball after coming on in extra-time.
Despite boasting a wealth of attacking talent, the Lupi have failed to convert this into goals and are in danger of ending a Serie A season with fewer than 50 goals for the first time since 1951, with two goals against Spezia in their final game required to avoid this ignominy.
Over-reliance on Dybala laid bare
Herein lies the problem that cost Roma so dearly in Budapest. After defensive resilience saw them scrape past Bayer Leverkusen in the semi-final, conceding against Sevilla meant they had to find two goals but without the luxury of a fully fit Dybala.
The former Juventus attacker was linking the play well and providing a creative spark that did not exist elsewhere in the team.
Missing their Argentine superstar in the second half, Roma simply didn’t have another goal in them and were made to pay the price in the shootout.