AS Roma lose Europa League final: European dream ends with penalty pain against Sevilla

AS Roma fell short of back-to-back European trophies as they lost the Europa League final to specialists Sevilla, with the La Liga side winning after a long night and a penalty shootout.

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STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): AS Roma suffered the heartache of a penalty shoot-out defeat to Sevilla in the 2023 Europa League final as the Spaniards continued their remarkable run in the competition and denied Jose Mourinho a second consecutive European title.

Paulo Dybala, surprisingly passed fit to start after a lengthy injury lay-off, fired Roma in front in the first half but they were pegged back by a Gianluca Mancini own goal after the break.

After a nerve-wracking and seemingly never-ending period of extra-time, it all came down to a shoot-out, where Bono saved efforts from Mancini and Roger Ibanez before Gonzalo Montiel converted the winning strike.

Sevilla clinched a record-extending seventh Europa League trophy to deny Roma not only a piece of silverware, but a place in next season’s Champions League.

What the result could mean for Mourinho’s future in Rome remains to be seen, with speculation continuing to swirl ahead of their final game of the Serie A season against Spezia, where a top-six finish still needs to be secured.

While 20,000 fans found every mode of transport available to make the hop over the Adriatic to Budapest, the Olimpico back home in Rome was packed out too, with 55,000 Roma fans watching on big screens.

Part of the nerve-shredding anticipation gripping the Lupi faithful was down to the doubts over the fitness of their star man Dybala, so the news of his surprise inclusion in the starting line-up came as huge morale booster.

Atmosphere set, Roma started the brighter

Sevilla’s pre-match choreography boasting of ‘imperium nostrum’ (our empire) was a reminder of the pedigree of Roma’s opponents – a team that, for all its domestic struggles, was chasing a seventh Europa League title.

But it was Roma who made the better start, with Dybala immediately involved as he created the best early chance with a flash of brilliance, drawing in two defenders before slipping Zeki Celik into space in the area.

AS Roma’s Paulo Dybala and Gianluca Mancini celebrate the former’s opening goal in the 2023 Europa League final. (@ASRomaEN)

The Turkey international found his opposite wing-back Leonardo Spinazzola with a cut-back, but the Italian lacked composure and his shot was at a good height for Bono to parry it away.

Roma had a penalty shout turned down on the half-hour mark when Nemanja Gudelj hooked a bouncing ball away in the box and caught Tammy Abraham’s face in the process.

Any protests were forgotten minutes later when Bryan Cristante turned the ball over in midfield and Mancini gathered the loose ball, playing a weighted pass into the path of Dybala, who only needed two touches – one to control, one to finish.

The goal finally sparked some life into the sluggish Spaniards, who threatened a leveller before the break when Ivan Rakitic rattled a daisy-cutter of a shot off the foot of the post from distance.

Some familiar faces to Serie A fans joined the fray for the second half as ex-Roma winger Erik Lamela and former AC Milan man Suso came on to try and inject some urgency into the Sevilla attack.

AS Roma’s Tammy Abraham in action in the 2023 Europa League final against Sevilla.(@ASRomaEN)

It worked, as the La Liga side started the brighter and applied pressure on the Roma backline, eventually making the breakthrough when a Jesus Navas cross was diverted into his own goal by Mancini. Remarkably, it was the first goal conceded by a Mourinho team in a European final since Henrik Larsson netted for Celtic against Porto in the 2003 UEFA Cup.

Roma worked their way back into it and threatened through a familiar source as a free-kick caused chaos in the Sevilla box, the ball pinballing around before Bono saved from Abraham at point-blank range and Ibanez shanked a shot wide to end the bedlam.

Dybala’s night came to an end on the 68th minute as Georginio Wijnaldum entered the fray, meaning the Argentinian got more than twice as much game time as forecast but still left the pitch with his side needing a goal.

There were hearts in Roma mouths with 15 minutes to go when referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot for a clumsy-looking Ibanez trip on Lucas Ocampos, but the decision was overturned by Taylor as the defender got a toe on the ball.

Roma were next to appeal for a penalty when a cross clearly struck the arm of Fernando in the box, but Taylor adjudged it to have been by the Sevilla defender’s side and therefore not punishable.  

AS Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini in action in the 2023 Europa League final against Sevilla.(@ASRomaEN)

Moments later, substitute Andrea Belotti was inches away from volleying home a clever Pellegrini free-kick over the top of the defence, while late on Suso stung the palms of Rui Patricio before a puff of the whistle heralded extra-time.

Tension throughout extra-time, Sevlla’s experience showed in the shootout

The additional 30 minutes – which was more like 45 with added time – finally produced a moment of note at the death when Chris Smalling’s header cannoned back off the bar to deny the Englishman a dramatic late winner.

Ocampos, Cristante and Lamela all converted their penalties as the shootout got underway, but Mancini’s night got worse when his effort down the middle was stopped by the feet of Bono.

Rakitic kept his cool to put Sevilla 3-1 up, and when Roger Ibanez’s effort thumped back off the woodwork, it left Argentina’s World Cup final shootout hero Gonzalo Montiel with the task of finishing the job.

He failed his first attempt as Rui Patricio sprung left to palm it away, but a retake was ordered for encroachment and the Montiel made the second attempt count.

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