STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): AS Roma’s Europa League dream is still alive after a super-sub cameo from Paulo Dybala inspired a 4-2 aggregate win over Feyenoord after extra time to send the Giallorossi into the semi-finals.
Leonardo Spinazzola put the hosts in front midway through the second half to level the tie, but an equaliser from substitute Igor Paixao against the run of play put Feyenoord on the brink of the last four with 10 minutes remaining.
Dybala, who was only fit enough to come on for the final 15 minutes of the 90, produced a sublime turn and finish at the death to send the game to extra-time, where Stephan El Shaarawy and Lorenzo Pellegrini scored in either half to cap a tremendous comeback.
Roma will face Bayer Leverkusen next for a place in the final after eliminating the opponent they defeated to lift the Conference League trophy last season.
There were no Feyenoord fans at the Stadio Olimpico due to a ban by authorities amid fears of violence which stemmed from their destructive trip to the capital in 2015, so the atmosphere was strangely uniform with no back-and-forth between rival supporters.
With Dybala on the bench, Andrea Belotti was picked to lead the line ahead of Tammy Abraham – despite the Englishman finally ending his two-and-a-half-month goal drought on Sunday.
Belotti quickly made his presence felt by going on a charge upfield and teeing up Pellegrini for an effort that required a sharp save, while Bryan Cristante’s volley brushed the post on its way wide as Roma started strongly.
But Georginio Wijnaldum was forced off limping and Feyenoord began to grow in confidence, creating a huge chance of their own when Rui Patricio beat away a Sebastian Szymanski volley from six yards.
The Dutch were happy to play the role of pantomime villains as tensions grew between the two sets of players, and Roma assistant Salvatore Foti was sent off for bizarrely choosing to throw a Feyenoord player to the ground to try and wrestle the ball off him for a throw-in.
Both keepers continued to be worked before the break, but Roma’s next big opening came 15 seconds into the second half when Pellegrini got on the end of a clever Nicola Zalewski cross to the near post and stabbed a finish off the post.
The Giallorossi’s breakthrough came in scrappy fashion, but they didn’t care. Feyenoord failed to clear their lines from a long throw, and Spinazzola’s deflected shot was met with an eruption of noise as it skidded into the bottom corner.
By now the momentum was firmly with the hosts as Gianluca Mancini prodded wide and El Shaarawy fired at the keeper, and Jose Mourinho threw on Abraham and Dybala for the final 17 minutes in his hunt for a winner.
Celebrations were cut short when Cristante rifled home from an Abraham nod-down, as the England international was penalised for a push, and moments later there was more bad news for Roma when Chris Smalling limped off with an injury.
Things got even worse when against the run of play Szymanski got forward and whipped in a deep cross, and substitute Paixao was left unmarked to glance a header beyond Patricio to edge Feyenoord back in front on aggregate.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and Dybala delivered the goods by superbly controlling a lay-off in the box, spinning his marker while holding him off, and dispatching a shot into the far corner.
The Argentina international almost produced another moment of magic in stoppage time, but his snap-shot was parried away by diving Justin Bijlow as the game headed to extra-time.
Santiago Gimenez squandered a rare chance for Feyenoord as a warning to Roma, but the hosts responded fiercely as Dybala had a curler punched away and Roger Ibanez headed off the post from a corner.
The decisive moment arrived in the 101st minute when Abraham made a clever run to receive the ball in a wide channel before putting a low cross on a plate for El Shaarawy to tap in.
Abraham almost bagged one of his own but was denied by the outrushing Bijlow, but he played a key role in Roma’s fourth as another shot was parried but this time Pellegrini tucked home the rebound – given after a lengthy VAR delay overturned the initial decision to rule it out.
A grim end to the night for Feyenoord was completed when Gimenez was sent off for leaving a high foot on Mancini.
The Europa League semi-final tie between Roma and Bayer Leverkusen will see the first leg played on May 11 in Rome before the return fixture in Germany a week later on May 18.