STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): Roman-born Edoardo Bove was AS Roma’s hero on Thursday night as his second-half strike earned Jose Mourinho’s Giallorossi a narrow 1-0 win in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final tie with Bayer Leverkusen.
The game was lacking goalmouth action for the most part and for a long time it appeared as though the two would meet again in Germany with everything to play for and with nothing splitting them, but Bove found himself in the right place at the right time to finish on a rebound from a saved Tammy Abraham strike and raise the roof off the Olimpico in what is the Giallorossi’s last European home game of the season, whatever happens in the return leg.
With 63,123 watching on at the Olimpico, the atmosphere was expectedly lively from long before kick-off and throughout, eventually playing its part in getting the Serie A side over the line to take a slender lead away to Germany with them in a week’s time.
A slow start
Not that many people who have seen a lot of Roma this season will be shocked, but things started relatively slowly for both sides and neither Rui Patricio nor opposite number Lukas Hradecky had much work to do in their respective goals.
It was Leverkusen who looked to threaten first though, but couldn’t work a shot on target in either of the two early ventures forward. Florian Wirtz showed his trickery and came close after weaving in from the left, sending warning shots to the Giallorossi.
Attacking their Curva Sud, Roma were left wanting in attack. Long balls to Leonardo Spinazzola and Abraham failed to reap rewards, though the Englishman should have scored with the biggest chance of a game. Roger Ibanez met a Lorenzo Pellegrini cross and his header was excellently stopped by Hradecky and Abraham was unable to turn home as the ball fell his way inside the six-yard box.
The second half started with much the same feeling as the first, and chances were few and far between. Abraham’s failure to get a shot off when the ball fell his way on the edge of the box was followed by a failed attempt at acrobatics from strike partner Andrea Belotti, with the ex-Torino marksman firing way over the crossbar. At the other end, Exequiel Palacios dragged a woeful shot from way out a long way wide.
Edoardo Bove: Roma’s Homegrown hero
Without too much to get excited about, the atmosphere fell a long way from its pre-match peak despite not being anywhere near flat. That changed just after the hour mark. Having been warmed up by the sight of both Paulo Dybala and Georginio Wijnaldum readying themselves to come on, the Olimpico soon erupted. Abraham had an effort saved that he might have expected to score, but Rome’s own Edoardo Bove was on hand to arrive at the right time and finish for the opening goal to the delight of the 63,123 in attendance.
Roma looked to disturb the game from then on as they sought to see things out, despite bringing on both Dybala and Wijnaldum. Every loose ball was kicked high and far, and despite some tense moments around their own penalty area, Roma just about got themselves over the line and get a step closer to booking their tickets to Budapest.
The second leg is set for Thursday, May 18 at Leverkusen’s BayArena.