STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): This all looks awfully familiar. An AS Roma vs Bayer Leverkusen Europa League semi-final after a backs-to-the-wall European display? For the thousands of Roma fans packed into the Olimpico on Thursday night, this is the most welcome kind of déjà vu as the Giallorossi beat AC Milan in an all-Italian quarter-final to again reach the final four.

Make no mistake, though, these are new and exciting times in the Italian capital. Jose Mourinho is no more, but Daniele De Rossi has quickly taken this team by the scruff of the neck and made it his own.

On the day that he was awarded a new contract to lead his boyhood team on a permanent basis through the 2024/25 season, De Rossi steered the Giallorossi to a second Europa semi in a row with a satisfyingly clinical and dogged display against an AC Milan side that sits three places higher up the Serie A table.

Daniele De Rossi on the sidelines in the Europa League. (@ASRomaEN)

Gianluca Mancini‘s inexplicably prolific run in front of goal continued when he knocked in the opener for his third goal in three games, before a sumptuous Paulo Dybala strike made a comeback a seemingly impossible task for Milan.

So it proved, although Zeki Celik‘s red card with an hour still to play left the door ajar and it took some impressive defensive organisation from De Rossi‘s men to keep the white-shirted hordes at bay, creaking only once when Matteo Gabbia headed in what proved to be a consolation at the death.

The opportunity to right last year’s wrongs of that penalty shoot-out defeat to Sevilla is still alive for Roma, although the task presented by Leverkusen is undoubtedly now a greater one, Xabi Alonso‘s this time coming into the tie with the tag of German champions.

It was already the De Rossi show before a ball had been kicked, as an Olimpico crowd at fever pitch roared out their coach’s name in celebration of the morning’s news that he will continue into next season.

AS Roma’s Stephan El Shaarawy in Europa League action against AC MIlan. (@ASRomaEN)

While De Rossi is at the start of his journey, there is a growing feeling that Stefano Pioli could be nearing the end of his at Milan and that sense only deepened once the action got underway on a stormy night in the Eternal City.

Mancini, continuing to channel his inner Francesco Totti this month, teed up Lorenzo Pellegrini on the edge of the box and was quickest to react when the Roma skipper’s curler cannoned back off the post, the centre-back tapping in the rebound.

Milan, finding themselves in need of two goals, surged forward in search of a response and almost found it when Ruben Loftus-Cheek‘s effort came back off the bar.

Any sense of Rossoneri optimism about that close call soon dissipated though, as within a minute Roma had doubled their lead, Dybala placing a pinpoint finish into the bottom corner after Romelu Lukaku had raced after a long ball to kickstart the counter-attack.

Paulo Dybala. (@ASRomaEN)

At this point a comfortable night for the Lupi seemed inevitable, only for Celik to blow things open again with a clumsy clip of Rafael Leao‘s heels that earned him a straight red and reinvigorated belief within the visiting ranks.

Roma, who lost Lukaku to injury and replaced him with Tammy Abraham, were soon facing waves of attacks but defended bravely as Leonardo Spinazzola blocked a goal-bound Loftus-Cheek header and a handball plea was waved away after a look at the monitor.

Needing three goals, Pioli threw caution to the wind by throwing on striker Luka Jovic for midfielder Ismael Bennacer, but Roma made it to the break with their lead and clean sheet intact.

On came Samuel Chukwueze and Tijjani Reijnders at the break to try and inject some spark into the Milan attack, but it was Roma who created the better chances in the second half as Mike Maignan was forced into a sharp save on Spinazzola and Abraham scooped over from six yards out.

AS Roma’s Leandro Paredes. (@ASRomaEN)

The Rossoneri spent agonising long minutes probing in the final third without managing to find a chink in the red-shirted armour, all-too often resorting to ambitious pot-shots that flew off target.

Gabbia‘s header from a Leao cross found the net with five minutes to go, but it was far too little far too late as Milan‘s European campaign fizzled out.