Tammy Abraham downs Leicester as Roma reach Europa Conference League final

Roma 1-0 Leicester (Agg 2-1): The England striker’s first-half header sent Roma through to face Feyenoord in the showpiece

Nick Mashiter
Thursday 05 May 2022 22:39
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Tammy Abraham broke Leicester hearts as Roma reached the Europa Conference League final.

The England striker’s 27th goal of the season sealed a 1-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico and booked a showdown with Feyenoord in Tirana.

Jose Mourinho’s side progressed 2-1 on aggregate after last week’s semi-final first leg draw at the King Power Stadium.

The Foxes fell short in their first European semi-final and there will be a lingering sense of regret they failed to seriously trouble Roma and never did themselves justice.

The club have torn up the rule book after winning the Premier League and FA Cup in the last six years but, this season, European success was just out of reach.

Roma have not won a European competition for 50 years, since beating Blackpool in the 1972 Anglo-Italian Cup but Mourinho will now look to complete the set after his past Champions League and Europa League victories.

Home fans had begun hurling flares at the Leicester supporters long before kick-off at a hostile Stadio Olimpico with the hosts looking to reach their first European final since 1991, when they lost the UEFA Cup to Inter Milan.

A pre-match banner declared ‘Everyone in Britain dreads the name of the Romans’ and Roma’s determination was obvious.

Leicester did have early protests for a penalty ignored when Chris Smalling hauled down Wesley Fofana but the ravenous hosts quickly took charge to grab an 11th-minute winner.

Kasper Schmeichel had already saved Lorenzo Pellegrini’s cute free-kick as Roma forced a number of corners and it was, again, from a set-piece where Leicester conceded.

Pellegrini’s dangerous delivery was met by Abraham and he outjumped Ricardo Pereira to power a towering header past Schmeichel from seven yards.

Tammy Abraham scored the winner against Leicester

It was the striker’s ninth goal in the competition this season – with Alan Shearer and Stan Bowles the only Englishmen to score more in a single European campaign.

Shell-shocked, Leicester retreated and Pellegrini, scorer of Roma’s first-leg goal, was a constant menace with Jonny Evans mopping up after Schmeichel saved another effort.

Roma were in control having out-muscled and out-manoeuvred the Foxes and kept the visitors at bay even when they did have brief spells of possession.

Boss Brendan Rodgers had spoken about using the 72,000 sell-out crowd to Leicester’s advantage, hoping to play on any nerves and anxiety with Roma so close to ending a 14-year trophy drought.

But his slow side were never able to find sustained momentum to even get under the hosts’ skin on the pitch.

Frustrations with inconsistent referee Srdjan Jovanovic were growing but the Foxes’ first-half performance warranted little else than being behind.

Rodgers rolled the dice at the break with the ineffective Ademola Lookman and Harvey Barnes replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho and Daniel Amartey.

Kelechi Iheanacho, right, was brought on for the second half (Fabrizio Corradetti/PA)

A double change at half-time helped the Foxes overcome a second-leg deficit to beat PSV in last month’s quarter-final and immediately they were more robust but still lacked the imagination to level the tie.

Jamie Vardy did have a shot blocked by Abraham and the Foxes saw more of the ball, with James Maddison curling at Rui Patricio with 13 minutes left.

But a low-key second half suited Roma and, even though they created little themselves, they were always comfortable.

Iheanacho shot at Patricio from distance as time slipped away but, this time, there was no fairy-tale ending for the Foxes.

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