Sunday, July 3, 2022

UEFA Conference League: AS Roma draw at Leicester, take another step toward ending trophy drought

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The UEFA Conference League semifinal first leg between Leicester City and AS Roma ended 1-1 Thursday night at the King Power Stadium. Jose Mourinho’s side drew after an intense and exciting clash. A trip to the final hangs in the balance next week when the Stadio Olimpico will be packed to support the Serie A side. 

Leicester got off to a strong start, but Roma were able to defend quite well and didn’t risk too much despite Leicester’s chances, especially one of former Atalanta winger Timothy Castagne, whose header went wide. It was AS Roma that went ahead in the match thanks to a great play by Nicola Zalewski. He passed the ball to Lorenzo Pellegrini, who didn’t miss and scored the opening goal of the night.

The second half wasn’t that different and Leicester pushed a lot until they scored the equalizer thanks to an unfortunate own goal of Gianluca Mancini. The draw pushes all the attention to next week’s match in Rome, and the winner will play against the other semifinalist winner between Feyenoord and Marseille. The Dutch team that won that first leg, 3-2, on Thursday. 

AS Roma fans will push the team next week at the Olimpico. This team’s last trophy was back in 2008 when Luciano Spalletti’s team won the Coppa Italia against Inter Milan. The Giallorossi have also never won a major European trophy in their history. 

Roma fans can still remember the disappointment of their two major losses against Liverpool in 1984 in the European Cup final (the predecessor to the Champions League) and the loss against Inter Milan in the 1990-91 UEFA Cup (which is now the Europa League). Roma were also close to reaching a Champions League final in 2018 after an incredible quarterfinal comeback against Barcelona, but then lost against Liverpool in the semis. 

Roma has an incredibly devoted fan base, even though it’s been a rough 20 years. Their last Scudetto win was 2001 and the Conference League is the first real chance they have to win something more important than the Coppa Italia in a generation. And, to add insult to injury, heated, crosstown-rivals Lazio have won more than Roma with three Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana trophies over that time. 

Roma can take a big step toward ending their trophy drought next Thursday. The second leg vs. Leicester will be streaming on Paramount+.

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