Manager Jose Mourinho’s visit to England ended with a share of the spoils, as his AS Roma side were held to a 1-1 draw by Premier League outfit Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in the first leg of their UEFA Europa Conference League encounter on Thursday night.
The Giallorossi struck in the first half through Lorenzo Pellegrini in the 15th minute. Nicola Zalewski produced a sweet pass which picked out skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini inside the box, who in turn took a shot which went into the middle of the net and left Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel helpless. The half finished with Jose Mourinho’s side holding a slender lead at the break.
The second 45 minutes saw the hosts go in search of the equalizer which duly came through winger Ademola Lookman. The Nigerian international received a killer pass from Harvey Barnes, found himself one-on-one with Roma shot-stopper Rui Patricio and coolly sent the ball into the back of the net.
There’s still a whole lot more to play for in the return leg at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome next week. Victory for either side would see them book a place in the maiden finale of the UEFA Europa Conference League and increases their chances of earning a spot in next season’s UEFA Europa League (that is, if they win the competition).
Elsewhere on the night, Feyenoord drew first blood in their UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final first leg clash against Olympique Marseille, as a Cyril Dessers brace helped the hosts to a 3-2 first-leg win over the French side and saw him become the competition’s outright top goalscorer with 10 goals.
Dessers missed a golden opportunity to put the hosts in front after blazing a close-range shot over the bar, while Ofir Marciano denied Bamba Dieng down the other end from Dimitri Payet’s pass in an electric start to the match.
However, it was Dessers that struck first for Arne Slot’s men, as he clinically fired past Steve Mandanda from Luis Sinisterra’s back-heel assist. It was the Nigerian’s ninth UECL goal, which moved him one above Tammy Abraham in the goalscorers’ list.
‘Les Olympiens’ were shell-shocked and conceded a second less than three minutes later through Sinisterra, whose deflected strike found its way past Mandanda after being picked out by Reiss Nelson. This breathless encounter took another twist when Dieng halved the deficit in emphatic fashion at the end of a free-flowing move for his first-ever European goal. Then, Feyenoord’s lead was wiped out when Marciano could only palm Matteo Guendouzi’s ball across the box into the path of Gerson to smash home an equaliser.
It took just 10 seconds into the second half for ‘De club aan de Maas’ to re-establish their lead in a defensive horror show from the visitors. Duje Ćaleta-Car’s sloppy back-pass was intercepted by Dessers to get his second of the game and his 10th in 11 UECL appearances.
Slot’s side were seemingly content to hold onto their lead and dropped deeper, allowing Marseille more time on the ball. But the familiar defensive frailties from Jorge Sampaoli’s men almost came back to haunt them, but their blushes were spared when Mandanda made a fine save at his near post to deny Dessers a hat-trick. The visitors came close to levelling the scores once again, as William Saliba headed wide from a Payet corner.
It all leaves the tie finely poised heading into next week’s decisive second leg at the Stade Vélodrome.