Roma 1-0 Leicester (agg 2-1): Tammy Abraham heads Italians into Europa Conference League final

Match report as Tammy Abraham's header secures 2-1 aggregate win over Leicester in Europa Conference League semi-final second leg; Roma, who face Feyenoord in the final, have won seven of their last eight home meetings against English sides

Tammy Abraham's header put Roma in front
Image: Tammy Abraham's header put Roma in front

Roma reached the inaugural Europa Conference League final after Tammy Abraham's header secured a 2-1 aggregate win to end Leicester's adventure in the competition at the Stadio Olimpico.

Following last Thursday's 1-1 draw in the first leg at the King Power Stadium, Brendan Rodgers' side faced a stiff test in front of a sell-out crowd in the Eternal City but were ultimately undone by another set-piece as Abraham rose unmarked to head in Lorenzo Pellegrini's corner after 11 minutes.

The Foxes had earlier seen a penalty claim dismissed after Chris Smalling appeared to drag Wesley Fofana down inside the box but the visitors failed to trouble Rui Patricio despite improving after the break.

James Maddison had Leicester's best chance in stoppage time as he collected Fofana's pass but his left-foot shot flew a yard wide as Mourinho led the celebrations at full-time having reached his fifth European final.

Roma will face Feyenoord in the Europa Conference League showpiece on May 25 after the Dutch side held on for a 0-0 draw at Marseille to progress 3-2 on aggregate.

James Maddison shows his dejection at full time
Image: James Maddison shows his dejection at full time

Player ratings

Roma: Rui Patricio (6), Mancini (6), Smalling (8), Ibanez (6), Karsdorp (7), Cristante (6), Sergio Oliveira (6), Pellegrini (7), Zalewski (7), Zaniolo (7), Abraham (8).

Subs: Vina (n/a), Veretout (n/a), Shomurodov (n/a).

Leicester: Schmeichel (6), Ricardo Pereira (6), Fofana (7), Evans (6), Justin (7), Maddison (6), Tielemans (6), Dewsbury-Hall (6), Lookman (5), Vardy (6), Barnes (5).

Subs: Iheanacho (6), Perez (7), Amartey (6), Castagne (6).

Man of the match: Tammy Abraham.

Leicester fall short in hostile surroundings

There was joy and despair for the two opposing teams after quite a performance from Roma, who had far less possession but found the crucial breakthrough early on before Mourinho set his side out to weather any late Leicester storm.

"Before the match started, the fans won us this game," Abraham told BT Sport. "The win is for them and for my team. Hopefully we can go all the way. My job is to be active around the box and that's the kind of striker I am. I'm not the best at heading, but today was a pretty good header."

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Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers made two changes from the first leg with James Justin and Harvey Barnes replacing Timothy Castagne and Marc Albrighton.

Jose Mourinho made one enforced alteration to the Roma side with Sergio Oliveira replacing the injured Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The Premier League side were aiming to inflict just a second European home defeat upon Roma in 29 such matches, a run that stretches back to the 2016/17 season, but they were left feeling aggrieved inside four minutes when Fofana was grappled to the ground inside the box by Smalling only for Serbian referee Srdjan Jovanovic to wave away their penalty protests.

Roma are now unbeaten in their last 19 UEFA competition home games, since a 2-0 Champions League loss against Real Madrid back in November 2018, and they nudged in front in the tie seven minutes later.

Ricardo Pereira was tasked with marking Abraham from Pellegrini's corner but he would prove no match for the striker who rose to power a header high above Kasper Schmeichel for his 25th goal of the season.

Rodgers laments Leicester's Achilles heel

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Brendan Rodgers said that Roma were the better team as Leicester lose in the Semi Final of the Europa Conference League.

"Of course, when you lose the second leg of a semi-final it's disappointing," Rodgers told BT Sport. "It's a great arena to come and play in. We were much better in the second half. I had to make changes as we weren't aggressive enough.

"There weren't many chances for both teams. We've tried every structure in the box but we lack the required physicality to deal with certain situations. It's been our Achilles heel all season and it's cost us again tonight.

"We needed to then get an extra body through the middle and the players responded well in the second half."

Leicester have been on another fine journey through Europe having only recently become regulars at this level and Rodgers - who refused to be drawn on whether his team should have had a penalty - has now thrown down the gauntlet to his players to make semi-finals in Europe not just a one-off.

James Justin drives forward for Leicester
Image: James Justin drives forward for Leicester

"Tonight is a big experience for them and that gives them extra motivation moving forward," the Leicester boss added.

"It's been great for the club. We've just missed out but we must now look to finish the season strongly and look to progress in the summer."

It was a tough night for Rodgers, who approached Fofana - Leicester's standout player - at the final whistle to pass on his commiserations. It was in Leicester's last cup exit when the Northern Irishman gave an outspoken interview following the 4-1 defeat by Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.

That day, he questioned a "lack of hunger" from some of his players at the City Ground but here he could not fault the attitude of those he selected. Leicester just fell short, and succumbed to yet another soft goal which will irk Rodgers.

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

Roma needed just 11 minutes to steal a march
Image: Roma needed just 11 minutes to steal a march

Mourinho urged his players forward and the hosts came close to doubling their advantage when Pellegrini was found in space down the left but Schmeichel batted away his near-post shot.

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.

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 Jovanovic were growing but the Foxes' first-half performance warranted little else than being behind.

Mourinho: It was an emotional night

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Jose Mourinho says he shed a tear for the fans as Roma booked their spot in the Conference League final

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

A double change at the break helped Leicester 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 Maddison curling at Patricio with 13 minutes left.

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.

"Of course it is an emotional night," the Portuguese said. "When you work in Rome and live in Rome, you breathe Rome as Roma is the real club of this city. I felt from the day I signed, I knew it was a huge club.

"The history is not related to the social dimension of the club. We've managed to build an OK team that has beaten a Premier League team so I am feeling for the people and for the players. This for us is our Champions League.

"It's a victory of the family - not just players and coaches but the family that was in the stadium. This is our greatest merit - this empathy, sense of family.

Roma will face Feyenoord in the final in Tirana
Image: Roma will face Feyenoord in the final in Tirana

"We played an extraordinary game. The boys were extraordinary, they deserve this. We've had a great run to get there and 14 games are a lot. Now we're in a final and we want to win.

"I shed a tear because my emotion was for everyone who loves this club. This is a giant club without the trophy room in relation to the dimension of the club.

"This is not a trophy, only a final, but it means a lot to them. I know what it means for them. Every club I coached I reached the final. I cannot say I played a final with all of them, but I reached a final with all of them."

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.

"Going behind to a Jose Mourinho team is always hard," Jonny Evans told BT Sport. "Conceding from set-pieces has been a problem for us and we just couldn't break them down.

"We played the majority of the second half in their half. They're a big, physical team but we just fell short."

Man of the match - Tammy Abraham

Abraham tormented the Leicester defence
Image: Abraham tormented the Leicester defence

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

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.

It was his work rate and hold-up play besides his goal which galvanised his team-mates, and the supporters, in the closing stages.

What's next?

Leicester host Everton at the King Power Stadium on Sunday; kick-off is at 2pm. Roma visit Fiorentina in Serie A on Monday night at 7.45pm.

The inaugural Europa Conference League final takes place on Wednesday 25 May at Tirana's National Arena in Albania; kick-off 8pm.

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