Europe: Europa League
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E. Bove (63)
By Ultan Corcoran@UltanCorcoran

Bove strike gifts Roma slender advantage over Leverkusen

After last weekend’s derby defeat to Koln, Leverkusen’s 14-game unbeaten run came to an end. What better way to bounce back than a change of scenery as they travelled to the Italian capital for the first leg of their Europa League semi-final clash with Roma.

The sides last met in the 2015-16 Champions League group stages with 13 goals scored across both games. Many ‘Die Werkself’ fans would be hopeful of similar entertainment; however, Jose Mourinho’s Roma have become a dangerous yet defensively solid outfit. A 63rd minute strike from Edoardo Bove was enough for the Giallorossi to defeat Leverkusen 1-0.
Leverkusen made a lively start inside the first minute. Hincapié burst down the left flank and found Andrich in a central position, but the latter failed to trouble Rui Patrício. Roma would create their best chance on 18 minutes when Tah felled Abraham. Skipper, Lorenzo Pellegrini whipped the freekick towards Ibañez, who was denied by the brilliance of Hradecký’s agile fingertips.

There was some cause for concern in the Bayer ranks as Kossounou went to ground clutching his thigh after a meaty duel. The Ivorian was unfit to continue with Mitchell Bakker filling the void in defence. A knock taken by Frimpong added further delay to the action in what was a game of attrition for both teams.

Roma started the stronger of the two after the restart. Spinazzola skinned Tah out wide to find Abraham centrally, but the move culminated in a Celik shot that fizzed wide. The Stadio Olimpico was set into raptures as the hosts constructed a 1-0 lead on 63 minutes. Hradecký did well to repel the initial Abraham strike however Rome-born Edoardo Bove was first to thrust the rebound home.

Alonso looked to his bench with 20 minutes to play. Serdar and Adli entered the Colosseum as Hložek and Diaby were withdrawn. Meanwhile, Roma’s goal scorer Bove meant a welcome return to action for the mercurial Paulo Dybala. Frimpong continued to threaten as the game neared its close. Some miscommunication between Ibañez and Patrício afforded the Dutchman space to shoot. Unfortunately for Bayer, their best chance of the night was bravely defended by Cristante perched on the goal line. First blood to the Roman outfit with everything still to play for at the BayArena next Thursday.

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