Europa Conference League

Europa Conference League (20)

An emotional Jose Mourinho spoke of his burning desire to bring silverware to Roma after reaching the Europa Conference League final, declaring: "This is our Champions League."

The Italians will contest the competition's first ever final later this month after beating Leicester City 1-0 at the Stadio Olimpico to secure a 2-1 aggregate success in the semis.

Afterwards, the manager reflected on the importance of a victory that sets up Roma to win a first European title since lifting the 1961 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

And he insisted that winning the Europa Conference League would feel just as significant as claiming one of European football's more glamorous prizes.

He told BT Sport: "When you work in Rome, you live in Rome, you breathe Rome and you breathe this club because this club is the real club of the city. 

"I felt from day one that it's a huge club, as you could see, but no victories and not many finals. The history is not related with the social dimension of the club.

"We managed to build an okay team that grew up step by step and we could beat a Premier League team that comes from a different dimension.

"So I'm very, very emotional. Of course I had bigger moments than this but I'm not feeling for myself, I'm feeling for the people and my players.

"This for us is our Champions League."

Meanwhile, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers was left to lament the defensive fragility his side showed around the corner that led to Tammy Abraham's 11th-minute winner.

He said: "The corner, it's been our Achilles' heel all season. We've tried every structure in the box to defend, man-marking, zonal. 

"Clearly, we lack physicality in the team to deal with certain situations consistently and it's obviously cost us tonight."

And the former Liverpool boss hinted that changes could be afoot as the Foxes look to bounce back next term.

He added: "We have to finish the season strongly now and look to progress in the summer to challenge again next season."

Feyenoord clung on to a first-leg Europa Conference League semi-final lead to progress to the final after holding Marseille to a 0-0 draw at Stade Velodrome for a 3-2 aggregate victory.

The Eredivisie outfit weathered an everything-but-the-kitchen sink performance in attack from their hosts amid a frequently raucous atmosphere in Provence to make history.

It takes the Dutch side to a first major European final appearance since 2002, when they defeated Borussia Dortmund to claim what was then the UEFA Cup.

But for Jorge Sampaoli, it will be a draw that tastes like defeat as Les Olympiens missed the chance for a shot at their first bit of continental silverware since the 2005 Intertoto Cup.

With Marseille coming into the match needing a victory to at the very least enforce a run into extra time and penalties, it was a lively opening half and hour from the hosts.

Backed by an army of flare-wielding fans – to the point that visibility was seriously reduced by smoke over the first quarter-hour – they pressed hard for an early advantage.

Yet Arne Slot's charges held firm, and the Ligue 1 side were handed a hefty creative blow when Dmitri Payet was forced off with an innocuous issue in the 33rd minute.

Luis Sinisterra subsequently missed a chance to craft a two-goal aggregate cushion for Feyenoord straight after the break when he pushed his header into Steve Mandanda's gloves.

With time running out to find an answer, tempers began to flare across the final quarter too, with Gerson and Lutsharel Geertruida physically squaring off at one point.

Another fracas between both sets of players set the tone for a tempestuous final few minutes – but with Marseille unable to ultimately crack the Dutch defence, it was their visitors who held on to set up a trip to Tirana, where they will face Roma.

Roma booked their place in the first Europa Conference League final as they beat Leicester City 1-0 in a hard-fought semi-final second leg.

Tammy Abraham's 11th-minute header proved the difference between the sides, who had drawn 1-1 in their first meeting in England last week.

Thursday's result secured Roma their first European final appearance since the 1990-91 UEFA Cup, and ensured Brendan Rodgers' men failed to reach their maiden showpiece fixture in continental competition.

Jose Mourinho's side will take on Feyenoord for the trophy in Tirana, Albania on May 25.

The Foxes made a bright start and saw a credible penalty claim waved away after Chris Smalling appeared to grapple with Wesley Fofana in the box.

But the tide soon turned in Roma's favour, allowing Lorenzo Pellegrini to test Kasper Schmeichel with a low curler from a free-kick on the edge of the box.

The Italian's delivery was key to the hosts taking the lead, Abraham powerfully heading home a delicious outswinger of a corner.

However, a Pellegrini shot that called Schmeichel into action in the immediate aftermath served as a prompt for Leicester to start asking questions of their own. 

Unfortunately for the visitors, they struggled to turn long spells of possession into real chances, ensuring the score remained at 1-0 at the break.

Rodgers consequently moved to mix things up at half-time, Daniel Amartey and Kelechi Iheanacho replacing Harvey Barnes and Ademola Lookman as part of a switch to a 3-5-2 formation.

And, while that change enhanced Leicester's domination of the ball, much like in the first half, turning that into opportunities proved problematic.

In fact, their first shot on target did not come until the 79th minute, a weak James Maddison effort failing to truly test Rui Patricio.

And so the Foxes could have few complaints when the full-time whistle confirmed the end of a memorable European journey.

Roma booked their place in the first Europa Conference League final as they beat Leicester City 1-0 in a hard-fought semi-final second leg.

Tammy Abraham's 11th-minute header proved the difference between the sides, who had drawn 1-1 in their first meeting in England last week.

Thursday's result secured Roma their first European final appearance since the 1990-91 UEFA Cup, and ensured Brendan Rodgers' men failed to reach their maiden showpiece fixture in continental competition.

Jose Mourinho's side will take on Feyenoord for the trophy in Tirana, Albania on May 25.

The Foxes made a bright start and saw a credible penalty claim waved away after Chris Smalling appeared to grapple with Wesley Fofana in the box.

But the tide soon turned in Roma's favour, allowing Lorenzo Pellegrini to test Kasper Schmeichel with a low curler from a free-kick on the edge of the box.

The Italian's delivery was key to the hosts taking the lead, Abraham powerfully heading home a delicious outswinger of a corner.

However, a Pellegrini shot that called Schmeichel into action in the immediate aftermath served as a prompt for Leicester to start asking questions of their own. 

Unfortunately for the visitors, they struggled to turn long spells of possession into real chances, ensuring the score remained at 1-0 at the break.

Rodgers consequently moved to mix things up at half-time, Daniel Amartey and Kelechi Iheanacho replacing Harvey Barnes and Ademola Lookman as part of a switch to a 3-5-2 formation.

And, while that change enhanced Leicester's domination of the ball, much like in the first half, turning that into opportunities proved problematic.

In fact, their first shot on target did not come until the 79th minute, a weak James Maddison effort failing to truly test Rui Patricio.

And so the Foxes could have few complaints when the full-time whistle confirmed the end of a memorable European journey.

What does it mean?

Mourinho now has the chance to win his first trophy since the 2017 Europa League while ending Roma's 14-year wait for silverware up against Feyenoord in the final.

As for Leicester, they have little more to aim for than a top-half Premier League finish across the remainder of this season.

Pellegrini drags Roma through

One goal may have done the job for Roma, but that was not for a want of trying from the impressive Pellegrini.

As well as teeing up Abraham's winner, the midfielder created four chances while posting a passing accuracy of 83 per cent.

Isolated Vardy tells a tale

Dominant in possession for so much of the game in the Italian capital, it was a lack of cutting edge that let Leicester down in the end.

That is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that Jamie Vardy managed just 21 touches across the 90 minutes, and a paltry xG of 0.05.

What's next?

Leicester return to Premier League action on Sunday when they host struggling Everton. Roma, meanwhile, travel to face Fiorentina in Serie A next Monday.

Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is targeting winning more trophies with the Foxes ahead of the Europa Conference League semi-final second leg against Roma.

Jose Mourinho's Giallorossi earned a 1-1 draw at the King Power Stadium last week, and are the favourites to advance when they get the Foxes back to the Stadio Olimpico.

However, Schmeichel – the son of former Manchester United stopper Peter Schmeichel – says he and his team-mates are going to Rome "to win". 

Speaking at a media conference ahead of the game in Italy, the Dane told reporters: "When you're in a competition your sole focus is on that competition, which is what is happening now.

"We go to win whatever we're involved in and this is no different. It's a European trophy, every trophy is important, every competition you can win is important.

"I don't play football to finish fourth or fifth or sixth, it's about winning trophies. These are those moments fans and players will look back on when your career is over."

Schmeichel was a part of the Leicester team that sensationally won the Premier League title in the 2015-2016 campaign, before raising the FA Cup last term after beating Chelsea in the final, and the 35-year-old believes those experiences, coupled with this season's journey to the final four in the inaugural Conference League, will bode well for the team.

"I don't know how you get better quickly. I don't know if that's possible," he said. "I think it gets stored in the bank of experience.

"This is a great experience for so many players and these are the type of moments that you can look back on one day and draw back on when you need them.

"It all contributes to the mentality you build, and it's a winning mentality we want to build. Being in these situations and getting to finals where everything is on the line. When you've been there before, you can draw on those experiences."

 

A Lorenzo Pellegrini goal at the King Power Stadium gave Roma the lead in the first leg, before a Gianluca Mancini own goal levelled things up, and Schmeichel complimented the Serie A side's organisation.

"They're very well organised and very well drilled, I would expect nothing less from a Jose Mourinho team," he added. "They are a dangerous side, they showed they can be clinical. They played the game how they wanted to play it.

"They were probably happy to get away with the draw so they could decide it at their stadium. They're a very organised team, one that will be dangerous. To be honest our focus is more on us than the opposition."

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers also spoke to the media on Wednesday, labelling the game in the Italian capital as a "great challenge".

"You have to go and enjoy it," he said of the task ahead. "This is a great challenge for us, the challenges we've had going to PSV, going to Rennes [in previous rounds], we knew we were going to tough environments to go and play with the crowds and against good teams.

"This is another step forward for us mentally in the maturation of the team, it's a very young team playing at this level and we will gain from experiences of course, but we've shown that we can also complete the task.

"You have to embrace that."

Gianluca Mancini's own goal helped Leicester City earn a 1-1 draw with Roma in their Europa Conference League semi-final first leg.

Appearing at this stage in European competition for the third time in five years, Jose Mourinho's side took a 15th-minute lead at the King Power Stadium through Lorenzo Pellegrini.

But the hosts equalised midway through the second half when Mancini inadvertently turned Harvey Barnes' cross into his own net.

It was enough to ensure a share of the spoils and leave the tie finely poised ahead of next week's second leg at Stadio Olimpico.

Leicester made a positive start to what was their first European semi-final. Just four minutes had passed when Timothy Castagne headed wide from a James Maddison corner.

Despite enjoying just 35 per cent of possession inside the opening quarter of an hour, Roma took the lead when Pellegrini latched onto Nicola Zalewski's throughball before drilling through the legs of Kasper Schmeichel.

The Foxes, who lost Castagne to injury soon after, looked to respond. Chris Smalling made an important block to deny Lookman, who also stung the palms of Rui Patricio from 20 yards.

Lookman then squandered a decent opportunity to equalise early in the second half; heading Marc Albrighton's corner over from inside the six-yard box.

But Brendan Rodgers' side not to be denied in the 67th minute as, under pressure from Lookman, Mancini turned into his own net from point-blank range after excellent work from Barnes.

The hosts pushed for the winner with Kelechi Iheanacho going close, but they had to settle for a stalemate.

Cyriel Dessers scored twice as Feyenoord edged an absorbing Europa Conference League semi-final against Marseille, claiming a 3-2 first-leg success at De Kuip.

Dessers and Luis Sinisterra netted within three frantic first-half minutes, but Bamba Dieng and Gerson led a rapid Marseille comeback as a terrific first half ended level.   

But a dire back-pass from Duje Caleta-Car allowed Dessers to grab his brace immediately after the break as the hosts re-established their advantage. 

Arne Slot's men will now take a slender lead to Southern France for next week's second leg as they aim for a first European final appearance since 2002.

Dieng missed two glorious one-on-one chances for Marseille early on, side-footing straight at Ofir Marciano after eight minutes, before dragging another poor finish wide after 13 minutes.

Marseille were punished when Dessers poked the hosts into the lead after latching onto Sinisterra's flick in the 18th minute, and went two down when Sinisterra swept Reiss Nelson's cut-back beyond Steve Mandanda via a fortuitous deflection just three minutes later.

But the visitors halved the arrears when Dieng stuck a fierce long-range effort into the bottom-right corner after 28 minutes, and found themselves level when Gerson stabbed home after Marciano spilled a cross shortly before the break.

Marseille fell behind once again just nine seconds into the second half when Dessers intercepted Caleta-Car's dreadful back-pass before rounding Mandanda and tapping home.

Caleta-Car almost gifted the hosts a fourth when he passed straight to Byran Linssen after an hour, only for the substitute to drag his right-footed shot wide.

Mandanda denied Dessers his hat-trick after 75 minutes, before Dieng shot straight at Marciano when left unmarked late on, as Feyenoord put one foot in the final.

What does it mean? Feyenoord edge thriller to move closer to final

Feyenoord's thrilling victory moved them one step closer towards adding to their storied history in European competitions, and preserved their unbeaten record in the Conference League (eight wins, three draws this season).

The Dutch outfit, who have one European Cup and two UEFA Cups to their name, will simply need to maintain that record in France to make the final. 

Marseille get just Dessers after poor display

A calamitous defensive showing from Marseille was exploited ruthlessly by Dessers, who opened the scoring before putting Feyenoord back in front just seconds after the break. Dessers has now scored 10 goals in the Conference League this season, more than any other player in the competition. 

Meanwhile, he has set a new record for goals scored by a Feyenoord player in a European campaign (previously nine, scored by Lex Schoenmaker in 1973-74 and Pierre van Hooijdonk in 2001-02).

Marseille fail to make history

Sampaoli's team came into this contest as favourites after winning seven consecutive games in the Conference League, and could have become the first French team to record eight successive European wins (excluding qualifiers).

However, the visitors' poor defensive performance was summed up by Caleta-Car's costly error, and saw them fall short of that landmark achievement.

What's next? 

Feyenoord face an Eredivisie trip to Fortuna Sittard on Sunday ahead of next week's second leg, while Marseille host Lyon in Ligue 1 on the same day.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho is one of the greatest managers of his generation and has nothing to prove, according to Leicester City counterpart Brendan Rodgers.

Mourinho and Rodgers will come face-to-face on Thursday when Leicester host Roma for the first leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final.

The pair worked closely together when Rodgers was head of youth development at Chelsea during Mourinho's first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho's stock has fallen somewhat in recent years, with this his first trip to England since being sacked by Tottenham in April last year.

The Portuguese has since had a mixed time of things in charge of Roma, with the Europa Conference League his last realistic shot at success this season.

Despite going five years since last winning a trophy – the Europa League with United in 2016-17 – Rodgers remains a big supporter of Mourinho.

"He has nothing to prove to anyone. He will always be a winner," Rodgers said at his pre-match news conference on Wednesday. 

"I cannot speak any higher of him. He is one of the greats of our generation. I have got nothing but admiration for him. 

"I became a manager in my own right but I'll never forget what I gained from him as a young coach. I studied him and watched him and at that time it was a really special period."

Mourinho has won 25 trophies in four different countries across a 22-year career in senior management, including the Champions League with Porto and Inter.

"He had the X factor," Rodgers said when asked why he rates Mourinho as one of the best. "There isn't one single thing. He was brilliant in so many aspects of the game.

"Detail-orientated, man-management of the players, his understanding of the tactical adaptation of the game, he had that special quality I was able to see."

 

Leicester have struggled for consistency domestically this season and are only competing in the Europa Conference League after dropping out of the Europa League.

The Foxes have defeated Randers, Rennes and PSV to make it through to the semi-finals of UEFA's third-tier competition, where they will face Roma for the first time.

City have failed to win their previous two games against Italian opposition, losing and drawing with Napoli this season, while Roma have won just one of their 21 away games in England.

Rodgers, who confirmed striker Jamie Vardy could make a second start of 2022, is eager to set up a final against either Feyenoord or Marseille.

"It's a prestigious competition, all four teams will want to win it," he said.

"It's a fantastic occasion against a top-class team. To get to the final we will do everything we can. It's another symbol of our growth as a club."

Leicester have lost just one of their last 16 home games in all European competitions and none in the 2021-22 campaign.

Bodo/Glimt head coach Kjetil Knutsen and Roma goalkeeping coach Nuno Santos have been provisionally suspended by UEFA following assault allegations.

Santos was accused of assaulting Knutsen in the tunnel after Jose Mourinho's men fell to a 2-1 first-leg defeat in their Europa League Conference quarter-final in Norway last Thursday. 

Both clubs released statements in the aftermath of the incident, with Roma announcing that they were cooperating with UEFA and local authorities to investigate the claims.

The Norwegian champions accused their opponents of "bombarding the media with untruths" relating to the altercation, and European football's governing body has since announced its decision on the matter.

Both coaches will be provisionally suspended from European fixtures until a further ruling is made on the case by UEFA's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body.

Knutsen alleged that Santos grabbed him by the neck and pushed him against a wall during a heated alteration outside the dressing rooms after the match.

The encounter marked the second time the Norwegian side have beaten Roma in this season's competition, with a first-half Lorenzo Pellegrini goal cancelled out by second-half strikes from Ulrik Saltnes and Hugo Vetlesen. 

Roma will attempt to overturn the first-leg deficit when they welcome Bodo/Glimt to the Stadio Olimpico for the crucial return leg on Thursday.

Roma have released a statement in response to allegations made against a member of their coaching staff following Thursday's Europa Conference League defeat at Bodo/Glimt.

The statement explains the club has provided assistance to UEFA and local authorities after it was alleged that Giallorossi goalkeeper coach Nuno Santos assaulted Bodo/Glimt coach Kjetil Knutsen in the tunnel after the Norwegian side's 2-1 quarter-final first leg win.

Knutsen claimed Santos grabbed him by the neck and pushed him against a wall during the altercation.

A statement released by the Serie A club on Friday read: "AS Roma would like to note that, following the conclusion of the match on Thursday evening, club directors and other members of the coaching staff remained at the Aspmyra Stadion until 00:45 local time, purely for the purpose of providing UEFA and local authorities with all the details of what transpired in the areas outside the changing rooms following the full-time whistle.

"The club has total confidence that UEFA and its various bodies will ultimately establish with clarity and precision where responsibility lies for the events that occurred, events that we have already described and explained in detail to all the relevant authorities present on site.

"Finally, the club would like to emphasise that it has always conducted itself in a manner that upholds the values of fair play and sportsmanship, both on and off the pitch: the same principles that we hope will be on display throughout next week's second leg."

It was the second time the Norwegian side have beaten Roma in this season's competition, with a first-half Lorenzo Pellegrini goal being cancelled out by second-half strikes from Ulrik Saltnes and Hugo Vetlesen.

Pellegrini told Sky Sport Italia after the game he believed Knutsen attacked Santos first, claims that their opponents strongly deny.

Bodo/Glimt also released a statement about the incident, saying: "Roma is bombarding the media with untruths in an attempt to hide the unsportsmanlike behaviour.

"Glimt knows that there is a video of the incident, which shows the attack on Knutsen from representatives of Rome's coaching team. The club has seen this video. We demand that the public have access to this video owned by UEFA."

General manager Frode Thomassen added: "Glimt sees no other choice than to report Nuno Santos to the police on the basis of the physical attack on Kjetil Knutsen. It is completely unacceptable behavior. 

"This is a systematic provocation, manipulation and finally the exercise of physical violence against Kjetil Knutsen. We are confident that an objective body will ignore incorrect claims from Roma."

UEFA also confirmed on Friday the matter is being investigated, saying: "In accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, a UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector has been appointed to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding reported incidents which allegedly occurred at the end of the 2021/22 Europa Conference League quarter-final match between FK Bodo/Glimt and AS Roma played on 7 April 2022 in Norway.

"Information on this matter will be made available in due course."

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