AS Roma ground out a 0-0 draw with Bayer Leverkusen to reach the final of the Europa League last night.
They did it in a way that Jose Mourinho has secured most of his most memorable victories.
The Portuguese manager set up his side to frustrate his opponent’s efforts, with Roma not managing a shot on target.
However, they ensured that most of Leverkusen’s 23 shots came from outside the box. Roma won the first leg 1-0 and needed only a draw to advance.
Mourinho’s side used all the special dark techniques in his vast playbook. They wasted time at any given point and pushed their opponents to the brink.
The usually calm Leverkusen manager Xabi Alonso lost his cool, receiving a yellow card for his protests.
Mitchel Bakker also smashed the ball into the advertising hoardings out of frustration, while several of his other teammates received cautions.
Jeremie Frimpong and Moussa Diaby berated referee Slavko Vincic at the end of the game.
Security operatives had to shield the official away with umbrellas. The frustration boiled over into the stands.
Some ultras from the Nordkurve section entered the pitch after the goalless draw to protest, but the game was over.
Leverkusen, a team that relies on speed, came up against a Mourinho side intent on slowing the game down.
They are one of the most dangerous teams on the counter-attack, cutting through teams when they find space.
Mourinho’s side refused to relinquish that space to Die Werkself, working hard to cover any gaps their opponents tried to exploit.
It was a storyline we have seen before – a typical Mourinho-esque back-to-the-wall performance.
Despite the referee adding three minutes at the end of the first half and eight at the end of the second, the ball was only in play for about 54 minutes.
Leverkusen keeper Lukas Hradecky said it was around 25 or 30 minutes and labelled Roma a disgrace.
Even Mourinho wore an ironic smile while praising the ‘great referee’.
Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes could not hide his irritation at Roma’s tactics.
He said (via The Athletic): “They broke the rhythm of the game every chance they got.
“After every shot of ours, somebody else threw themselves to the ground and looked as if they needed to be carried off. That’s a tactic, of course.
“It’s not the ref’s fault there’s someone going down all the time.
“But we’ve been talking a lot about net playing time and saw that even normal games lasted 100 minutes at the World Cup.
“He should have told them: ‘I will play on for another 20 minutes if you don’t stop’. They weren’t inclined to do so though.”
Edoardo Bove’s goal from the first leg was enough for the special one to reach his second consecutive European final.
Before Mourinho, Roma had only reached two European finals. They have now done it twice under him.
The 60-year-old will be keen to add another Europa League title to the Jose Mourinho trophy haul.
However, he will meet the masters of the Europa League – Sevilla. The six-time Europa League winners have never lost in the final.
They will want their favourite trophy to crown an incredible turnaround under coach Jose Luis Mendilibar.
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