Alright everyone, breathe! There’s nothing quite like a cup semi-final is there? Particularly when it comes to playing in Europe. And while the score-line leaves a little bit to be desired in terms of goals scored, the action was no less tense on the night. The match was a back-and-forth encounter that leaves both teams having rued missed opportunities, yet with reasons to be confident going into the second leg next week.
The Giallorossi had every reason to be confident heading into the match despite the result against Inter, with the signs of their development and togetherness over the course of their unbeaten league run generating a level of self-belief for the squad that had been missing for some time. And it didn’t take long for dividends to pay off for Roma, as just 15 minutes into the match they broke the dead-lock to take the lead on the night.
The goal was all Nicola Zalewski, as the youngster picked up the ball just behind the halfway line, only to turn on the jets, cut inside near the edge of the box, and coolly find Lorenzo Pellegrini making the run in behind, who was able to slot the ball through the legs of a helpless Kasper Schmeichel. In a season filled with conceding early, Roma picked the perfect time to role reverse.
The rest of the first half saw Roma and Leicester trade blows with not much to show for it, with Roma seemingly content to hang around their own box and hit on the counter, while Leicester had plenty of possession, yet was unable to punish Roma. Your team sitting deep and soaking up pressure at the edge of the box is likely to raise the blood pressure of any fan, particularly Romanisti, but a dominant display from Chris Smalling up to that point went a long way in assuaging any fears that Roma would concede.
Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, a clean sheet just wasn’t on the cards for the Giallorossi on the evening. As both sides began to turn to their respective benches, Leicester would bring on Harvey Barnes, and just five minutes after coming on, the winger would pick a pass out that Roger Ibañez nearly intercepted, unfortunately hitting the ball straight into the path of an incoming Barnes, who was then able to fire in a cross towards Ademola Lookman that instead deflected off the shin of Gianluca Mancini, resulting in an own-goal.
From there it was business as usual in terms of trading blows back and forth with not much to show for it till the final few minutes, where Roma again seemed the likelier of the two sides to score. And while Roma will lament not scoring more away from home, going back to a sold-out Olimpico with the scores level is a very exciting proposition in advance of next week’s return leg.
In case you missed any of the action, enjoy the highlights below.