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Mourinho’s Roma reach Europa League final after goalless draw at Leverkusen

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Europa League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Bayer Leverkusen v AS Roma - BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany - May 18, 2023 AS Roma coach Jose Mourinho celebrates after the match REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

AS Roma earned a 0-0 draw at Bayer Leverkusen in their Europa League semi-final return leg on Thursday to reach the showpiece match with a 1-0 aggregate win.

The Rome side have now reached back-to-back European finals under coach Jose Mourinho following last season’s Europa Conference League title.

The visitors were on the backfoot for the entire game and had to survive intense pressure from the Germans, who missed a lot of chances and also hit the woodwork, as they advanced thanks to last week’s 1-0 win in Italy.

They will play the winners of the other semi-final between Sevilla and Juventus in the final on May 31 in Budapest.

It all started well for Leverkusen, looking to reach their first European final in 21 years.

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Apart from a second minute chance for Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini, the hosts had the upper hand in the first half with a dozen efforts on goal compared to their opponents’ one.

Moussa Diaby rattled the crossbar with a powerful shot in the 12th minute and Kerem Demirbay’s low drive in the 21st was saved by goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

The visitors tried to push up a bit higher in the second half to intercept Leverkusen’s attacks earlier but the hosts kept finding ways to create chances.

Demirbay forced another good save in the 67th from Patricio, who thought he was beaten by Sardar Azmoun minutes later only for the Iranian’s shot to sail just wide.

Leverkusen, whose last major title dates back to 1993, had 23 efforts on goal but it was Mourinho’s Roma that went through even if they had just the one effort on goal in the entire game.

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“All that was missing was a goal,” said Leverkusen’s Demirbay. “We did not have that bit of luck. It was bitter not to be rewarded for such a performances. But I am proud of the way we played.”

-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Manchester United may be denied Europa League slot

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It is not yet certain for Manchester United if the struggling former giants will play in the Europa League despite winning the FA Cup.

The club will discover their Europa League fate after UEFA threaten relegation

They have been left concerned they could be relegated to the Europa Conference League after Nice, who Sir Jim Ratcliffe also owns, qualified for the Europa League

According to British publication, Mirror, Manchester United will be allowed to play in the Europa League after UEFA came to a decision on their future in the competition.

Though they finished eighth in the Premier League, Erik ten Hag’s side won the FA Cup. That win earned them automatic qualification to Europe’s second-tier competition for next season.

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But there had been some doubt that they would be allowed to play in the competition after Nice also qualified.

The French side are also owned by Sir Jim Ratcliffe through his INEOS chemical company.They finished fifth in Ligue 1 in the season just gone and UEFA rules state that clubs owned by the same company are not allowed to play in the same European competition.

Normally, the team that finished lower in their respective league would be relegated to the Europa Conference League, in this case United.

But according to The Times, both United and Nice will be allowed to play in the Europa league next term. UEFA’s Club Financial Control Board is due to issue a ruling on multi-club ownership issues on Monday.

It is expected that the CFCB will give their approval to United playing alongside Nice, subject to certain conditions. They will also be warned that the upcoming campaign will be viewed as a transitional one and this leeway will not be given in future years.

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The CFCB is also set to rule that Nice should be operated via a ‘blind trust’ by a panel approved by UEFA. It is a model that was used by AC Milan and Toulouse this season, with both clubs being owned by Red Bird Capital.

It is reported that a UEFA document on multi-club ownership says a blind trust would be a ‘temporary alternative… granted on an exceptional basis for the 2024-25 Uefa competitions’. It also states that UEFA’s multi-club ownership rule may be changed for future seasons.

INEOS only own 27.7 percent of United, but Ratcliffe has been handed control of the club’s football and business operations by majority owners the Glazer family. The British billionaire previously bought Nice in 2019.

Ratcliffe also owns Swiss Super League side Lausanne-Sport, though they have not qualified for a European competition for next year. The ruling around multi-club ownership also affects Manchester City.

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Hat-trick hero Lookman takes winding road to Europa League triumph

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 Europa League - Final - Atalanta v Bayer Leverkusen - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - May 22, 2024 Atalanta's Ademola Lookman poses for a picture with the trophy after winning the Europa League Final REUTERS/Paul Childs 

Atalanta’s Europa League hat-trick hero Ademola Lookman admitted that he had to wait a while for success after years in and out of favour at different clubs but said it was “just the beginning” after he sank Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.

The Nigeria forward became the first person to score a hat-trick in a Europa League final in the 3-0 win, which handed the Bergamo club their first major trophy in 61 years and ended the German champions’ remarkable 51-game unbeaten streak.

“Maybe it could have come earlier, but it’s come now,” said the 26-year-old Lookman, who bounced around in England with Everton, Fulham and Leicester City and in Germany with RB Leipzig before settling in Atalanta two seasons ago.

“This is just the beginning. I hope for more nights like this and to just keep getting better and better,” he told a news conference.

Lookman, who was a youth international for England, credited the Atalanta coaching staff and leadership of manager Gian Piero Gasperini for his revival. Since arriving at the club, he has scored 30 goals in 76 matches.

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He pointed in particular to Gasperini’s belief in attacking football that has helped him to flourish.

“The first conversations I had with him made me look at football a lot different. It made things simple. It allowed me to play my game in a different light. I’m very grateful to him,” he said.

Asked if he would have imagined such a night in his wildest dreams while starting out as a teenager at Charlton Athletic, Lookman responded: “Probably yeah.”

“I’ve always had the confidence in my ability to create, to score goals, to help my team mates. In the past two years I’ve been able to take my game to a whole new level,” he said.

-Reuters

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Ademola is Player of the Match

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Atalanta’s hat-trick hero Ademola Lookman was named Player of the Match after scoring a historic hat trick for his club in the Europa League final match.

 UEFA’s Technical Observer Panel said: “[It’s awarded] for obvious reasons and his all-round enthusiasm and energy. [He was] really sharp and his execution was spot on.”

Ademola Lookman, Player of the Match, speaking to TNT Sports: remarked: “It’s one of the best nights of my life. It was an amazing performance from the team. We did it – fantastic. I’m just happy we won. We made history tonight.”

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