Football
2 months ago

Bayer Leverkusen reach Europa League final

The unbeaten run continues

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Bayer Leverkusen staged a remarkable late comeback to move into the Europa League final with a 2-2 draw at home to AS Roma on Thursday as they won 4-2 on aggregate and set the longest unbeaten run in all competitions including European matches.

Leverkusen were 2-0 down on the night in the 82nd minute when Roma defender Gianluca Mancini put through his own goal before late substitute Joseph Stanisic pulled the hosts level after Leandro Paredes netted two penalties for the visitors.

Bundesliga champions Leverkusen, who have also reached this month's German Cup final as they chase a treble, played their 49th match without defeat to surpass Benfica's record set from 1963–65 but they had to battle in the semi-final second leg.

Xabi Alonso's Leverkusen, who have 40 wins in their unbeaten run, face Atalanta in the May 22 final in Dublin after the Italians comfortably got past Olympique Marseille.

It will be a third European final for Leverkusen, who won their only continental title when they lifted the UEFA Cup in 1988 and lost in the 2002 Champions League showpiece.

"For the mentality, we showed again today against a big team to come back like this and go through to the final. We are more than happy today," said Leverkusen captain Granit Xhaka.

"You see the desire from the team, we didn't want to slow down. We wanted to score the next goal to keep going unbeaten, 49 times now. We are proud of it.

"Roma is a team that has a lot of experience and they do things very well but I think over two games the better team has gone to the final," he told TNT Sports.

DIFFICULT MISSION

Leverkusen went into the match with a 2-0 advantage from Rome a week ago with goals by Florian Wirtz and Robert Andrich.

The Italians knew they had a mountain to climb after losing the first leg but they remained composed in an evenly contested match in which Leverkusen gradually seized control.

Leverkusen's Exequiel Palacios struck the post just before halftime, with the rebound deflecting off Roma goalkeeper Mile Svilar's back, but Evan Ndicka cleared the danger.

Svilar then made another acrobatic save just before the break, denying Amine Adli and then blocking the rebound.

Despite Leverkusen's pressure, Roma took the lead with a penalty from Paredes just before halftime after Jonathan Tah fouled Sardar Azmoun. Paredes scored with another spot kick in the 66th minute after Adam Hlozek handled it.

With eight minutes remaining, a Leverkusen corner confused the visiting defence, including Svilar, leading to defender Mancini inadvertently deflecting the ball into his own net at the far post.

Late substitute Stanisic then secured Leverkusen's place in the record books deep into stoppage time with the equaliser after a skilful move into the box to delight the ecstatic home fans and leave battling Roma distraught.

"It was a heroic performance but Leverkusen are a really strong team," Roma boss Daniele De Rossi told Sky Sports Italia.

"I thought our performances in both legs were good. We didn’t have enough shots on goal and sometimes that can make the difference, but the players were incredible."

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