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Leverkusen sets longest European unbeaten run as they progress into Europa League Final

Leverkusen sets longest European unbeaten run as they progress into Europa League Final

Leverkusen,
Friday, 9 May, 2024
McCreadie Andias

In remarkable circumstances, another late-late show from Bayer Leverkusen saw them not only book their spot in Dublin’s UEFA Europa League (UEL) final, but also set a new outright European record for the longest-ever unbeaten run which now stands at an incredible 49 games in all competitions.

Not only tasked with giving Leverkusen their first defeat of a tremendous 2023/24 season, Roma needed to do so handsomely to advance into the UEL final.

The odds were always stacked firmly against them, but they signalled their intent from the off when Romelu Lukaku broke in behind, only to see the ball smothered at the death by Matej Kovar.

Lorenzo Pellegrini also came close when his stooping header forced a smart stop out of the Leverkusen stopper, while a last-ditch Gianluca Mancini challenge at the other end prevented Adam Hlozek from all but settling the tie.

If that was close, Exequiel Palacios’ effort moments later was even closer, as it crashed back off the post before hitting the back of Roma keeper Mile Svilar and rolling across the goal line.

Fortunately for the Italians, Evan Ndicka was on hand to sweep the ball to safety. But for all their chances, Xabi Alonso’s side went into half-time behind, when a moment of madness from Jonathan Tah saw him wrestle Sardar Azmoun to the ground. A confident Leandro Paredes stepped forward to convert from the spot and leave the tie on a knife-edge going into the second half.

In pushing hard for a second goal, Roma were always likely to leave themselves susceptible at the back, and not long after the restart, a 3v2 counter attack ended with Jonas Hofmann forcing yet another fine stop out of Kovar.

That reprieve earned Roma the chance to keep probing for an aggregate leveller, and they were given a huge chance to do so when Adam Hložek handled in the area. Parades again stepped forward from the spot and the outcome was the same, with his penalty nestling into the bottom corner.

But any scares of the tie going into extra-time were soon eased, with Leverkusen pulling a goal back on 82′. It came in rather fortuitous fashion too, as Gianluca Mancini watched on as Hlozek’s corner ricocheted in off his shoulder at the far post.

Deflated by that sudden twist, Roma ultimately ran out of ideas. And after an injury-time leveller from Josip Stanisic that found the bottom-left corner after a tremendous solo run, the stage is now set for a fantastic showdown in Dublin, as Leverkusen take on Atalanta seeking their first European honours in 36 years.

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