Tammy Abraham fired Roma in Thursday’s inaugural Europa Conference League final with the only goal in a 1-0 win over Leicester City that saw the Italian side go 2-1 on aggregate.
Abraham smashed a powerful 11th-minute header in a bouncing Stadio Olimpico in Rome to put Jose Mourinho’s side in their first European final in more than three decades.
They await Feyenoord in the Albanian capital Tirana on May 25 after the Dutch prevailed 3-2 in the other semi-final, and they will be backed by an army of supporters who have emotionally supported their side.
After the match, Roma announced that tickets for the final would be distributed free of charge to season ticket holders, a reward for the phenomenal support given to a side currently sitting fifth in Serie A.
“Before the game started, the fans won us this game,” Abraham told BT Sport after scoring his 25th goal of the season.
“We weren’t even on the pitch and we heard them. The victory was for them and my team. Hopefully we can go all the way.”
Roma fans haven’t seen their side win a trophy since 2008 and the roar at the final whistle was a massive relief after spending much of the game on the back foot against the Foxes themselves in search of a first continental grand final.
Brendan Rodgers’ side ran into the ground against a generally well-organised Mourinho side who were content to let Leicester race and try to pick the opposing side at the break once their overall advantage was established from the start.
“They were better than us in the first half even though they didn’t create much,” Rodgers told reporters after the game.
“We had a lot of play in the second half, but we couldn’t break through. Our Achilles heel all season was stopped and that was the case again tonight.”
– ‘Giant club’ –
Roma’s last European final – in the old UEFA Cup – was lost to Inter Milan in 1991 and the pre-match atmosphere was as feverish as you’d expect for one. of the most passionate and enduring fanbases in Europe.
“I shed a tear because my emotions were with everyone who loves this club,” said an exhausted Mourinho.
“It’s a giant club without the trophy room compared to the social dimension of the club. It’s not a trophy it’s a final but it means a lot to them.”
A crowd of 65,000 had already been whipped into a strong start for the home side when Abraham nearly brought down the roof, meeting Lorenzo Pellegrini’s corner with a header that flew past Kasper Schmeichel.
The England international’s goal was only the reward for Roma’s enterprising start which featured some clever saves from Schmeichel, but as the half wore on Leicester he shrugged off the cobwebs and started to take foot.
From there, the game settled into a pattern where Leicester tried to get past a well-organised Roma rear guard, initially unsuccessfully as the opposing team had not a single shot on target in the opening period.
Leicester’s first shot on target came only 11 minutes from time when James Maddison’s weak drive was easily recovered by Rui Patricio and after that the hosts had a few decent opportunities themselves.
The impressive Nicola Zalewski had a decent shot when a cross was deflected into his path and Roma started to gain ground as Leicester grew tired of their ineffectual efforts.
Leicester pushed for a leveler but, as the whistles reached heartbreaking levels, Roma held on and once Pellegrini’s long-range effort was fumbled for a corner in the dying moments, Roma knew they were in. had done enough to write another chapter in the history of the Eternal City.