Alamy Stock Photo Tammy Abraham of AS Roma celebrates at the end of the Conference league semi-final.
difference maker
England striker Abraham's incredible season continues as Mourinho's Roma edge Leicester to reach final
The striker’s 27th goal of the campaign sealed a 1-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico

TAMMY ABRAHAM broke Leicester hearts as Roma reached the Europa Conference League final.

The striker’s 27th goal of the season sealed a 1-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico and booked a showdown with Feyenoord.

Jose Mourinho’s side progressed 2-1 on aggregate after last week’s semi-final first leg draw at the King Power Stadium.

The Foxes fell short in their first European semi-final and there will be a lingering sense of regret they failed to seriously trouble Roma and never did themselves justice.

The club have torn up the rule book after winning the Premier League and FA Cup in the last six years but, this season, European success was just out of reach.

Roma have not won a European competition for 50 years, since beating Blackpool in the 1972 Anglo-Italian Cup but Mourinho will now look to complete the set after his past Champions League and Europa League victories.

Home fans had begun hurling flares at the Leicester supporters long before kick-off at a hostile Stadio Olimpico with the hosts looking to reach their first European final since 1991, when they lost the UEFA Cup to Inter Milan.

A pre-match banner declared ‘Everyone in Britain dreads the name of the Romans’ and Roma’s determination was obvious.

Leicester did have early protests for a penalty ignored when Chris Smalling hauled down Wesley Fofana but the ravenous hosts quickly took charge to grab an 11th-minute winner.

Kasper Schmeichel had already saved Lorenzo Pellegrini’s cute free-kick as Roma forced a number of corners and it was, again, from a set-piece where Leicester conceded.

Pellegrini’s dangerous delivery was met by Abraham and he outjumped Ricardo Pereira to power a towering header past Schmeichel from seven yards.

It was the striker’s ninth goal in the competition this season – with Alan Shearer and Stan Bowles the only Englishmen to score more in a single European campaign.

Shell-shocked, Leicester retreated and Pellegrini, scorer of Roma’s first-leg goal, was a constant menace with Jonny Evans mopping up after Schmeichel saved another effort.

Roma were in control having out-muscled and out-manoeuvred the Foxes and kept the visitors at bay even when they did have brief spells of possession.

Boss Brendan Rodgers had spoken about using the 72,000 sell-out crowd to Leicester’s advantage, hoping to play on any nerves and anxiety with Roma so close to ending a 14-year trophy drought.

But his slow side were never able to find sustained momentum to even get under the hosts’ skin on the pitch.

Frustrations with inconsistent referee Srdjan Jovanovic were growing but the Foxes’ first-half performance warranted little else than being behind.

Rodgers rolled the dice at the break with the ineffective Ademola Lookman and Harvey Barnes replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho and Daniel Amartey.

A double change at the break helped the Foxes overcome a second-leg deficit to beat PSV in last month’s quarter-final and immediately they were more robust but still lacked the imagination to level the tie.

Jamie Vardy did have a shot blocked by Abraham and the Foxes saw more of the ball, with James Maddison curling at Rui Patricio with 13 minutes left.

But a low-key second half suited Roma and, even though they created little themselves, they were always comfortable.

Iheanacho shot at Patricio from distance as time slipped away but, this time, there was no fairy-tale ending for the Foxes.

Meanwhile, Feyenoord are through to their first European final in two decades after holding Marseille to a 0-0 draw in France on Thursday to win their Europa Conference League semi-final 3-2 on aggregate.

The Dutch club made good their victory in the first leg last week in Rotterdam to set up a clash with Roma in the inaugural final of the new third-tier European competition.

That match will be played on 25 May in the Albanian capital Tirana, 250 kilometres away from where Feyenoord began their campaign against Drita of Kosovo in the qualifying rounds last July.

Marseille’s hopes of turning the tie around were dealt a huge blow when playmaker Dimitri Payet was forced off injured before half-time at the Velodrome.

The home side were deprived of a part of their support with the stadium closed at one end by Uefa as a punishment following the trouble that marred their win over Greek club PAOK in the quarter-finals.

They rarely really looked like scoring after losing Payet and they are left to focus on their quest to finish in the top three in Ligue 1 and qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Feyenoord failed to score in a game for the first time since January but did not need to after a Cyriel Dessers double and a deflected Luis Sinisterra strike gave them victory in the first leg.

The match against Roma will be their 19th game in the competition this season and they will be aiming to win their fourth European trophy.

The first Dutch club to win the European Cup when they beat Celtic 2-1 in the 1970 final, they then won the UEFA Cup in 1974 and again in 2002 when they defeated Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in their own De Kuip stadium.

Additional reporting by AFP

Press Association
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