Europa League: Leverkusen Secures Final Spot, Extends Unbeaten Streak

Europa League: Leverkusen Secures Final Spot, Extends Unbeaten Streak

Bayer Leverkusen not only reached the Europa League final and kept its treble aspirations alive but also preserved its impressive unbeaten streak. Leverkusen clinched a 2-2 draw against Roma in the second leg of the semifinal on Thursday, securing a 4-2 aggregate victory.

Despite trailing 2-0 on the night after two penalties from Leandro Paredes, an own goal by Roma’s Gianluca Mancini and a stoppage-time equalizer from substitute Josip Stanisic ensured Leverkusen maintained their remarkable unbeaten streak, now at 49 matches.

Leverkusen will face another Italian side, Atalanta, on May 22 in Dublin after the latter’s 3-0 win over Marseille secured a 4-1 aggregate victory.

Thrilling Comebacks Define Leverkusen’s Season

Granit Xhaka, speaking to RTL, described the euphoria of his team’s latest dramatic match: “It’s pure goosebumps! You dream of an atmosphere like this. You dream of games like this. As a kid, you want to be in these games, and then when you equalize just before the end and reach the final, it’s incredible.”

Preserving its unbeaten record with just 30 seconds to spare marks another stunning chapter in an impressive season for Xabi Alonso’s team, which has not only clinched the Bundesliga title but also secured a spot in the German Cup final.

This season, Leverkusen has mastered the art of the last-minute goal, scoring their 17th of the season in the dying moments of a match. Remarkably, this was the third instance they have overcome a 2-0 deficit in the second half of Europa League knockout matches.

Paredes’ Brace Secures Roma’s Comeback Victory

After losing the first leg last week, Roma knew it faced a challenging task against Leverkusen, especially with star forward Paulo Dybala only fit for the bench due to an injury sustained against Juventus over the weekend.

Leverkusen had several opportunities to solidify their lead and came close in the 29th minute. A free kick rolled to Piero Hincapié outside the box, whose shot struck the left post, rebounded off Roma goalkeeper Mile Svilar, and went across the goal line before being cleared by Evan Ndicka.

However, Roma took the lead just two minutes before halftime when Leandro Paredes converted a penalty after Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah was penalized for pulling down Roma forward Sardar Azmoun, who is currently on loan from Leverkusen.

Svilar made a stunning double save moments earlier and continued his heroics after the break. In the 66th minute, Roma earned another penalty after a corner brushed off Bryan Cristante’s head and accidentally grazed the fingertips of Leverkusen winger Adam Hložek. Paredes remained composed, drilling the penalty into the bottom left corner to secure a memorable comeback for Roma and send their fans into jubilation.

Stanišić’s Last-Minute Heroics Propel Leverkusen to Victory

Just as it seemed the match was heading for extra time, Leverkusen got the goal it needed to advance. Alex Grimaldo’s corner from the right rebounded off Mancini at the far post and crossed the line.

Leverkusen had recently made a habit of preserving its unbeaten record with stoppage-time goals but left it even later than usual. Stanišić, who came on in the 90th minute, cut inside and fired into the bottom far corner in the seventh minute of added time.

“Definitely one of them,” Stanišić told RTL when asked if it was the biggest moment of his career. “I think that just shows what this team is, the fact that we came back and drew 2-2 in the end.

“I don’t think we would have cared if we lost but still progressed because we really wanted to get to the final. But it’s even nicer this way.”

Atalanta and Olympiakos Reach Historic European Finals

After eliminating Liverpool in the quarterfinals, Atalanta secured their first European final with a commanding win over former European champion Marseille. Amid several opportunities, Ademola Lookman gave the hosts the lead in the second leg in Bergamo with a deflected shot off Marseille captain Samuel Gigot. Lookman later assisted Matteo Ruggeri to double the lead, and substitute El Bilal Toure sealed the victory in stoppage time. This achievement marks Atalanta’s greatest European success since their Cup Winners’ Cup semifinal appearance in 1988.

Meanwhile, Olympiakos advanced to the final in Athens against last year’s runner-up Fiorentina after defeating Aston Villa 2-0 in Piraeus. Having won the first leg 4-2 in England, Olympiakos progressed 6-2 on aggregate, becoming only the second Greek team to reach a major European competition final since Panathinaikos in 1971. Ayoub El Kaabi, who netted a hat trick at Villa Park, once again led the way with both goals, topping the scoring charts.

Fiorentina secured their spot in the final by holding Club Brugge to a 1-1 draw in Belgium, advancing to their second consecutive Europa Conference League final. The showdown will take place in Athens on May 29.

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About the Author

Born in Liverpool in 1984, Ian Fletcher, a distinguished betting expert, attained a Master’s in Sports Analytics from the University of Manchester in 2010. Between 2011 and 2019, he was engaged with various English football clubs, focusing on tactical analysis and player performance metrics. Fletcher has contributed to 12 academic papers, emphasizing the role of game tempo and set-piece efficiency. In 2020, he transitioned into the realm of journalism. Presently, Fletcher authors in-depth analytical pieces on football, exploring game dynamics and team strategies, and his expertise is sought after by numerous sports platforms.

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