EL: Roma regain dignity with Man Utd

Roma regained some dignity by beating Manchester United 3-2 and forcing numerous David De Gea saves, but leave the Europa League semi-final 8-5 on aggregate.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will face Villarreal in the Europa League Final.

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This felt almost like an afterthought for the Giallorossi after the 6-2 first leg defeat and news Paulo Fonseca would be replaced by Jose Mourinho for next season. Due to the injury crisis ruling out Jordan Veretout, Leonardo Spinazzola, Pau Lopez, Gonzalo Villar, Amadou Diawara, Carles Perez, Stephan El Shaarawy, Riccardo Calafiori and Nicolò Zaniolo, Fonseca moved to a Mourinho-esque 4-1-4-1 formation with Gianluca Mancini and Bryan Cristante moved into midfield.

David De Gea had to make a desperate save on Mancini in the opening minutes, although the Italian also seemed to handle as he controlled it. On the resulting corner, Henrikh Mkhitaryan nodded onto the side-netting, then De Gea was again alert as Rick Karsdorp caught Luke Shaw napping and Pedro fired over.

Wan-Bissaka risked a straight red for his utterly pointless lunge on Bruno Peres, but moments later Edinson Cavani sprung the offside trap following a Roger Ibanez error and his lob bounced off the bar. The Roma defence was caught out again as Cavani stung Antonio Mirante’s gloves.

They had three players limp off in the first half at Old Trafford and this time Chris Smalling pulled up with yet another muscular problem after 30 minutes. He was replaced by Ebrima Darboe, a 19-year-old Roma youth product who came to Italy on a refugee boat.

Pellegrini tested De Gea again, but the offside trap failed once more and Manchester United took advantage. Cavani went clear on a Bruno Fernandes through ball, with Ibanez caught lagging behind, and blasted it past Mirante. This was a team used to three at the back and it showed.

De Gea made another great save from point-blank range on Mkhitaryan, but Roma visibly lost confidence and Fernandes curled not far wide.

Maguire pushed the ‘ricochet’ rule to the limits when kicking the ball onto his own arm in the penalty area, but the referee judged it to be involuntary.

Roma did finally get their goal when Pedro’s attempted volley at the back post on a Mkhitaryan cross turned into an assist for Dzeko to nod in from close range.

Suddenly, it felt as if Manchester United switched off and the hosts woke up again. Bryan Cristante hit a rocket from 14 yards into the far top corner to turn the game around and lead 2-1.

Over the next five minutes, De Gea had to make four world class saves, including a double on Dzeko’s header and the Pedro follow-up, both from point-blank range.

The most extraordinary was on Mkhitaryan, as it hit the inside of the goalkeeper’s leg and spun sideways to go along the line, but not over it.

Roma’s luck really wasn’t in, because Cavani again sprung the offside trap – this time with Bruno Peres injured and not running – for a free header and 2-2.

That was only further confirmed by Mkhitaryan thumping the base of the upright when sent clear by Pellegrini.

There was some joy for Polish teenage youth product Nicola Zalewski, who made his senior debut and scored six minutes later, his volley on a Davide Santon cross bouncing in.

Moments later, again the Giallorossi could’ve had more, as Borja Mayoral only grazed his head to a corner and De Gea parried the Cristante follow-up.

Roma 3-2 Man Utd (5-8 agg)

Cavani 39, 68 (M), Dzeko 57 (R), Cristante 60 (R), Zalewski 83 (R)

Roma: Mirante; Karsdorp, Smalling (Darboe 30), Ibanez, Peres (Santon 69); Cristante, Mancini; Pedro (Zalewski 77), Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko (Mayoral 77)

Man Utd: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka (B s 46), Bailly, Maguire, Shaw (Alex Telles 46); van de Beek, Fred; Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes (Mata 84), Pogba; Cavani (Rashford 73)

Ref: Brych (GER)

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