Leverkusen in the Europa League: Anger at Mourinho’s sabotage squad – sport

José Mourinho, 60, had just started speaking into the microphones of Italian television reporters when a man grabbed him from behind. Quite a few eyewitnesses would have understood if the man had grabbed hard and choked Mourinho, possibly to the point of unconsciousness, but Xabi Alonso had not appeared on the scene as an assassin. With his gesture he expressed the opposite of violence and revenge. He could have walked silently behind his opponent, but he definitely didn’t want to refrain from saying a respectful goodbye to his former coach with a short hug.

Their paths had once crossed at Real Madrid, and now Alonso has once again learned a lesson from his former coach: his controversial but once again successful lesson he felt painfully. The old champion Mourinho moves into the final of the Europa League with his AS Roma, Alonso and Bayer Leverkusen remained goalless and beaten by a hair’s breadth.

The Spanish coach was in position from the start to report Mourinho’s methods to the Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic and his team. After just five minutes, Alonso pointed to the imaginary watch on his wrist to alert the referees to the opponent’s time game. It didn’t help: Vincic gave Bayer a total of eleven minutes of additional playing time, but the long-awaited goal against Mourinho’s sabotage squad didn’t come of it, and after the 0-1 in the first leg the 0-0 in the Leverkusen Arena was not enough, to reach the final of the Europa League.

Most Bayer players fell to the ground when the final whistle sounded. Out of disappointment and exhaustion, out of anger at the Romans and their machinations, but possibly also out of anger at themselves. Bayer manager Simon Rolfes later said that, considering the exemplary long stoppage times at the World Cup, there were “twenty or more” that evening. additional minutes were justified – “otherwise the referee can be fooled if he lets himself be done”. But could Bayer have done something with it? Probably not. The Rhinelanders had long since reached the endless stage of futile running, in which a goal was further away than Jupiter and Venus.

The course of the game is adequately described by the shot on goal statistics: the home side were ahead 23:1 and that single Roman shot on goal by Lorenzo Pellegrini came from the second minute of the game. In hindsight it can be seen as a mistake, because the Romans didn’t make another attempt to score, and they did so on purpose. They didn’t come out to score goals, but to prevent goals. Bayer’s substitute Nadiem Amiri testified that they didn’t just have a footballing effect with his angry statement: “What they played today – and also in Rome – that was really cheeky.”

Leverkusen is too good for this ripped off Roma

Bayer had expected a defensively oriented opponent, Roma had already limited themselves to attacking in the first leg. In the first half, Leverkusen worked through the opposing positions with patient passing, arranged in an iron five-man defense chain plus a three-man line in front. They created some decent shots from the edge of the box, with Kerem Demirbay in particular trying again and again. Counterattacks, Leverkusen’s speciality, were not allowed by the Romans, and Moussa Diaby hit the crossbar in almost the only exceptional case (12th minute). “We played with concentration, were well prepared and competitive,” Alonso later praised.

And yet Bayer had offered too little. “The last bit was missing,” said Rolfes, the assertiveness that could have blown up Mourinho’s iron fortress. With Sardar Azmoun, Alonso was forced to place a non-specialist attacker in the center of the penalty area, and striker Patrik Schick, who had been injured for months, was never missed as much as this time. That the Bayer team could be a bit too good for these ripped-off Roma, this assumption was confirmed in the two games. Especially since the key players Florian Wirtz, Diaby and Jeremie Frimpong lacked the mental freshness to conjure up surprises.

However, Mourinho remained on guard. Concerned that Bayer might find a gap for shots from half-distance, the coach tightened the defenses a little more in the second half, brought on midfielder Wijnaldum for attacker Belotti and finally, one has to assume, gave the order to an open war of nerves. Breaking the opponent’s rhythm, arousing negative emotions, letting the time pass with interludes – all of this was presumably on the tactics board.

How the Romans lined up one destructive action after the next in the second half bordered on comedy. Particularly vivid in the little things: Here, a substitute player punched the ball into nothing while warming up; there Zalewski rolled back into the field after a minor foul to stop the operation while lying down; then Abraham deliberately shot a second ball into the running game. Yellow cards? That’s what the Leverkusen team got when they complained about the obstacles, which were sometimes ridiculous in their obviousness. A “grande arbitro”, a great referee directed the game, Mourinho later said several times. As always, you didn’t know if he meant to make fun of everyone.

The Portuguese praised the tactical organization of his “ragazzi”, the mentality, the “spirito”, for him it was “not a pleasure but an honor to work with these guys”, but with every word of praise he also expressed that all this is first and foremost his work. Mourinho is now entering his sixth European Cup final, having won all five before. A champion, hands down.

In this respect, the moral debate that inevitably accompanied this evening is superfluous. The behavior of the Romans was “disgusting”, Demirbay complained, “this team has nothing to do with football”, said Amiri, and Rolfes found it “bitter when this way leads to success”. What know-it-all would blame them for their disappointed complaints?

However, Xabi Alonso, the gentleman and professional, said not a word about the Roman non-playing style. No comment on the referee either. “I don’t want to cry,” he said. “We congratulate AS Roma on reaching the final.”

By Editor

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