Sevilla give up late equalizer to Juve; Roma top Leverkusen
Sports Desk, May 11 (EFE).- Sevilla were poised to come away from Turin with a 1-0 win against Juventus in Thursday’s first leg of the Europa League semifinal, but the Bianconeri equalized deep into stoppage time, setting the stage for a decisive clash next week in Spain.
In Rome, meanwhile, Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma held Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 despite conceding more than 60 percent possession to the visitors.
Sevilla, who have won the Europa League a record six times, beat Manchester United to reach the last four and entered the contest at Turin’s Allianz Stadium full of confidence.
The LaLiga side have suffered through one of their worst seasons in years and were hovering above the drop zone when Jose Luis Mendilibar was brought in less than two months ago to replace Jorge Sampaoli as coach.
Under the new manager, they have climbed to 11th in LaLiga and put themselves in a position to win a trophy.
Juve arrived in the Europa League semifinal via a very different route after falling out of the Champions League in the group stage, but the Bianconeri’s fortunes recently took a positive term, as Italy’s highest sporting court suspended a points penalty imposed on the club for alleged financial misdeeds.
The ruling vaulted Juventus from the middle of the table to second in Serie A, though Napoli have already clinched the title.
Like Sevilla, Juve, three-time winners of Europe’s second-tier club competition, are looking to end what has been a difficult season on a high note.
The hosts were not very ambitious on the attack in the opening minutes and appeared to be hoping to lure Sevilla into advancing their lines in hope of finding space at the back.
Mendilibar’s men took advantage of the freedom and Lucas Ocampos forced a pair of stops from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny before Juve’s Dusan Vlahovic tested Yassine Bounou at the other end in the 18th minute.
Ocampos fired wide in the 25th minute, but his aim was perfect seconds later when he directed a cross to Youssef En-Nesyri. The Moroccan put Sevilla up 1-0 with his 18th goal of the season in all competitions.
Less than 10 minutes after assisting on the goal, Ocampos left the game with an injury and was replaced by Gonzalo Montiel, yet the initiative remained with Sevilla and Szczesny had to be sharp to stop Ivan Rakitic from doubling the visitors’ advantage in the 39th minute.
Juventus coach Maximiliano Allegri made a double-substitution to start the second half and the home team improved as the minutes passed.
Bounou had to make a save in the 63rd minute to deny one of the subs, Samuel Iling-Junior, but Sevilla were still ahead when Juve won a corner in the 97th minute.
The kick went to Danilo and he flicked on to Paul Pogba, whose cross found the head of defender Federico Gatti for the dramatic equalizer.
Thursday’s other semifinal brought together two clubs who have never hoisted the Europa League trophy and was also the occasion for a reunion of Mourinho and Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso, a member of the Real Madrid squad that won three titles under the Portuguese manager in 2010-2012.
The men greeted each other warmly, but it was all business once the game got under way.
The visitors made the brighter start and striker Florian Wirtz fired wide on a great chance in the 7th minute.
Roma’s first serious threat came in the 19th minute on a free kick. Lorenzo Pellgrini’s delivery found Roger Ibañez in front of the net, but Leverkusen keeper Lukas Hradecky made a great stop.
The 0-0 deadlock persisted until the 62nd minute, when 20-year-old Eduardo Bove gave Roma the lead with his first European goal.