Bayer Leverkusen's record unbeaten march continues with a 2-0 win at Roma in Europa League


ROME — An imposing stadium in a major foreign capital did nothing to stop Bayer Leverkusen’s record unbeaten march across Europe.

The freshly crowned first-time Bundesliga champion silenced the Stadio Olimpico with a 2-0 win at Roma in the first leg of the Europa League semifinals on Thursday to extend its unbeaten streak to 47 matches across all competitions.

No club from Europe’s five biggest leagues — in Germany, England, Italy, Spain and France — has had a longer unbeaten streak.

“We take things game by game and we are not thinking about being unbeaten,” Leverkusen midfielder Amine Adli said. “We are not thinking about making history or things like that — that’s why we are playing like this and the team is strong. We just want to enjoy ourselves.”

The result also marked a measure of revenge for Leverkusen — since Roma had beaten the German club in this exact same stage last season for its last defeat in Europe.

“We know it is not easy to play here,” Adli said. “We played a very serious game.”

Leverkusen’s last loss across all competitions was a 3-0 defeat to Bochum in the final round of last season’s Bundesliga nearly a year ago — on May 27, 2023.

Roma was dangerous with an early header off the crossbar from Romelu Lukaku. But then Leverkusen scored on the counterattack seven minutes later.

A failed back pass from Roma right back Rick Karsdorp under pressure from Alex Grimaldo on the left flank resulted in a 3-on-1 for Leverkusen. Grimaldo then passed to Florian Wirtz, who calmly slotted in from the center of the area.

Midfielder Robert Andrich added another goal for Leverkusen in the 73rd with a long-range shot — just as Roma had been threatening on the other end.

In the other semifinal, Atalanta drew 1-1 at Marseille.

The second legs will be held next Thursday, with the final to be held in Dublin on May 22.

Leverkusen has won only one European trophy: the 1988 UEFA Cup, which was then predecessor to the Europa League. Its only other European final came in the 2002 Champions League, won by Real Madrid.

Roma is aiming to qualify for its third consecutive European final after winning the Europa Conference League in 2022 and losing last year’s Europa League final to Sevilla in a penalty shootout.

Daniele De Rossi replaced Jose Mourinho as Roma’s coach in January.

The Giallorossi hadn’t lost a European knockout stage game at home in seven years — since getting beat 1-0 by Villarreal in the 2017 Europa League.

Roma fans’ pre-match choreography across one entire end of the stadium spelled out the word “AVANZIAMO” (“Let’s advance”). But Roma now faces an uphill challenge to eliminate Leverkusen, which hasn’t lost all season.

Marseille’s players were treated to an ovation at Stade Velodrome from their hard-to-please fans after the draw with Atalanta — which eliminated Liverpool in the quarterfinals.

Atalanta took the lead in the 11th when striker Gianluca Scamacca hit a low shot into the bottom corner after reading Teun Koopmeiners’ clever pass.

But Marseille equalized in the 20th when central defender Chancel Mbemba collected Geoffrey Kondogbia’s pass and his fine curling shot from the edge of the penalty area hit the left post and rolled in.

The second half was almost entirely one-way traffic as Marseille pushed forward. Winger Ismaïla Sarr had a goal disallowed for an offside following a video review and substitute Azzedine Ounahi hit the crossbar with a curling shot in the 73rd.

In the third-tier competition semifinal first legs, Aston Villa’s hopes of reaching a first European final since 1982 were diminished with a 4-2 home loss to Olympiakos, the first defeat at Villa Park in the European campaign for the last English club in European competitions.

Villa came back from 2-0 down but was not able to answer Ayoub El Kaabi’s third goal of the game. The striker converted from the penalty spot to make it 3-2 for his eighth goal in the competition this season. Santiago Hezze finished the scoring before Douglas Luiz wasted a penalty for Villa.

Olympiakos is aiming to play on home soil in the May 29 final in Athens.

Earlier, El Kaabi scored twice within a half hour put the visitors in charge.

In Florence, substitute M’Bala Nzola netted in stoppage time for last-year’s runner-up Fiorentina to secure a 3-2 victory over 10-man Club Brugge.

Brugge’s Raphael Onyedika was sent off after receiving his second yellow card on the hour when the Italian club was 2-1 up but the visitors equalized through Igor Thiago to complete a counter just minutes later.

Riccardo Sottil put Fiorentina ahead early on, Brugge captain Hans Vanaken answered with an equalizer from the penalty spot and then Andrea Belotti restored the lead for Fiorentina on a rebound.

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AP Sports Writers Jerome Pugmire in Paris and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer



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