José Mourinho is back in another final. Portugal’s greatest manager of all time will lead Roma in the inaugural Europa Conference League final against Dutch side Feyenoord later this month, after the Giallorossi overcame Leicester City 1-0 [2-1 on aggregate] on Thursday night.
Earlier in the week, Diogo Jota and Liverpool secured their spot in the Champions League final, where they will meet Real Madrid, who sensationally eliminated a Manchester City side containing João Cancelo, Rúben Dias and Bernardo Silva. The Europa League final was also settled, with Gonçalo Paciência’s Eintracht Frankfurt set to face off against Rangers.
Italian capital side Roma have not been to a European final in over 30 years, since losing to Internazionale across two legs in what was the UEFA Cup in the 1990-91 season. Opposition in the semi-final was tough in the shape of English Premier League outfit and current FA Cup holders Leicester City, but a 1-1 draw at the King Power Stadium last week gave Roma a slight advantage ahead of the return at the Stadio Olimpico.
Tammy Abraham’s goal – a thunderous header from Lorenzo Pellegrini’s corner after just ten minutes – proved the winner, giving a Roma side with Sérgio Oliveira in midfield and Rui Patrício in goal a 2-1 aggregate victory. Mourinho’s reaction to the final whistle was touching, with the former Porto boss reduced to tears having guided Roma to the chance of an all-too-rare chance of silverware.
“When you work in Rome, live in Rome and breathe Rome, you breathe this club because it is the real club of the city,” Mourinho told BT Sport after recovering his composure. “I felt from day one it is huge. But no victories and not many finals. The history is not related to the social dimension of the club.
“I am very emotional. Of course, I have had bigger moments than this, but I am not feeling for myself, I am feeling for the people and my players. This for us, is our Champions League.”
“I am so tired; I want to go home!” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“It’s a victory of the family. Not just the one that was on the pitch and on the bench, but in the stadium. That is our greatest achievement, this empathy and sense of family we have created with the fans.
“The lads deserve this; we have three Serie A games left to end as well as possible. We have had a fantastic trajectory to reach the final, we dropped points in Serie A to achieve that, but now we are in the Final and we want to win.”
Mourinho overcome with emotion. A far cry from the brash version of 20 years ago. Recent experiences in football may have changed him a little, but his passion is stronger than ever. pic.twitter.com/hiH6XcNpGi— Sean Gillen (@SeanGillen16) May 5, 2022
Mourinho is the first coach to reach a UEFA final with four different clubs and could well become the only manager to win the Champions League, Europa League and the Europa Conference League. Roma will contest the event with Dutch team Feyenoord on Wednesday 25th May in the Albanian capital Tirana.
Paciência, Jota headed to showpiece occasions
There will be Portuguese representatives in all three major European finals, with others missing out at the final hurdle. Liverpool had Diogo Jota in their starting line-up as they overcame a scare to beat Villarreal 3-2 in Spain for a 5-3 aggregate win. The Reds were 2-0 down at half time in the second leg at El Madrigal, but Jota was replaced at half time by recent arrival from Porto Luis Díaz, who scored to instigate the fightback.
Many predicted an all-English final between Liverpool and Manchester City, but Real Madrid staged a stunning comeback to deny City in the Spanish capital. City led 4-3 from their home leg and looked destined to go through when Riyad Mahrez put them 1-0 up at the Bernabeu on 73 minutes. However, substitute Rodrygo struck twice in stoppage time and Rúben Dias’ poorly-timed challenge on Karim Benzema allowed the Frenchman to score the decisive third in extra time to send City out. Dias was joined in Pep Guardiola’s team by João Cancelo and Bernardo Silva, who was voted Man of the Match in the first leg and was again impressive, leaving him unfortunate to miss the chance to get his hands on the trophy.
The Europa League also saw joy and despair for Portuguese as Germany faced off against Britain in the semi-finals. Eintracht Frankfurt saw off West Ham 1-0 at home for a 3-1 aggregate victory, with Gonçalo Paciência getting around ten minutes as a substitute. Eintracht will not meet German opposition as anticipated, however, because André Silva’s RB Leipzig suffered a 3-1 loss at Rangers which overturned their 1-0 lead from the first leg. Silva was a substitute and only emerged in the closing stages.
Champions League: Liverpool [Diogo Jota] vs Real Madrid
Saturday 28th May, Saint-Denis, France.
Europa League: Eintracht Frankfurt [Goncalo Paciência] vs Rangers
Wednesday 18th May, Seville, Spain.
Conference League: Roma [José Mourinho, Sérgio Oliveira, Rui Patrício] vs Feyenoord
Wednesday 25th May, Tirana, Albania
By Sean Gillen