Europa Conference League

Europa Conference League (113)

Gianluca Mancini's own goal helped Leicester City earn a 1-1 draw with Roma in their Europa Conference League semi-final first leg.

Appearing at this stage in European competition for the third time in five years, Jose Mourinho's side took a 15th-minute lead at the King Power Stadium through Lorenzo Pellegrini.

But the hosts equalised midway through the second half when Mancini inadvertently turned Harvey Barnes' cross into his own net.

It was enough to ensure a share of the spoils and leave the tie finely poised ahead of next week's second leg at Stadio Olimpico.

Leicester made a positive start to what was their first European semi-final. Just four minutes had passed when Timothy Castagne headed wide from a James Maddison corner.

Despite enjoying just 35 per cent of possession inside the opening quarter of an hour, Roma took the lead when Pellegrini latched onto Nicola Zalewski's throughball before drilling through the legs of Kasper Schmeichel.

The Foxes, who lost Castagne to injury soon after, looked to respond. Chris Smalling made an important block to deny Lookman, who also stung the palms of Rui Patricio from 20 yards.

Lookman then squandered a decent opportunity to equalise early in the second half; heading Marc Albrighton's corner over from inside the six-yard box.

But Brendan Rodgers' side not to be denied in the 67th minute as, under pressure from Lookman, Mancini turned into his own net from point-blank range after excellent work from Barnes.

The hosts pushed for the winner with Kelechi Iheanacho going close, but they had to settle for a stalemate.

Cyriel Dessers scored twice as Feyenoord edged an absorbing Europa Conference League semi-final against Marseille, claiming a 3-2 first-leg success at De Kuip.

Dessers and Luis Sinisterra netted within three frantic first-half minutes, but Bamba Dieng and Gerson led a rapid Marseille comeback as a terrific first half ended level.   

But a dire back-pass from Duje Caleta-Car allowed Dessers to grab his brace immediately after the break as the hosts re-established their advantage. 

Arne Slot's men will now take a slender lead to Southern France for next week's second leg as they aim for a first European final appearance since 2002.

Dieng missed two glorious one-on-one chances for Marseille early on, side-footing straight at Ofir Marciano after eight minutes, before dragging another poor finish wide after 13 minutes.

Marseille were punished when Dessers poked the hosts into the lead after latching onto Sinisterra's flick in the 18th minute, and went two down when Sinisterra swept Reiss Nelson's cut-back beyond Steve Mandanda via a fortuitous deflection just three minutes later.

But the visitors halved the arrears when Dieng stuck a fierce long-range effort into the bottom-right corner after 28 minutes, and found themselves level when Gerson stabbed home after Marciano spilled a cross shortly before the break.

Marseille fell behind once again just nine seconds into the second half when Dessers intercepted Caleta-Car's dreadful back-pass before rounding Mandanda and tapping home.

Caleta-Car almost gifted the hosts a fourth when he passed straight to Byran Linssen after an hour, only for the substitute to drag his right-footed shot wide.

Mandanda denied Dessers his hat-trick after 75 minutes, before Dieng shot straight at Marciano when left unmarked late on, as Feyenoord put one foot in the final.

What does it mean? Feyenoord edge thriller to move closer to final

Feyenoord's thrilling victory moved them one step closer towards adding to their storied history in European competitions, and preserved their unbeaten record in the Conference League (eight wins, three draws this season).

The Dutch outfit, who have one European Cup and two UEFA Cups to their name, will simply need to maintain that record in France to make the final. 

Marseille get just Dessers after poor display

A calamitous defensive showing from Marseille was exploited ruthlessly by Dessers, who opened the scoring before putting Feyenoord back in front just seconds after the break. Dessers has now scored 10 goals in the Conference League this season, more than any other player in the competition. 

Meanwhile, he has set a new record for goals scored by a Feyenoord player in a European campaign (previously nine, scored by Lex Schoenmaker in 1973-74 and Pierre van Hooijdonk in 2001-02).

Marseille fail to make history

Sampaoli's team came into this contest as favourites after winning seven consecutive games in the Conference League, and could have become the first French team to record eight successive European wins (excluding qualifiers).

However, the visitors' poor defensive performance was summed up by Caleta-Car's costly error, and saw them fall short of that landmark achievement.

What's next? 

Feyenoord face an Eredivisie trip to Fortuna Sittard on Sunday ahead of next week's second leg, while Marseille host Lyon in Ligue 1 on the same day.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho is one of the greatest managers of his generation and has nothing to prove, according to Leicester City counterpart Brendan Rodgers.

Mourinho and Rodgers will come face-to-face on Thursday when Leicester host Roma for the first leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final.

The pair worked closely together when Rodgers was head of youth development at Chelsea during Mourinho's first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho's stock has fallen somewhat in recent years, with this his first trip to England since being sacked by Tottenham in April last year.

The Portuguese has since had a mixed time of things in charge of Roma, with the Europa Conference League his last realistic shot at success this season.

Despite going five years since last winning a trophy – the Europa League with United in 2016-17 – Rodgers remains a big supporter of Mourinho.

"He has nothing to prove to anyone. He will always be a winner," Rodgers said at his pre-match news conference on Wednesday. 

"I cannot speak any higher of him. He is one of the greats of our generation. I have got nothing but admiration for him. 

"I became a manager in my own right but I'll never forget what I gained from him as a young coach. I studied him and watched him and at that time it was a really special period."

Mourinho has won 25 trophies in four different countries across a 22-year career in senior management, including the Champions League with Porto and Inter.

"He had the X factor," Rodgers said when asked why he rates Mourinho as one of the best. "There isn't one single thing. He was brilliant in so many aspects of the game.

"Detail-orientated, man-management of the players, his understanding of the tactical adaptation of the game, he had that special quality I was able to see."

 

Leicester have struggled for consistency domestically this season and are only competing in the Europa Conference League after dropping out of the Europa League.

The Foxes have defeated Randers, Rennes and PSV to make it through to the semi-finals of UEFA's third-tier competition, where they will face Roma for the first time.

City have failed to win their previous two games against Italian opposition, losing and drawing with Napoli this season, while Roma have won just one of their 21 away games in England.

Rodgers, who confirmed striker Jamie Vardy could make a second start of 2022, is eager to set up a final against either Feyenoord or Marseille.

"It's a prestigious competition, all four teams will want to win it," he said.

"It's a fantastic occasion against a top-class team. To get to the final we will do everything we can. It's another symbol of our growth as a club."

Leicester have lost just one of their last 16 home games in all European competitions and none in the 2021-22 campaign.

Bodo/Glimt head coach Kjetil Knutsen and Roma goalkeeping coach Nuno Santos have been provisionally suspended by UEFA following assault allegations.

Santos was accused of assaulting Knutsen in the tunnel after Jose Mourinho's men fell to a 2-1 first-leg defeat in their Europa League Conference quarter-final in Norway last Thursday. 

Both clubs released statements in the aftermath of the incident, with Roma announcing that they were cooperating with UEFA and local authorities to investigate the claims.

The Norwegian champions accused their opponents of "bombarding the media with untruths" relating to the altercation, and European football's governing body has since announced its decision on the matter.

Both coaches will be provisionally suspended from European fixtures until a further ruling is made on the case by UEFA's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body.

Knutsen alleged that Santos grabbed him by the neck and pushed him against a wall during a heated alteration outside the dressing rooms after the match.

The encounter marked the second time the Norwegian side have beaten Roma in this season's competition, with a first-half Lorenzo Pellegrini goal cancelled out by second-half strikes from Ulrik Saltnes and Hugo Vetlesen. 

Roma will attempt to overturn the first-leg deficit when they welcome Bodo/Glimt to the Stadio Olimpico for the crucial return leg on Thursday.

Roma have released a statement in response to allegations made against a member of their coaching staff following Thursday's Europa Conference League defeat at Bodo/Glimt.

The statement explains the club has provided assistance to UEFA and local authorities after it was alleged that Giallorossi goalkeeper coach Nuno Santos assaulted Bodo/Glimt coach Kjetil Knutsen in the tunnel after the Norwegian side's 2-1 quarter-final first leg win.

Knutsen claimed Santos grabbed him by the neck and pushed him against a wall during the altercation.

A statement released by the Serie A club on Friday read: "AS Roma would like to note that, following the conclusion of the match on Thursday evening, club directors and other members of the coaching staff remained at the Aspmyra Stadion until 00:45 local time, purely for the purpose of providing UEFA and local authorities with all the details of what transpired in the areas outside the changing rooms following the full-time whistle.

"The club has total confidence that UEFA and its various bodies will ultimately establish with clarity and precision where responsibility lies for the events that occurred, events that we have already described and explained in detail to all the relevant authorities present on site.

"Finally, the club would like to emphasise that it has always conducted itself in a manner that upholds the values of fair play and sportsmanship, both on and off the pitch: the same principles that we hope will be on display throughout next week's second leg."

It was the second time the Norwegian side have beaten Roma in this season's competition, with a first-half Lorenzo Pellegrini goal being cancelled out by second-half strikes from Ulrik Saltnes and Hugo Vetlesen.

Pellegrini told Sky Sport Italia after the game he believed Knutsen attacked Santos first, claims that their opponents strongly deny.

Bodo/Glimt also released a statement about the incident, saying: "Roma is bombarding the media with untruths in an attempt to hide the unsportsmanlike behaviour.

"Glimt knows that there is a video of the incident, which shows the attack on Knutsen from representatives of Rome's coaching team. The club has seen this video. We demand that the public have access to this video owned by UEFA."

General manager Frode Thomassen added: "Glimt sees no other choice than to report Nuno Santos to the police on the basis of the physical attack on Kjetil Knutsen. It is completely unacceptable behavior. 

"This is a systematic provocation, manipulation and finally the exercise of physical violence against Kjetil Knutsen. We are confident that an objective body will ignore incorrect claims from Roma."

UEFA also confirmed on Friday the matter is being investigated, saying: "In accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, a UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector has been appointed to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding reported incidents which allegedly occurred at the end of the 2021/22 Europa Conference League quarter-final match between FK Bodo/Glimt and AS Roma played on 7 April 2022 in Norway.

"Information on this matter will be made available in due course."

Brendan Rodgers says Leicester City's lack of experience showed in their 0-0 draw with PSV but remains hopeful of advancing into the Europa Conference League semi-finals.

The Foxes could not find a way through from any of their 10 shots in Thursday's quarter-final first leg at the King Power Stadium, just two of which were on target.

That equated to an expected goals (xG) return of 0.72 for City, compared to 0.47 for PSV, who tested Kasper Schmeichel on only one occasion in the stalemate.

It is the first time Leicester have failed to score in a European game in nine outings, having netted 20 times across the previous eight at an average of 2.5 goals per game.

Leicester were competing in just their second European quarter-final, the other coming in the 2016-17 Champions League, whereas PSV have reached the last eight 16 times.

And City boss Rodgers, whose side have lacked consistency throughout the season, felt that told in a game between two well-matched teams.

"At times we showed our lack of experience but that will come," he said at his post-match news conference. "In the first half we broke through but then tried to force it.

"It was always going to be tight. You want to win it but it wasn't to be. We'll go there and they'll open up more and that will give us more space. We're looking forward to it."

 

Harvey Barnes went closest to netting for City when rattling the crossbar just before half-time, while Mario Gotze was denied by a good Schmeichel stop from PSV's best chance.

Kelechi Iheanacho led the line in the absence of injured strike partner Jamie Vardy and attempted twice as many shots (four) as any player, despite playing only 67 minutes.

After a frustrating day in front of goal, Rodgers admitted he was after more cutting-edge from his attacking players. 

"It's a good performance. There were not too many chances," he said. "PSV had an early one but apart from that I thought we defended strongly.

"There were not too many chances in the game. Maybe a bit more quality in the final third would have made it a bit easier for us. 

"We just lacked that bit of quality up there. We just didn't have that extra final bit of quality to create that chance.

"There was no surprise in terms of PSV. They have good players and are a threat on the counter-attack. 

"Domestically PSV score a lot of goals home and away but we restricted them to not so much."

Leicester have now lost just one of their last 16 matches in European competition, keeping eight clean sheets in the process.

The return leg takes place at Philips Stadion next Thursday, with the winners to take on either Bodo/Glimt or Roma in the semi-finals.

Roma will seek redemption against Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League quarter-final, while Leicester City will face PSV.

Jose Mourinho's Roma were hammered 6-1 at Bodo/Glimt in the group stage of this competition, and the Norwegian side now stand in their way of a potential semi-final meeting with Leicester or PSV.

Brendan Rodgers' Leicester overcame Rennes 3-2 on aggregate in their last-16 clash, while PSV ran out 8-4 aggregate victors in a thrilling tie with Copenhagen in the last round.

Another two teams that met in the group stages will face off on the other side of the draw, with Feyenoord hosting Slavia Prague in the first leg and the winners will meet Marseille or PAOK in the other semi-final.

The two-leg quarter-final clashes are set to take place across April 7 and April 14, with the semi-finals to follow on April 28 and May 5.

Europa League quarter-final draw

Bodo/Glimt v Roma

Feyenoord v Slavia Prague

Marseille v PAOK

Leicester City v PSV

Semi-final draw

Leicester City / PSV v Bodo/Glimt / Roma

Feyenoord / Slavia Prague v Marseille / PAOK

Brendan Rodgers praised Wesley Fofana’s mentality, following his goal to put Leicester City through to the Europa Conference League quarter-finals.

Leicester lost 2-1 on the night, but Fofana’s goal upon his return put Leicester through 3-2 on aggregate.

The 21-year-old Frenchman has not played since breaking his leg in pre-season, but along with his goal to separate the teams on aggregate, quickly adapted to a tense European atmosphere.

Rodgers highlighted it was the mark of a top player.

"He’s an amazing player, that’s what top players do,” Rodgers told BT Sport post-match. "He’s only been back in training a few weeks but they want to go and head it and show that determination. That’s what we’ve missed for a lot of the season.

"That’s a top player’s mentality, he’s such a top prospect. Now he’s just got to try and build his fitness up. He was exceptional on the night."

With Lovro Majer back in the Rennes starting XI for the second leg, it was an unsurprisingly fast start and Benjamin Bourigeaud put them up after only eight minutes.

Fofana equalised on 51 minutes, handing Rennes a sizeable task to eventually turn the tie around. Rodgers was still critical of his side’s performance, but was nevertheless relieved progression was secured, given the opposition.

"I think with the ball we were really, really poor," he said.

"Our football in the game, especially in the first half, was nowhere near what I would expect. What we did show tonight was real character, especially with the players missing and lots of young players tasting this level for the first time. It’s character building for them.

"We had to show resilience. You can see they’re a good side, Rennes, so to get through is a fantastic feeling. We knew they were going to make a fast start and come after us.

"They got the early goal as well, but we showed a good mentality, a good concentration level."

Celtic's Europa Conference League campaign came to an end at the first hurdle as they went down 2-0, and 5-1 on aggregate, to Norwegian champions Bodo/Glimt.

The damage had largely been done in last week's first leg, with Bodo/Glimt holding a 3-1 aggregate lead heading into Thursday's encounter in the Arctic Circle.

Yet an abject start from Celtic allowed Ola Solbakken to put the home side further ahead, with Joe Hart having to make some excellent saves to keep the scoreline down.

Despite improvements after the break, Celtic were 2-0 down when Hugo Vetlesen steered home to add gloss to a fine two-legged performance from Bodo/Glimt, who take their place in the last 16.

Solbakken played a pivotal part in one of Bodo/Glimt's goals in the first leg, and the 23-year-old needed just nine minutes to put the hosts ahead as he placed a crisp, low strike across Hart.

Celtic's goalkeeper kept the Hoops' swiftly diminishing hopes alive when he denied Amahl Pellegrino soon after, with Bodo/Glimt having five shots inside the opening 20 minutes.

Hart made a fantastic stop eight minutes before half-time, once again keeping Pellegrino at bay, with Solbakken's venomous follow-up deflecting just wide.

Liel Abada and Callum McGregor were tasked with infecting some resolved into Celtic after the break, and the visitors did improve, having a penalty appeal for handball turned down in the 51st minute.

Daizen Maeda lashed over but Ange Postecoglou's team never looked likely to have enough to turn the deficit around, and Celtic were down and out when Vetlesen finished calmly from Morten Agnes Konradsen's cross.

Leicester City eased into the last 16 of the Europa Conference League as a scarcely deserved 3-1 win at Randers secured a 7-2 aggregate victory. 

Despite a difficult season to this point, Leicester are considered to be among the favourites for a competition they had hoped not to be in when their Europa League campaign began. 

Moments of quality from Harvey Barnes and James Maddison ensured there would be no nerves for Brendan Rodgers' men in their knockout round play-off, although this was far from a convincing performance. 

On the balance of play, Randers – beaten 4-1 in England – could well have threatened a dramatic second-leg turnaround in Denmark, but they passed up a series of chances and allowed Leicester to emerge with a one-sided final score. 

Light snow and a poor pitch contributed to tricky conditions for flowing football – not that Barnes was slowed inside two minutes as he raced away and shaped a low finish around Patrik Carlgren into the bottom-right corner. 

Randers were far less clinical from a similar opportunity at the other end soon afterwards. Kasper Schmeichel saved from Stephen Odey and Jakob Ankersen in quick succession when both dallied in front of goal following a four-man breakaway. 

Chances continued to come and go for the home side, who had Bjorn Kopplin poke wide, Vito Hammershoy-Mistrati prod across the face of goal and Simon Piesinger blast over the crossbar before half-time. 

Odey drew an instinctive stop from Schmeichel following the restart and had a shot blocked on the line from the subsequent corner. 

The forward found time to miss the far post when well placed too, before further ruthless contributions from another of Leicester's key men saw Maddison pick out the top-left corner with a fine free-kick and then the top-right in open play four minutes later. 

Odey at least had the final say, pouncing on a Schmeichel error to deny the Denmark international a hard-earned clean sheet. 

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