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Europa Conference League Match Report: Roma 1(2) - 0 (1) Leicester City

The Foxes Europa Conference League campaign ends with less than a whimper.

AS Roma v Leicester City: Semi Final Leg Two - UEFA Europa Conference League
At least you have three trophies at home to keep you warm, unlike some England strikers...
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Leicester City lost to A.S. Roma by a score of 1-0 on Thursday night in Roma, ending the Foxes’ trophy hopes and, for all intents and purposes, their season. Tammy Abraham scored from a corner midway through the first half and City only managed two efforts on goal the entire match, both of which were easily dealt with by Roma keeper Rui Patricio.

As you might imagine, manager Brendan Rodgers made a raft of changes to the side that lost to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Ricardo Pereira, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, Timothy Castagne, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Ademola Lookman, Harvey Barnes, and Jamie Vardy.

The Foxes started brightly, winning an early corner through Maddison. The former Norwich City man took it, but it eluded all players and went out for a goal kick. Why did no one get on the end of it? Chris Smalling wrapped his arm around Fofana’s waist and wouldn’t let go. VAR took a look at it but decided that wrapping your arm around a player and holding them is perfectly fine.

In case you were wondering, a paçoca is a Brazilian peanut candy, but idiomatically, it also means a “crumpled mess.”

The hosts took the lead on 11’ through, you guessed it, a corner. Roma won three corners in a row and, with the third, the ball found the head of Tammy Abraham. He rose above Ricardo and planted an unstoppable header past Schmeichel. Not much you can do about that, except maybe put a centre-half on the striker or, you know, don’t concede so many corners.

The match got really nervy and contentious after that. A referee who won’t call obvious fouls is certainly not going to blow the whistle for borderline infractions. Both sides had frustrated players on the deck with arms raised on multiple occasions. This resulted in a match with no flow and little quality.

The referee had completely lost control of the match by the half, with both sides claiming fouls that weren’t and the ref not calling fouls that very clearly were. I really wish there was more football to talk about, but it was just a mess of a half. Roma were worth their one-goal advantage on the run of play, but the Foxes absolutely should have had a penalty in the opening moments. Let’s hope for a better second half.

AS Roma v Leicester City: Semi Final Leg Two - UEFA Europa Conference League
Pretty sure KDH was called for a foul on this one.
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Perhaps aware of the Fosse Posse’s own Matt Cook’s evaluation, Rodgers made two changes to personnel and a complete overhaul to his shape at the half. Lookman and Barnes came off for Kelechi Iheanacho and Daniel Amartey. The system went from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-1-2 with Madders slotting in behind the two strikers.

I’d like to say the change ushered in a period of dominance by City, but I can’t. Roma’s press was less intense, but they looked perfectly happy to sit back and let the Foxes try to unlock their defence. There was little evidence currently on display to suggest that Leicester were up to that task.

There was a lovely moment early in the half when the stadium cameras found Claudio Ranieri in the stands. The entire visiting crowd stood and applauded long and loud, with the former City manager finally standing and waving in acknowledgement. This was by some margin the highlight of the match for us.

AS Roma v Leicester City: Semi Final Leg Two - UEFA Europa Conference League
Legend. Absolutely legend. He’ll never have to pay for a pint in Leicester or Seguin, Texas for as long as he lives.
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

With twenty minutes to play, Rodgers introduced Timothy Castagne for Ricardo. Just a few minutes later, Ayoze Perez came on for KDH. How poor was the Leicester attack up to this point? When Madders rolled a tame effort directly to Rui Patricio, that was our first effort on target. Seniorman put a slightly more venomous effort on frame, but again, it was directly at the Portugal keeper.

The five minutes of injury time ran out with the referee blowing the whistle before the full five minutes had been played because of course he did. City’s historic Europa Conference League run ended at the final hurdle.

That was desperately poor. We never looked threatening, let alone like scoring. A strong, disciplined Mourinho team will do that to you, so I can’t lay all the blame at the feet of the Foxes. But, with the attacking talent in this squad, you’d think we would muster a little more than two simple long-range efforts on goal. No one was on the same page, passes were going wildly astray, it was just awful to watch.

As I may have mentioned, the defeat ends our run in the Europa Conference League. We face Everton on Sunday and square up against Norwich City next Wednesday. Solidly mid-table and without much to play for, it will be interesting to see how Rodgers shakes things up. Or, at least, I hope it will be.

Final note: I need to make a point here: I get a lot of stick for talking about the refereeing in the match report. I get it. It comes off as sour grapes. But, when the refereeing plays such a massive role in how the match was played and perhaps even the result, I think it’s dishonest not to mention it. Make no mistake: This referee was desperately poor. They got easy calls wrong the entire match. We did not deserve to win this, but that made it no less galling when Vardy was whistled for doing less than Chris Smalling did against Fofana in the penalty area at the death. My opinion is that the bulk of the bad calls went against us, but I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone who watched the match that Srdjan Jovanovic is simply not up to the task no matter which side you were supporting.