Football Features

“The master conjurer” José Mourinho makes history yet again as Roma beat Leicester

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:25, 5 May 2022

José Mourinho’s Roma beat Leicester 1-0 to secure their place in the Europa Conference League final.

The performance was vintage Mourinho in that Roma bagged an early goal and then parked the bus with extreme prejudice, putting up a gigantic wall of maroon and gold between Leicester and a comeback.

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The Foxes tried in vain to break the wall down but in the end it was Roma who had the greater and more numerous of the chances as they counter-attacked expertly through a brilliantly old-school no. 9 display from Tammy Abraham.

The Englishman scored his 25th goal of the season just 11 minutes into the match as he rose prodigiously to thump home Lorenzo Pellegrini’s corner. It was also his ninth of the competition and puts him a brace away from being top scorer. Thereafter he was the dream target man, fighting for every ball, giving Leicester’s defenders hell, holding the ball up, linking with his team-mates and keeping Roma on the attack.

Defensively Roma were outstanding. holding Leicester to just two shots on target in the whole game with their other Englishman, Chris Smalling, emerging as the side’s defensive leader, doing Aldair proud in the no. 6 shirt he repelled everything Leicester threw at Roma. “Smalling at the back, brilliant in the way he mopped everything up,” said Martin Keown to BT Sport after the game.

But the evening belonged to Roma’s manager José Mourinho, the Portuguese tactician rebuilding his reputation in Serie A with Roma has won yet another semi-final and become the first manager in history to reach the final of the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League. It’s 2022 and The Special One is still setting records!

Mourinho’s proficiency at the latter stages of cup competitions is ferocious, having won 15 out of 23 his sides have contested including his last six in a row. He last tasted defeat in a semi-final back in 2014 when his Chelsea side lost to Atlético Madrid. Tonight was always going to be a monster test for Leicester, trying to overcome both the raucous Roma crowd as well as get the better of the magnificent Mourinho at a stage where precious few have ever managed to do so.

Only Rafa Benitez (three times), Walter Mazzarri, Pep Guardiola, Jupp Heynckes, Jurgen Klopp and Diego Simeone have gotten the best of Mourinho in a semi-final. That’s an elite list of coaches, and it’s probably no surprise Brendan Rodgers failed to join them.

After the match, Mourinho was feeling misty-eyed about his team. “When you work in Rome, you live in Rome, you breathe Rome, and you breathe this club because this club is the real club of the city. It’s a huge club but no victories, not many finals. The history is not related with the social dimension of the club.”

“We managed to build an okay team that grew up step-by-step [to the point] where we could beat a Premier League, which of course is from a different dimension. So I’m very very emotional.”

In typical Mourinho form, he couldn’t resist reminding us that he has achieved greater heights; “of course I’ve had bigger moments than this but I’m not feeling for myself; I’m feeling for my players, I’m feeling for the people,” he then concluded with a simple and poetic message that illustrated how massive the result is for Roma: “This for us is our Champions League”

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The full list of José Mourinho’s career semi-finals as a manager is as follows:

  • 2002/03 Taca Portugal: Porto 2-0 Naval (WON FINAL)
  • 2002/03 UEFA Cup: Porto 4-1 Lazio (WON FINAL)
  • 2003/04 Taca Portugal: Porto 3-1 Braga (lost final)
  • 2003/04 Champions League: Porto 1-0 Deportivo (WON FINAL)
  • 2004/05 EFL Cup: Chelsea 2-1 Man Utd (WON FINAL)
  • 2004/05 Champions League: Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea
  • 2005/06 FA Cup: Liverpool 2-1 Chelsea
  • 2006/07 EFL Cup: Chelsea 4-1 Wycombe (WON FINAL)
  • 2006/07 FA Cup: Chelsea 2-1 Blackburn (WON FINAL)
  • 2006/07 Champions League: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea (4-1 pens)
  • 2008/09 Coppa Italia: Sampdoria 3-1 Inter Milan
  • 2009/10 Coppa Italia: Inter Milan 2-0 Fiorentina (WON FINAL)
  • 2009/10 Champions League: Inter Milan 3-2 Barcelona (WON FINAL)
  • 2010/11 Champions League: Barcelona 3-1 Real Madrid
  • 2011/12 Champions League: Bayern Munich 3-3 Real Madrid (4-3 pens)
  • 2012/13 Champions League: Borussia Dortmund 4-3 Real Madrid
  • 2013/14 Champions League: Atlético Madrid 3-1 Chelsea
  • 2014/15 EFL Cup: Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool (WON FINAL)
  • 2016/17 EFL Cup: Manchester United 3-2 Hull (WON FINAL)
  • 2016/17 Europa League: Manchester United 2-1 Celta Vigo (WON FINAL)
  • 2017/18 FA Cup: Manchester United 2-1 Spurs (lost final)
  • 2020/21 EFL Cup: Spurs 2-0 Brentford (sacked before final)
  • 2021/22 Europa Conference League: Roma 2-1 Leicester

What should fill Roma fans with hope and Feyenoord fans with trepidation is the fact that of those 15 semi-final wins, 13 have resulted in Mourinho lifting the trophy in question. Mourinho has tasted defeat in a final just twice, once in the 2003/04 Taca Portugal against Benfica and once in the FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Can Feyenoord join that list? It doesn’t seem likely with Roma so perfectly in tune with José Mourinho’s methods. On Mourinho, BT Sport commentator Peter Drury said it best: “the master conjurer, the silver fox, he’s got another crowd onside, he’s got 65,000 singing his name.”