Feyenoord 1-0 Roma: Talking points as awkward Wieffer shot gives Dutch side slender advantage


Feyenoord recorded a narrow victory over AS Roma in the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal tie, played on Thursday at De Kuip. The only goal of the game was the work of Mats Wieffer in the 53rd minute.

The game by numbers

First legs of knockout rounds in European competitions are rarely exciting and lively. Both teams usually enter the match with plenty of caution, and if nothing unexpected happens, they keep to that approach throughout. This game was certainly one of those.

Even though there were plenty of shots taken at either goal, 12 by Feyenoord, 17 by Roma, they were mostly hopeful efforts that missed the target, and only five in total (2-3) went where they were supposed to.

Feyenoord had more of the ball at their feet with 56% of total possession, which also isn’t a great surprise given they were playing at home against a team commanded by Jose Mourinho; the Portuguese tactician has never really been a fan of possession, being as practical as they come.

Naturally, this means that Feyenoord completed more passes (512-392) with better accuracy (84-80%). The home side was also more aggressive, committing more fouls and getting referee Jose Sanchez from Spain to pull the yellow card out of his pocket twice, while no Roma player got his name in the book.

Wieffer’s emotional roller coaster

Wieffer played a really poor first half. The Feyenoord midfielder was the first to get booked, seeing yellow in the 18th minute. In the 42nd, Roma were attacking and Lorenzo Pellegrini whipped in a cross that clearly hit Wieffer’s hand. The referee had no second thoughts as he blew the whistle and pointed to the spot, giving the Italian side a great chance to take the lead.

It would’ve been nightmare for Wieffer and a perfect moment for Mourinho – his team taking the lead in Rotterdam, after which he would surely have closed the pathways to Rui Patricio’s goal as only he can. But unfortunately from Roma’s point of view, Pellegrini’s powerful shot from the spot hit the post, and the match remained goalless.

And if Wieffer felt relieved at that moment, it was probably nothing compared to the burst of joy which engulfed him eight minutes into the second half, when winger Oussama Idrissi broke down the left and sent a low cross through the box. The ball eventually came to Wieffer and he hit it first-time on the volley, bouncing it off the ground and sending it just above the head of his teammate Alireza Jahanbakhsh, on its way into the net.

Things could still have ended badly for Wieffer. He committed several fouls after scoring what turned out to have been the winning goal, which could’ve easily earned him a second booking, but luckily for him, the referee wasn’t too keen to whip the red card out on the evening.

Mourinho’s injury woes

Roma lost all three starting attackers through injury in this match.

Only 26 minutes in, Paulo Dybala was forced to leave the pitch. The same happened to Pellegrini at the end of the first half, followed by striker Tammy Abraham in the 58th.

Stephan El Shaarawy, Georginio Wijnaldum and Andrea Belotti replaced the injured trio, and Mourinho’s options for the upcoming Serie A clash against Udinese on Sunday will be significantly reduced. The Roma boss will, however, hope to have at least some these players back for the second leg next Thursday, given that a win at the Olimpico is now imperative.

On the other hand, Feyenoord coach Arne Slot was worried late on for Lutsharel Geertriuda, who clutched his hamstring late in the game, having recently returned from injury. But the right-back finished the game on the pitch, which probably means that whatever he felt in the muscle wasn’t too serious.

A narrow advantage

Slot will, on the other hand, be concerned that striker Santiago Gimenez couldn’t cause any problems for the Roma defence whatsoever. After 82 minutes, Gimenez made way for Marcos Lopez, to no avail for the home side.

Slot will be aware that the goal his team scored was a lucky punch, and they can’t rely on that kind of fortune for a second time.

As for Roma, the result is obviously not good, but it isn’t too bad either. The Giallorossi will do whatever they can in front of the boiling stands of the Olimpico to earn a place in the semifinals, and it’s certainly not out of reach.

It remains to be seen how Roma do in a must-win situation, as well as how Feyenoord resist their attacks in a likely hostile atmosphere.

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