Roma vs Feyenoord 1-0: Mourinho Conquers Conference League

And so, in the end, the Special One did it again. Roma won the inaugural edition of the Conference League as they beat Feyenoord with a lone goal from Nicolò Zaniolo at the Kombetare Arena in Tirana. They did it with José Mourinho at the helm – who thus became the first coach to win all three European competitions currently active.

This is the first trophy in 14 years for Roma, their second international piece of silverware ever after a prehistoric Inter City Fairs Cup won in 1961. It is, also, the first Italian success in club competitions since Inter’s Champions League triumph in 2010. The Nerazzurri‘s coach was, you guessed it, José Mourinho. 

And now, as the Giallorossi prepare to lift the cup, one’s mind can only go back to that polar night in Bodo when Roma were humiliated by the local, semi-unknown team. Six goals they conceded, and their Conference League adventure seemed pretty much doomed – at least from a mindset point of view.

Mourinho’s second adventure in Italy also seemed destined to end badly. The honeymoon is over, he has lost control of the locker room – that was what many (including us at The Cult of Calcio…) wrote. But, in the end, he stuck to his plan and had the last laugh this time. For a manager that was billed as being well past his prime, the night in Tirana tastes like sweet revenge. 

Roma’s success aside, the match seen at the Kombetare Arena was not necessarily a memorable one. Despite the high pace set by Feyenoord from the get-go, the battle turned into a tense, nervous encounter with few scoring chances. The Giallorossi made the best out of their while the Dutch did not as Roma had to thank their goal posts and some fine saves from Rui Patricio. 

Roma weathered the Feyenoord’s storm in the second half after Zaniolo had taken them ahead with a brilliant left-foot touch halfway through the first period. Perhaps the Dutch would have deserved an equalizer but, after launching a full-scale attack early after the restart, they saw their chances dwindle as minutes went by.

José Mourinho lined up is best possible formation as he also risked deploying Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was just coming back from an injury. That didn’t work out as the Armenian raised a white flag just 16 minutes after kick-off. He was replaced by Sergio Oliveira.

Former Feyenoord player Rick Karsdorp and season sensation Nicola Zalewski covered the two wing-back spots but were suffocated by the Dutch’s pressure and struggled to serve appropriately the striker duo made of Tammy Abraham and Nicolò Zaniolo.

And so, it was up to defender Gianluca Mancini to open a breach into the Feyenoord defense, serving Zaniolo with a perfectly-timed pass that the Azzurri starlet turned into Roma’s opener on 31 minutes. Zaniolo adjusted the ball with his chest and beat Justin Bijlow with a soft left-foot touch to set the Kombetare Arena on fire.

That was Roma’s only chance in the first 45 minutes and the Giallorossi got the best out of it. Feyenoord had started the game much more aggressively, pegging Mourinho’s side back int their own half but ultimately the elftal coached by Arne Slot didn’t record any real shot on target.

That was not the case when the two sides set their feet on the pitch again. The first quarter of the second half was a Feyenoord offensive monologue to which the Giallorossi seemed to have no answer. Mancini risked an own goal from a corner kick but his unlucky deflection hit the post. Then, Rui Patricio conjured two stellar saves to deny Guus Til and Tyrell Malacia from outside the box.

The Roma wall seemed about to collapse but Mourinho and his boys managed to re-organize themselves and break the Feyenoord momentum, well led at the back by a monumental Chris Smalling. There were changes on both sides, with Mourinho sending in Jordan Veretout and Leonardo Spinazzola. He eventually added also Eldor Shomurodov and Matias Vina late in the game.

Veretout tried to shake things up with a shot that called the Dutch goalkeeper to action on 67 minutes. Then, it was the Giallorossi captain Lorenzo Pellegrini to test Bijlow again but his effort was also pushed back. All in all, it was Roma to have the most dangerous chances towards the end of the match despite Feyenoord continuing to push.

The Dutch side only managed to give Rui Patricio a final scare well into stoppage time as substitute Bryan Linssen missed to convert from close range after being picked in the middle of the box by Cyriel Dessers. It was just not meant to be. This is Roma and José Mourinho’s night. And now, next season, on to the Europa League!


May 25, 2022 – Conference League 2021-2022 Final

SCORER: 32′ Zaniolo

ROMA (3-4-1-2): Rui Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Ibañez; Karsdorp (89′ Viña), Cristante, Mkhitaryan (17′ Sérgio Oliveira), Zalewski (67′ Spinazzola); Pellegrini; Zaniolo (67′ Veretout), Abraham (89′ Shomurodov) (Fuzato, Carles Pérez, Maitland-Niles, Kumbulla, Bove, Afena-Gyan, El Shaarawy) Coach: Mourinho
FEYENOORD (4-2-3-1): Bijlow; Geertruida, Trauner (74′ Pedersen), Senesi, Malacia (89′ Jahanbakhsh); Aursnes, Kokcu (88′ Walemark); Nelson (74′ Linssen), Til (59′ Toornstra), Sinisterra; Dessers (Cojocaru, Marciano, Jansen, Hendrix, Sandler, Hendricks, Hall) Coach: Slot

REFEREE: Kovacs (Romania)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Pellegrini, Rui Patricio (R), Trauner (F); Added Time: 1st Half 4′, 2nd Half 5′