Ademola Lookman

Roma Prove Stubborn As City Draw In UECL Semi-Final First Leg

A supercharged Filbert Way watched on as Leicester City were held to a 1-1 draw by AS Roma on Thursday night in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League Semi-Finals, leaving the tie finely poised ahead of next week's visit to Italy.
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The return of striker Jamie Vardy headlined City's team news, with the Club's all-time leading Premier League goalscorer starting for the first time since March having missed out due to a knee complaint. He was one of four changes to the XI, with Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans and Marc Albrighton all returning for a big first leg fixture in Leicester. 

A sold out Leicester City Stadium welcomed the Foxes onto the pitch, and, as expected, the atmosphere did not disappoint. After a pyrotechnics display, a sea of blue and white rippled around the stands as each member of the Blue Army's voices crackled through the cold mid-spring air. Leicester's last home European match of 2021/22 was seconds away from kick-off.

City bolted out of the traps, with Vardy's pressure causing Chris Smalling to lose his footing. The No.9's ball across the box was cut out by Nicolò Zaniolo. A brace of corners followed, with the latter headed wide by Timothy Castagne, as the hosts sought to smother Roma in the early moments. 

James Maddison was finding space in between the lines, enjoying much of the ball, and on 10 minutes had two strikes from distance blocked. For all of Leicester's early pressure, though, Roma were ahead when their captain, Lorenzo Pellegrini, burst into a pocket of space, collected Gianluca Mancini's through-ball and beat Kasper Schmeichel

City's first change of the night arrived on 21 minutes when James Justin replaced Castagne at right-back. After both teams enjoyed spells of possession, Nigeria forward Ademola Lookman saw his attempt turned behind, prior to Justin glancing wide at the far post from the resulting Albrighton corner. 

Twisting and turning from Maddison resulted in the No.10 curling over with this left boot. Then, on 32 minutes, play briefly paused to allow defender Wesley Fofana to break his fast during Ramadan. Barely 60 seconds later, a hefty drive from Lookman forced Rui Patrício into an uncomfortable save. Smalling was alert to the rebound with Vardy charging in.

The Roma wall served its purpose on 38 minutes after Maddison struck a free-kick towards the target. He lifted over again shortly after, not before a great interception from Fofana then prevented the ball from finding a well-timed run from Tammy Abraham.

A flurry of opportunities followed, however the flag was raised against Lookman, and José Mourinho's visitors headed into the break a goal to the good.

Backed by the Blue Army, City set about penetrating Roma's sturdy defence in the second half. Lookman had a big opportunity to restore parity from Albrighton's corner, but right on the six-yard line, he nodded over Patrício's crossbar.

Following Dewsbury-Hall's wayward attempt, a brace of Foxes substitutions came just after the hour mark, with Rodgers introducing Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho to inject energy into his side's forward line. Albrighton and Vardy made way.

Leicester were on top and the substitutes made the difference. Barnes played the ball into Iheanacho and got it back before motoring down the left and delivering into Lookman, who diverted from three yards to deservedly made it 1-1. Filbert Way erupted. The strike would later go down as a Gianluca Mancini own goal.

The hosts were in the driving seat as Maddison lifted the ball to the far post and Iheanacho headed onto the roof of the net. Roma offered a threat on the counter-attack, however City were able to deal with them comfortably. This time, Ricardo shrugged substitute Jordan Veretout off the ball with ease. 

Veretout blasted harmlessly over Schmeichel's goal frame with a little over 10 minutes of normal time left to play, while the fingertips of Patrício denied Iheanacho after Belgium star Youri Tielemans did well to recover possession in Roma's half.

Schmeichel then had to palm away substitute Sérgio Oliveira's deflected shot, which glanced off Fofana to make it awkward for the Denmark stopper. Patrício held Maddison's goal-bound delivery not long after, before a fourth change followed for the men in blue, as Ayoze Pérez came on for Lookman in the latter stages of the first leg.

A minimum of five added minutes would be played out at the second half's climax. City were still trying to assemble one final attack in attempt to turn the game on its head, however Roma were content to absorb the advances. The sides will meet again in sevens days at the Stadio Olimpico.

Major moment

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Ademola Lookman & Harvey Barnes

Harvey Barnes came off the bench to set up the leveller.

City were certainly the more creative of the two outfits in the first leg, however AS Roma were clinical in the first half and found the net after a quarter of an hour when Lorenzo Pellegrini applied a neat finish. 

Such has been Leicester's spirit, though, they battled through a compact Roma defence and ensured they'd take a draw to the Italian capital for next week's return leg thanks to Ademola Lookman's role in the leveller.

Who impressed?

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Ademola Lookman

The Foxes loanee played a big role in the goal that sealed a draw for City in Leicester.

Speaking on LCFC Radio's Matchday Live from the pressbox on Filbert Way, 2000 League Cup winner Gerry Taggart said: "If anyone was creating tonight, it was Ademola Lookman, and he eventually got himself on the scoresheet. James Maddison also did well, but it's Lookman who gets my Man of the Match."

Where do we stand?

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José Mourinho & Brendan Rodgers

José Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers embrace at the full-time whistle on Filbert Way.

The Foxes will head to Rome with the scores locked at 1-1 ahead of the first leg, so it's all to play for in Rome on Thursday 5 May. The second leg has the potential to be one a memorable one as City bid for their first-ever European final.

Coming up...

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Kasper Schmeichel

Skipper Kasper Schmeichel made an important save in the second half to deny Sérgio Oliveira.

A Premier League away trip to Tottenham Hotspur follows this Sunday (2pm kick-off) ahead of the return leg against AS Roma four days later (8pm kick-off).

All times BST.

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