Roma draw with Ajax to earn passage to Europa League semis

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Roma draw with Ajax to earn passage to Europa League semis

AS Roma advanced to the Europa League semifinals with a 3-2 aggregate win over Ajax Amsterdam on Thursday as Edin Dzeko’s equaliser secured a 1-1 draw in Rome.

Roma will face Manchester United, who defeated Granada with a 4-0 aggregate win, in the last four.

Brian Brobbey struck for Ajax four minutes after his halftime introduction but Dzeko’s 72nd minute finish levelled the scores in the quarterfinal second leg.

The visitors dominated possession and had a second goal disallowed for a Nicolas Tagliafico foul, but struggled to again break down a resolute home defence despite a late onslaught.

“We had more problems in Amsterdam, but today we controlled them well,” Roma coach Paulo Fonseca told Sky Italia. “Ajax are a very strong team with great quality, but defensively we played a great game.”

The capital club are Italy’s last remaining representative in European competition this season, and the clash with United will be their first European semifinal since a 7-6 aggregate defeat by Liverpool in the 2017-18 Champions League.

“It’s satisfying. Reaching a semifinal is cause for pride, we are representing Italy at the moment that’s a source of pride for Roma,” Fonseca added.

Roma threatened early on as Lorenzo Pellegrini sprinted half the length of the pitch but was let down by a weak finish, and Jordan Veretout’s close-range effort was ruled out for offside.

The visitors’ best chance of the first half came courtesy of a Roma error when Antony intercepted a careless pass by goalkeeper Pau Lopez and cut a cross back to Davy Klaassen, but the midfielder was denied by a crucial Amadou Diawara block.

Ajax had 75% of the possession in the first half without finding a breakthrough but it eventually came four minutes into the second half when 19-year-old Brobbey latched onto a long ball and knocked a finish beyond the onrushing Lopez.

It was the Netherlands Under-21 striker’s third goal from the bench in the Europa League this season, more than any other player.

Ajax were in the ascendancy and found the net again when Dusan Tadic fired home after a Lopez parry, but his effort was disallowed following a VAR review for a previous Tagliafico foul on Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Roma’s chances were few and far between but striker Dzeko clinically took his when a deflected cross fell into the Bosnian’s path at the back post for a tap-in.