Bayer Leverkusen blank Roma to extend unbeaten run to 47

Goals by Florian Wirtz and Robert Andrich gave Bayer Leverkusen a 2-0 advantage over AS Roma in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday as the German champions edged closer to their first European final in 22 years.

The newly-crowned Bundesliga winners and German Cup finalists, who recently overtook Juventus to claim the European record for the longest unbeaten streak across all competitions, lost 2-1 to Real Madrid in the 2002 Champions League final.

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Leverkusen won their only ever European title when they lifted the UEFA Cup in 1988, and this result marked the first time they'd won on Italian soil since 1999 when Germany striker Michael Ballack scored the decisive goal.

While Leverkusen had an upper hand in the opening minutes, Roma grew into the game as the first half wore on and Romelu Lukaku could have given the hosts an early lead when he hit the bar with a header following a corner in the 21st minute.

However, the tables turned again in favour of Xabi Alonso's side who took the lead through Wirtz before the half-hour mark when the midfielder scored with a simple low finish, capitalising on Roma's defensive error.

"We fought well and showed a mature performance with a lot of discipline," coach Xabi Alonso told a press conference.

"We defended closely and compactly, so we are satisfied with the performance. But the return match has not yet been played."

Bayer Leverkusen players celebrate after scoring a goal against Roma in the Europa League.
Bayer Leverkusen players celebrate after scoring a goal against Roma in the Europa League.
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Roma defender Rick Karsdorp miscalculated when he attempted to find Leonardo Spinazzola with a pass from the edge of their own box and Leverkusen's Alex Grimaldo took over the ball, cutting back to Wirtz who netted into the bottom right corner.

Leverkusen could have doubled the lead six minutes later but Jeremie Frimpong narrowly missed the target, striking from around the penalty spot with first touch.

But the visitors continued to dominate at Stadio Olimpico and Andrich made it 2-0 in the 73rd minute, leaving Roma goalkeeper Mile Svilar with no chance when he fired an unstoppable shot from outside the box and under the bar.

Roma had a late chance in stoppage time through substitute Tammy Abraham, whose misplaced header from point-blank range sailed narrowly above the bar.

Both teams meet at the semifinal stage of the Europa League for the second season running, with the Italian side progressing to the last year's final thanks to a narrow 1-0 lead from their home first leg followed by a goalless draw in Germany.

"It was a serious and careful match, we were smart and mature. They had their chances, the lead gave us more confidence to do our things in possession and non-possession," Alonso added.

"Up front, we have fast players. In the second half, we did not concede anything - we knew if we were careful and solid, we would then have our chances. The team found the right compromise.

"2-0 is a good result, we go home happy but cautious. What we are doing in this season is outstanding. We have quality players with a very high level of focus, the most difficult thing is to be consistent.

"We don't want to stop -- we want to go on like this until the end of the season."

Roma, who beat AC Milan 3-1 on aggregate in the quarterfinals, have reached the semifinal stage of a major European competition for the fourth consecutive season.

The second leg will be played in Leverkusen next Thursday and the winner of the tie will face Marseille or Atalanta in the final on May 22 at Dublin's Aviva Stadium.