AS ROMA ZANIOLO HITS HAT-TRICK AND SENDS THEM TO THE EUROPA SEMI-FINALS.
AS Roma produced a magnificent display against FK Bodø/Glimt to qualify for the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL), defeating the Norwegian Champions 4-0 (5-2 on aggregate) at the Stadio Olimpico, courtesy of a stunning Nicolò Zaniolo hat-trick, to extend their unbeaten home record in the competition to six matches.
Looking to take a significant step toward their first piece of European silverware since 1961, Roma got off to the perfect start in Rome. With only five minutes on the clock, Tammy Abraham continued to enhance his fearsome reputation since arriving in the Italian capital, instinctively caressing the ball into an unexposed net, after Nikita Khaykin had failed to hold Lorenzo Pellegrini’s cross.
The visitors were powerless to match their hosts’ galvanised start to the contest. Despite the return of Ola Solbakken from injury, things went from bad to worse for the visitors in the 23rd minute when Zaniolo took full advantage of a magnificent team move, involving Abraham and Pellegrini, clinically slotting the ball past Khaykin to give Roma an all-important lead on aggregate. Nonetheless, the hosts were not finished there when Zaniolo had his second goal six minutes later. Recalled to the ‘I Giallorossi’ starting XI, the Italy international cumulated a scintillating counter-attacking move from a Bodø corner, exquisitely lifting the ball over an advancing Khaykin to send the stadium into jubilant celebrations.
Bodø’s dream of a first-ever semi-final appearance in a UEFA competition was shattered inside four minutes of the second half when Zaniolo completed his hat-trick, unleashing a venomous strike into the top right-hand corner. However, the man of the evening was withdrawn, as a precaution, to the backdrop of a standing ovation on the hour-mark after appearing to have picked up an injury.
Roma remained untroubled by their overwhelmed visitors for the remainder of the second period to extend their formidable recent record ahead of their last four clash against Leicester City. Meanwhile, Bodø suffered their first defeat in 38 matches, as ’Den Gule Horde’ will re-enter the spectrum of European football for the first qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League in July.