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Tearful Jose savors slice of coaching history

CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-05-27 09:12
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Roma coach Jose Mourinho kisses the trophy after winning Wednesday's Europa Conference League final in Tirana, Albania. REUTERS

Jose Mourinho said that he and Roma had made history after winning the Europa Conference League on Wednesday, the club's first European trophy in over six decades.

Portuguese coaching icon Mourinho tried and failed to hold back the tears after Roma beat Feyenoord in the Italian club's first continental final in over three decades. He becomes only the second head coach to win five major European titles after Giovanni Trapattoni.

Roma fans have taken Mourinho to their hearts during an up-and-down season, culminating in Wednesday's 1-0 win in Tirana which ended a 14-year trophy drought for the club.

"I've been at Roma for 11 months, I knew the moment I arrived what it meant to the people. They had been waiting for something like this," Mourinho told Sky.

"This was not work tonight, this was history. We had to write history. We wrote it."

Wednesday's triumph made him the first coach to win all current UEFA competitions.

Afterward, the Portuguese confirmed that he will stay at Roma next season as he looks to build on the progress of this campaign.

"I am staying, there's no doubt about that," Mourinho said.

"We need to see what our owners, who are fantastic people, want to do next season because this is history, but we can build a special project.

"Now I'm going to go on holiday, sit on the beach and think about it all for a while."

Nicolo Zaniolo scored in the first half, goalkeeper Rui Patricio made some big saves in the second as Roma fended off Feyenoord to win Europe's inaugural third-tier club competition.

It's Roma's first European trophy since winning the 1961 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup-a tournament that was disbanded in 1971 and was considered the precursor to the UEFA Cup and Europa League. It's also the first title of any kind for Roma since winning the 2008 Italian Cup.

"Now we've got to celebrate-a lot," said Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini. "But then we've got to keep going. A real team wins then comes back even stronger than before."

Besides the few thousand Roma spectators inside the small National Arena in Tirana, some 50,000 fans watched the game on giant screens at Stadio Olimpico in Rome. At the final whistle, fans at the Olimpico celebrated on the pitch, waving banners and chanting the team's songs.

There were violent clashes in Tirana between fans of both clubs ahead of the final, and dozens were deported back to Italy.

Two separate groups of Dutch and Italian fans clashed with police on Tuesday in the city, injuring 19 officers and five Albanian civilians. One police officer was injured from a knife attack, authorities said. Three Italians and two Dutchmen were also injured.

Inside the stadium, flares were thrown onto the field and stewards removed a few fans before kickoff after an apparent fight on the side where Dutch fans were sitting.

The situation appeared to be under control after kickoff.

Jose Mourinho can't contain his joy after winning the Europa Conference League. REUTERS

Zaniolo's goal started with a ball over the top from centerback Gianluca Mancini that Zaniolo controlled with his chest. Zaniolo then pushed the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Justin Bijlow with the tip of his boot.

"Stupendous. Let's enjoy this moment," Zaniolo said, before gesturing to the Roma fans. "There are no words to describe it. It's all for them."

Zaniolo has often been labeled Italy's most talented young player. But he's been held back by two serious knee injuries, one of which kept him out for all of last season and prevented him from taking part in the Azzurri's run to the European Championship title.

At 22 years and 327 days, Zaniolo became the youngest Italian player to score in a European final since Alessandro Del Piero's goal at 22 years and 200 days for Juventus in a loss to Borussia Dortmund in the 1997 Champions League final.

An attacking midfielder, Zaniolo produced five goals and three assists in 10 Conference League games.

Feyenoord came out energized after the break and hit the post twice, first from a Gernot Trauner strike, then with a long-range blast from Tyrell Malacia that Patricio palmed off the upright.

Mourinho extended his perfect record in European finals to five trophies in five matches, having also won the 2003 UEFA Cup and 2004 Champions League finals with Porto; the 2010 Champions League final with Inter Milan; and the 2017 Europa League final with Manchester United.

At the final whistle, Mourinho held up five fingers to signify his five European titles as he jumped up and down in celebration.

Mourinho was also the coach who guided the last Italian club to win a European title when Inter's treble in 2010 included the Champions League.

"This remains in the history of Roma, but also mine," the 59-year-old Mourinho said. "I was told that only I, Sir Alex (Ferguson) and Giovanni Trapattoni won European trophies in three different decades. It makes me feel a little old, but it's nice for my career."

It was a typical Mourinho match: take an early lead then defend, defend, defend.

"We know that when we take the lead, we're great at defending," Mancini said. "In matches like these, you've got to defend until the last second."

Roma had lost its two previous continental finals, defeated by domestic rival Inter in the 1991 UEFA Cup and dropping a penalty shootout to Liverpool in the 1984 European Cup final in its home stadium.

"This is really a prize for the Friedkins, who gave this club a new identity," Roma sports director Tiago Pinto said, referring to the club's American owners. "It definitely won't be the only trophy."

Agencies

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