Jose Mourinho’s reputation as the Special One may have faded in recent years but he remains the manager for the big occasion, the master of conservatism and cunning..
Mourinho is heading for another showpiece final after Tammy Abraham’s 27th goal of the season ended Leicester’s European excursion at the Stadio Olimpico.
Abraham has reinvented himself since the £34 million move from Chelsea last year and he is the focal point of Mourinho’s attack, delivering the crucial blow early in the first half of a match which was tailor made for Roma’s manager.
Mourinho was the lord of the dark arts long before Diego Simeone: like a Venus flytrap he lures opponents into his gameplan, strangling the life out of them with a solid defensive base and little entertainment.
In front of their former hero Claudio Ranieri, Leicester could not produce another miracle as they gave a toothless display, failing to test Roma’s goalkeeper Rui Patricio until 12 minutes from the end.
Mourinho is the trophy obsessive who comes alive when the pressure is on and contests are tight, with Brendan Rodgers now winning only one of his nine encounters against his former mentor.
Sacked by Tottenham last year, Mourinho will face Feyenoord in the final in Tirana later this month and is targeting a 26th career trophy.
With Abraham in such outstanding form, and former England defender Chris Smalling also excellent here, few would bet against Mourinho adding another piece of silverware to his collection.
Rodgers has endured a troubled campaign, with a squad ravaged by injuries while suffering inconsistent results, and was acutely aware of the importance behind this night in the Italian capital.
Mourinho had even described it as “the final in Rome” after the finely poised first leg in Leicester, and the presence of 70,000 Giallorossi supporters elevated this occasion to a higher plane. Any encounter in Mourinho’s lair presents huge challenges, with Roma also chasing their first silverware since the Coppa Italia in 2008.
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