Hunting a top-seven finish, Roma knew three points would put qualification for Europe in their own hands heading into the season's final two rounds. However, in front of a jubilant Stadio Olimpico crowd following Thursday’s Europa League semi-final triumph over Bayer Leverkusen, Mourinho’s men were dealt an unexpected early blow.
Lobbing goalkeeper Rui Patricio with a delicate first-time finish, Antonio Candreva’s stylish opener gave Salernitana a surprise lead after just 12 minutes. The veteran forward, who played over 150 times for the hosts’ arch-rivals Lazio, could barely contain his excitement, having produced one of the goals of the Serie A season.
In the knowledge three points would secure their top-flight status ahead of next season, Salernitana’s slim advantage was barely troubled after the visitors took the lead, instead an increasingly frustrated Roma struggled to carve out any real opportunities of their own.
That was until first-half stoppage time, when Roger Ibanez poked home a bouncing ball inside the penalty area, putting the home side back on what looked to be level terms.
Despite celebrations that lasted well over a minute, most of those inside the Olimpico were sent into half-time with their tails between their legs, after a handball in the buildup to the goal saw VAR overturn the decision.
Yet to lose when scoring first on the road this season, Salernitana’s hopes of a famous victory were stunted after just two second-half minutes, with Stephan El Shaarawy netting a tidy leveller for the hosts. Falling to the winger inside the box, El Shaarawy swept home through a sea of bodies to restore parity and set Roma up for a potentially profitable second period.
Alas, the positivity wouldn’t last long, as just seven minutes after conceding the equaliser, a determined Salernitana went down the opposite end and retook the lead.
An equally eye-catching goal to their first, Boulaye Dia’s quick thinking inside the six-yard box saw the 26-year-old’s backheel flick bamboozle Patricio between the Roma sticks and, not for the first time this evening, silence the home crowd.
With defeat an unthinkable prospect for the Giallorossi should they wish to secure continental football for next season via their league finish, Roma once again had it all to do in the final moments.
Nemanja Matic would prove the saviour seven minutes from time, when the ex-Manchester United midfielder drilled home a loose ball from 10 yards out, ensuring Mourinho and Co. had something to show for their evening’s work.
It’s a result that leaves Roma outside the top seven as things stand, with only two matches of the campaign left to play, but the prospect of a second successive European final has perhaps diverted their focus.