ROME: 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 as the German champions-elect 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. They won their only ever European title when they lifted the UEFA Cup in 1988.

“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.”

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 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.

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 semi-final 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.

Roma, who beat AC Milan 3-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, have reached the semi-final 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 Olympique de Marseille or Atalanta in the final on May 22 at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

All-square in Marseille

The other semi-final first leg saw Olympique de Marseille held 1-1 at home by Atalanta. Gianluca Scamacca put the visitors ahead after 11 minutes when Teun Koopmeiners found him unmarked in the box to fire low into the far post for his 16th goal in all competitions this season.

“It’s a good result, we knew the atmosphere would be tough tonight,” Scamacca told Sky Italia. “I just try to do the best I can for my team. My team mates put me in the best conditions to score.”

Chancel Mbemba equalised for Marseille nine minutes later with a superb long-range strike that hit the post and into the net following a corner.

“We had a tactical plan, we knew we had to go after them and press them, make it difficult for them. I think we should have done a bit more,” Marseille midfielder Amine Harit told Canal Plus. “Despite everything I think tonight we had a very good match.”

Both sides missed chances to score further goals in the second half.

“I expected a few more goals, to be honest,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said.

“We had to struggle tonight, but it’s a good result, as Olympique lost once here all year against PSG and give their best in this stadium.”