Another Mancini header gives AS Roma narrow Europa League win over AC Milan

Gianluca Mancini scored another header from a corner to give AS Roma an impressive victory over AC Milan in their Europa League quarter-final first leg.

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STADIO SAN SIRO (Milan) – Less than a week after his goal and controversial post-match celebration in the Derby della Capitale, AS Roma‘s Gianluca Mancini gifted his side another winner that sealed an impressive 1-0 win over AC Milan in the Europa League quarter-final first leg.

The centre-back’s second goal in two matches, which came with 17 minutes on the clock, was the cherry on the cake for the visitors’ stubborn and resilient display, which saw Daniele De Rossi‘s men hurt their opponents when given the chance before calmly managing the rare moments of struggle.

While the Rossoneri still have every chance of overturning the result at the Stadio Olimpico in one week, they’ll need to find much more effective ways to trouble a Roma defence that looked calm for much of the night.

Dybala shines and Mancini heads AS Roma ahead

Roma tried to start on the front foot as they immediately pushed Milan back and took hold of possession, helped by Paulo Dybala, who came very deep to help the ball progress smoothly from the back.

While Milan claimed the first shot of the night through Tijjani Reijnders‘ tricky low-drive from outside the box, saved by Mile Svilar, it didn’t take long to notice how Dybala‘s role as an added deep-lying playmaker was meant to cause havoc for the Rossoneri.

There was a nice combination which involved Romelu Lukaku allowed Dybala to put Lorenzo Pellegrini through on goal, but Davide Calabria was able to make a desperate tackle to block what seemed an inevitable shot from an excellent position.

Roma Milan Europa League
AS Roma’s Stephan El Shaarawy and AC Milan’s Theo Hernandez. [@ASRomaEN]

De Rossi‘s outfit maintained a threat every time they managed to bypass Milan‘s first press. It was the case again when Lukaku was free to sprint down the right flank to set up Stephan El Shaarawy, whose first-time shot was tipped over the bar by Mike Maignan.

But the danger was far from clear, as for the second time this week the derby-winner Mancini seized the chance presented by Dybala‘s precise corner to head home and put his side ahead.

Milan‘s almost immediate reaction also came from a corner, as Lukaku was called upon twice to clear a couple of headers off the line in quick succession as the San Siro crowd roared back into life to support the home side.

In a growingly nervous and intense game, it became even more evident how De Rossi has turned the fearful side that was easily defeated 3-1 by the Rossoneri back in January in a team that never looked willing to settle with defending their advantage.

Although the hosts’ pressure mounted, Roma‘s counter-attacking threat was always present as El Shaarawy and Leonardo Spinazzola wasted a couple of promising chances in the closing stages of the first half.

Lukaku Maignan Milan Roma Europa League
AS Roma’s Romelu Lukaku and AC Milan’s Mike Maignan. [@OfficialASRoma]

AC Milan struggle to worry Svilar as comeback hopes get dashed

Milan struggled to take control of the proceedings and force the Giallorossi into their half permanently as the visitors proved extremely hard to tame, responding to every threat with an attack of their own.

Stefano Pioli‘s decision to bring on Yacine Adli after 60 minutes looked like a clear attempt to make the most of the Frenchman’s vision to open up gaps in what had proved a rock-solid defence until that point.

Roma‘s lack of precision in the final third left the door open for a sudden equaliser from the Rossoneri, but Mile Svilar‘s most difficult task until the 75th minute was palming Adli‘s cross over the bar as the ball fortuitously came in the direction of his goal.

The end of Rafael Leao‘s meek display was met with heavy boos from the crowd when the Portuguese got replaced by Noah Okafor in an attempt to light up an offensive spark for the hosts.

Yet, it was the other substitute Samuel Chukwueze who caused panic by dribbling his way through a series of bodies to reach the byline and tee up Olivier Giroud, who couldn’t do better than sending the ball against the bar from point-blank range.

Roma‘s eventual 1-0 win, their first against AC Milan since 2019, keeps alive their hopes of reaching the Europa League semi-final for the second season in a row, although they’ll need an equally convincing display at the Stadio Olimpico to build on their slight advantage.

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