AC Milan 0-1 Roma: Mancini header leaves lacklustre Rossoneri needing a comeback

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan have given themselves it all to do in the return fixture as they lost the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie 1-0 against Roma at San Siro on Thursday night.

The only goal of the game came early on in the first half as Gianluca Mancini was given the freedom of the 18-yard box to head home a corner having lost his marker.

From there Roma would frustrate Milan, limiting them mostly to shots from outside the box, but Olivier Giroud really should have levelled the tie late in the game when he rattled the crossbar from about six yards out.

It is a big blow for the Rossoneri who have seen their seven-game winning run ended, and now they must win at the Stadio Olimpico in one week if they are to stand a chance of reaching the semi-finals.

Stefano Pioli made three changes to the starting line-up compared to the team that beat Lecce last weekend, with Malick Thiaw coming in for the suspended Fikayo Tomori, Ismael Bennacer joining Tijjani Reijnders in midfield and Ruben Loftus-Cheek returning as the playmaker with Samuel Chukwueze dropping to the bench.

Roma had plenty of the possession in the early stages without really managing to threaten, and Svilar was the first goalkeeper called into action inside the ninth minute when a low shot from the edge of the box from Reijnders was fired at pace and drew a parry.

Lukaku’s hold-up play was what Roma looked for early on, and he did brilliantly to work the ball wide to El Shaarawy who tried to put Pellegrini through on goal yet Davide Calabria made an outstanding last-ditch tackle.

Maignan was called into action for the first time on 15 minutes and the save he produced was an incredible leaping stop to deny an El Shaarawy shot from a Lukaku cut-back that had deflected and was dipping under the bar. The replay showed that Belgian was offside.

That would mean that there was some controversy when the away side took the lead from the resulting corner. It couldn’t have been easier for Mancini to nod the ball inside the far post as he got away from his man and was found six yards out, with Pioli furious that the prior offside hadn’t been given.

Milan responded with a period of pressure, and there were two consecutive scrambles inside the box from corners. The first saw Lukaku clear a Giroud header off the line, and then Smalling provided a crucial intervention deep inside his own box.

El Shaarawy was nearly the provider of a second goal for the Giallorossi when he whipped a low cross in from the right side that was destined to meet Lukaku at the near post but Gabbia’s sliding block intervened and Maignan claimed the loose ball as it was slowly rolling towards the line.

Svilar made an excellent diving low stop to deny Milan in what was the last opportunity of the first half, with Reijnders lining up a first time shot from just outside the edge of the box that was heading inside the near post but was well stopped.

The opening quarter of an hour of the second half went exactly as Roma would have hoped, with them dominating the possession as Milan failed to press effectively. Reijnders had a tame attempt saved, and at the other end Dybala had a weak attempt gathered too when both should have done better.

Just before the hour mark Pioli made his first change as Bennacer was withdrawn for Yacine Adli, who entered the midfield control room.

In a stop-start second half Theo Hernandez had the next chance as he rose highest at the far post to head a corner towards goal, yet it was a few yards wide.

A few minutes later Reijnders again shot from that area of about 20 yards out and again Svilar just about managed to parry it away, and then the Roma goalkeeper tipped what looked like a cross from Adli over the bar via the bar as it looked to be creeping in.

Two more changes came for Milan in the 78th minute, with Samuel Chukwueze and Noah Okafor coming on for Pulisic and Leao.

Milan missed an absolutely huge chance to take a 1-1 scoreline to the capital, with Giroud the culprit. Chukwueze did fantastically to beat three men to the byline and pull back to the Frenchman who was all alone inside the box and yet he hammered his shot against the top of the crossbar when it seemed harder to miss.


Tags AC Milan Milan Roma


  1. Adli & Chukwueze. Only two Milan players who wanted to win tonight.

    Disgusting to watch our CBs give out sloppy and so-f’ng-slow passes to the guy next to them.

    Who decided Benny was up for the starting-11 spot? Awful, awful display. Adli was 100x better.

    And wtf was RLC doing? How the **** did he stay on for full 90 mins?

    And I’ll let the other talk about the elephant in the room. Our #10.

    1. *others talk…

      Oh… And the best thing… DDR has been coaching a few months now. Yet he has 1000x the tactics and playbook Pioli does. How f*ng pathetic is that? For Padre Pioli that is. DDR crushed him. Annihilated.

    2. RLC imo was the worst player on the field. No contribution whatsoever and also didn’t follow Mancini when he scored… that said, a lot of players didn’t play good. Props to Roma for being very well positioned.

    3. Yeah, without a doubt. Chukwueze did make a difference at the end. Pioli took too long to replace him. Leao was almost a ghost. But every great player has a difficult day. Look at Mbappe or Haaland in Champions. They did nothing. Not every match is perfect. For sure, Milan seemed to be scared and unfocused.

      But, I actually would not mind if Milan sells some players this summer. Bennacer could be one. Although Maignan was a saviour for Milan tonight. I also think that a real good number 10 would be a great upgrade. Thiaw is not liable player for Milan. Another CB would be a great asset and a DM because Milan needs to recover more balls in the middle of the field.

  2. As I said, Roma would park the bus.

    We struggle too much to play against closed defenses, and Dybala-Lukaku are the worst counter type to handle for a team like ours. Adding Smalling to the mix was the right move for De Rossi. We should have removed Loftus-Cheek and added Chuk long ago…

    DDR wins this one, tactically he did everything right.
    We’ll see in one week if we can make a change. We need players that can score from out of the box or dribble, pass in tight spaces. Chuk and maybe Pulisic are the only ones… they both need to start.

    1. Two basic rules when you play against low block defense teams:
      1. You don’t play a classical number 9.
      2. You need players who “create” space, not players who “exploit” space.

      Well.. we happened to have Okafor who can play as a false 9. And we have Chukwueze and Musah who could’ve (and should’ve) replaced Pulisic and Loftus-Cheek.
      And that’s why we keep saying that our resources are extremely under-utilized by the clown we have for a coach.
      We just play the same formation.. with the same players.. with the same roles.. over and over again.
      No effort into understanding the opponent’s game plan whatsoever.

  3. this was the most disgusting football ive ever seen in my entire life!!! no movement no runs no chances NOTHING!! if i was in charge i would cut all of these idiots’s pay for the week. The only positives where chuku, gabbia , adli and reijnders the rest all stunk up the place like it was a f*cking friendly match!!

  4. What a horrible performance. Times up for Pioli, let him leave this summer. There was no creativity, no hunger. Just backward passes and plays that go nowhere. What a boring display.

    1. After what Gasperini just did. Maybe Milan should hire Gasperini if he was able to beat Liverpool with Atalanta!!! That is the coach Milan needs who knows how to beat big teams

  5. Pioli’s tactical rigidity is baffling.
    1. Roma were playing 4-4-2 with low-bloc defense. There was absolutely no need for Giroud.
    2. It was clear that a players who “creates space” like Chukwueze and Musah were far more suitable than players who “exploit space” like Pulisic and Loftus-Cheek.
    3. It is absolutely beyond me why Loftus-Cheek who was booked and CLEARLY the least impactful player on the game remained on the pitch for the whole 90.

    Now I’m not a coach, so I’m not saying who should’ve exactly made those changes. But he doesn’t make any changes of any kind at all. It’s always 4-2-3-1 with the same players and same roles. Which makes you wonder how much efforts he puts into understanding how the other team plays.

  6. Countless I have said it on here what is giroud doing in the starting line up this is 2024 not some oldies footy we need a striker with some pace which we have in okafor I see no reason why you should bench him and start giroud never 👎 giroud is worn out

      1. At least with De Rossi Pioli can say he is a new coach and Pioli needs time to study his tactics. lol In the last five matches between Inter and Milan, Inter have scored 11 goals and Milan have scored only one. That record alone should be an alarming bell for Pioli’s tactics. ~~~~

    1. Yeah, but they might be able to win the Premier and they won the Carabao Cup. I do not think that they are that interested in winning the Europa League which they have won twice and Milan none. If Atalanta eliminates Liverpool and Milan is out. I wish that they win the Europa League!!!! And Milan should hire Gasperini! A coach with real tactics!

    2. Klopp is chasing the title in the Premier league. Thats why he played with his second team. We got nothing else to play for except the Europe League.

      1. Exactly, but I do agree with many people on the chat that it is probably time for Pioli to go. The team should be expecting higher grounds and be able to beat a team like Roma during decisive rounds if they are expecting to beat Inter next season. Otherwise, I do not see Milan winning the Serie A next season. It is more than the players. Anyway the second leg match against Roma will be a test for Pioli to see if he really deserves to stay in Milan. But, I doubt that Milan can win at the Olimpico!

        1. I think that we can still beat Roma, but with this kind of play we are def not going past Leverkusen. I also think that Pioli should go this season btw.

          1. Yeah I do think the same, but even Leverkusen should be scary for Roma. However, what Atalanta proved today was amazing; even though I know Liverpool is focused on winning the PL. They still have a superior team which should be able to beat Atalanta. Perhaps not easily, but can do it without problems. I think Gasperini did a great job. Maybe Milan should consider a coach like Gasperini when they are trading CDK. Nevertheless, I doubt that Atalanta would let Gasperini go. I mean all this because if Pioli is gone. Who is gonna take over? Motta seems to be heading to Juventus. Conte to Napoli. So who to Milan???

  7. Pioli is getting cooked from De rossi whose been a coatch for 2 years. He somehow keeps in the game Giroud and RLC and belives that Milan will magicaly score. Thiaw and Gabbia weren’t able to stop Lukaku without a foul. Calabria and Theo sould get below 5, our midfield gave nothing, 0 creativity, exept maybe 2-3 shots from Rijnders and maybe 2-3 good passes from Adli. Neither Leao nor Puli gave something tonight. Good game from Chuck once again. If we play like this in Rome,I think we sould say goodbye to our hopes for a title, once again.


    1. Sure. The referees were absolutely awful and it was on obvious game-changing mistake by them to award the corner kick where Roma scored but it doesn’t change the fact that Roma was 100x better and honestly deserved the win. Even if it was a gifted goal and the referees should NEVER whistle an official match again.

  9. Great game. The guys gave it their all. Just because we lost doesn’t mean they didn’t do well. Roma defended more. At a point, Maignan was resting, while Roma goalie was making saves left, right, and center. It’s not over, and they know that. With Tomori in the second leg, it would be a different game. I was fearful about Gabbia/Thiaw combination, but, they did well. Adli, Chukwueze, were exciting.

    1. “Great game.”

      Talk about low standards. 🙂

      I honestly failed to see anything good about it. Roma were extremely unlucky not to score 3 goals. Milan had one chance. One!

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