Roma 2-1 AC Milan: Zaniolo winner condemns Rossoneri to another damaging defeat

By Oliver Fisher -

Stefano Pioli suffered his first defeat as AC Milan head coach as his side were beaten 2-1 by Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday evening.

Edin Dzeko gave the home side a first half lead as he headed home having been left unmarked at the far post, but Theo Hernandez did equalise for Milan early in the second half.

Individual mistakes would be the theme of the game though, and Nicolo Zaniolo pounced on a bad giveaway to score the decisive goal minutes after the leveller.

The defeat is Milan’s fifth in their opening nine Serie A games, and leaves the team stuck in 13th position in the standings.

The Rossoneri started as the better of the two sides in the capital, winning a succession of corners inside the opening five minutes and piling the pressure on their hosts.

It took until the 12th minute for Milan to fashion a good chance, as nice link-up play between Hakan Calhanoglu and Rafael Leao resulted in the latter shooting just wide at the near post. On replay, it should have been a corner as Roma keeper Pau Lopez got his fingertips to it.

Four minutes later Milan had the ball in the back of the net with midfielder Lucas Paqueta finishing after a wonderful feed from Franck Kessie, however the celebrations were short lived as he was correctly flagged offside.

Moments later though Roma provided a reminder that they too carry a threat as Javier Pastore shot narrowly wide twice in quick succession; the second coming after Kessie had inexplicably tried to dribble his way out of his own 18-yard box and being tackled.

There was a moment of controversy in the 27th minute when Dzeko raised his arm to Mateo Musacchio’s neck after a corner, however after a consultation with the Video Assistant Referee it was somehow determined that play could continue.

Milan began to probe again around the half-hour mark as first Calhanoglu shot from 25 yards low to the near post, but Lopez saved comfortably, while moments later a one-two between Kessie and Leao ended with the latter seeing his cut-back crucially blocked.

Eight minutes before the break the Giallorossi took the lead in frustrating circumstances. A corner from the right side was flicked to the back post where an unmarked Dzeko – due to Kessie losing his man – headed home from close range off the crossbar.

Five minutes later Roma came very close to doubling their lead as Gianluigi Donnarumma produced an incredible save to deny Pastore at the near post, who was in on goal.

Early in the second half Roma had another chance as Pastore flashed his shot wide, while Musacchio went into the book not long after for bodychecking Diego Perotti when Milan had given the ball away incredibly cheaply. Aleksandar Kolarov’s free-kick was deflected wide with Donnarumma motionless.

Davide Calabria came on for Andrea Conti and three minutes later he played a hand in the equalising goal. The right-back crossed to Theo Hernandez, who took a touch befogging firing past Lopez via the boot of Smalling.

Parity would be short lived though as Roma retook the lead five minutes later in the 59th minute. The Rossoneri were incredibly sloppy at the back again as Calabria gave the ball away to Dzeko, whose pass was deflected into Zaniolo’s path and Donnarumma was beaten from the resulting shot.

Krzysztof Piatek was introduced not long after in what was an opportunity to see how he plays alongside Leao, though it was the home side who should have scored again as Gianluca Mancini missed with a free header from a corner.

Roma had the ball in the back of the net again 12 minutes from time as Pastore finally managed to fire on target, but he was correctly flagged offside after Dzeko’s feed.

Donnarumma was called into action again when Zaniolo picked up the ball on the edge of the box; this time the Rossoneri goalkeeper was equal to his effort and saved well.

In the first minute of five added on Calhanoglu curled a free-kick narrowly wide from the left corner of the 18-yard box.

Ultimately there would be no further twist in the tail and Roma sat deep and soaked up every attempt Pioli’s side threw at them, condemning the side to a fifth defeat in nine games.

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