With his hand once again forced by injuries, Eusebio Di Francesco tinkered with his starting lineup, pushing Alessandro Florenzi to the right wing spot while Diego Perotti and Gregoire Defrel nursed their booboos. Outside of that wrinkle, it was business as usual for EDFs 4-3-3, with the titanic midfield of Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman anchoring Roma’s tactical setup, and Ale and Stephan El Shaarawy flanking Edin Dzeko at the San Siro.
While Vincenzo Montella opted to keep Suso on the bench, the Rossoneri’s lineup was still pretty potent, so this match had a powderkeg-like potential to explode into a goal bonanza. However, whether it was due to the always headache inducing red/white vs white/red kit combo or the high stakes of this early season fixture, both sides went with a more cautious and reserved approach to this match, resulting in some rather stilted action, particularly in the first half.
Neither Montella nor Di Francesco’s side could mount a credible attack in the first half, with play being bogged down at the back. Each side took over 300 touches in the first half, though the ball seldom reached any credible attacking areas, as the preponderance of touches were taken by defensive midfielders and center backs.
Point being, there was a lot of back and forth, but by and large the first half was a stalemate dominated by the respective backlines and defensive midfielders. Not exactly thrilling stuff, but Roma did a credible job defending the 18 yard box, collapsing on the point of attack any time a Milan player threatened a shot, but outside of a few astray shots and several corner kicks, there wasn’t much attacking action in the first half. Still, you sensed that something would give in the second half, and eventually it did...
The second half seemed tilted in Milan’s favor, as the Rossoneri came out guns blazing after the halftime whistle, repeatedly stretching the Roma defense, with Andrea Silva and even Fabio Borini threatening Alisson’s goal. While I’d hesitate to say the Giallorossi’s defense was tired, they were just getting worked on the edge of the 18, particularly by Silva, with Roma’s only recourse seemingly being haphazard slide tackle attempts.
Still, as is so often the case, this match nearly broke open on one millisecond of brilliance. After roughly 15 minutes of action, it seemed as though Roma was content to play for a draw, but then Lorenzo Pellegrini split the Milan defense from the midfield, finding a streaking Florenzi, who split the last two men before finding himself one-v-one with Donnarumma. While this encounter was ultimately won by the teenage prima donna, it was nevertheless a signal of intent from Roma, and a signal of what Pellegrini is capable of—I mean this pass was served up on a platter from halfway down the pitch. Lovely bit of skill that unfortunately didn’t result in a goal.
Unfortunately, that near chance didn’t change the tenor of the match, as Milan was dictating terms to Roma. However, as he’s done so often over the past two seasons, Edin Dzeko rose to the occasion.
Edin Dzeko: 72nd Minute
Edin Dzeko AC Milan 0-1 AS Roma 01.10.2017 pic.twitter.com/tRyuHQjNEw— I love football (@taraskorytko1) October 1, 2017
Nothing too complicated here, Dzeko took the feed from Pellegrini, held off the defender and made a few moves to his right before unfurling the shot. Thanks to a bit of help from Alessio Romagnoli, the world’s most famous Lazio fan, the ball’s flight path changed just enough to dip and duck past Donnarumma before falling into the far corner.
As we all know, a 1-0 lead is seldom safe, and Roma would pounce on a bit of shaky work from Donnarumma to double their lead five minutes later.
Alessandro Florenzi: 77th Minute
ALE ! ALE! GOOOOOOOOOOOL pic.twitter.com/8HEYxgg5Pq— RomaPress (@ASRomaPress) October 1, 2017
With Nainggolan streaking down an empty channel on the left flank, Mateo Musacchio was forced to drift over and cover Nainggolan, leaving only a-with-his-back-turned Ricardo Rodriguez left to cover the entire swath of the goal mouth, which wouldn’t have been an issue if Donnarumma could have handled Nainggolan’s shot, but thanks to his flub and Milan’s poor positioning on this broken play, Florenzi had all day to tap this one home, which he did with gusto.
Outside of a Hakan Calhanoglu red card, the remainder of the match played on without incident. Gerson and Juan Jesus came on for El Shaarawy and Kostas Manolas, respectively, but Roma struck with such quick succession, Milan was seemingly stunned and unable to mount a late charge, leaving three points to Roma.
We’ve been saying for weeks now that the season really begins in October. After sweeping through a soft spot in their schedule, Roma looked like a side reborn. The passing was crisp and the tactics on point; EDF and his squad could do no wrong. Still. there was a cloud hanging over that parade, a cloud formed by inferior competition rather than the collection of water vapor molecules.
And while Roma was far from convincing today, they forced Milan into two critical errors at the worst possible time, and fortunately for us, they were able to take advantage of those slip ups. Dzeko got just enough on the ball for Romagnoli’s deflection to matter, while Nainggolan’s aggression and Florenzi’s awareness were more than enough to ensure the victory.
So as far as first tests go, Roma passed. They didn’t ace the exam, but pulling out a 2-0 win at the San Siro, especially against the new Milan, the one with the best defense in the league, is nothing to sneeze at. Little by little, the belief in EDF and the subsequent camaraderie is building. These intangible tools will go a long way towards helping Roma survive the post-International break stretch, which kicks off on October 14th against Napoli.
Man of the match against Milan?
This poll is closed