After surviving a surprisingly difficult match against Bologna last week, Roma faced a decidedly more demanding opponent today: second-place AC Milan. Buoyed by Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud, who have combined for 12 goals and six assists in league play, Milan entered today's match in second place, trailing league-leading Napoli by five points.
Considering that Napoli tasted defeat for the first time all season, Milan manager Stefano Pioli opted for lineup continuity today, starting the same eleven men who defeated Salernitana last time. With Leao, Giroud, and Sandro Tonali, among others, starting from the word go, Milan had more than enough firepower to make quick work of the Giallorossi.
José Mourinho (by proxy due to his suspension) countered with what is essentially Roma's A-team at this point: Paulo Dybala, Nicolo Zaniolo, and Tammy Abraham in attack, supported by Lorenzo Pellegrini, Bryan Cristante, Zeki Celik, and Nicola Zalewski in midfield, with Roger Ibañez, Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini doing the dirty work in front of Rui Patricio in goal.
After a brief moment of silence for the recently departed Gianluca Vialli, the opening whistle sounded as the rain continued to pour down on the San Siro/Giuseppe Meazza pitch. With Milan controlling the opening kickoff, the Rossoneri got to work straight away, whipping a header Rui Patricio's way in only the third minute, with Sandro Tonali's effort going wide.
Given the wet pitch, the short rest, and the simple fact that Milan is the better club, it wasn't surprising to see Roma struggle in the opening phases of this match. With Leao and Theo Hernández eating up space down the left flank and Tonali controlling the midfield, the Giallorossi struggled to find their footing early in this match, preferring to put 11 men behind the ball and wait for counter-attacking opportunities to present themselves.
The problem was those opportunities seldom occurred in the first half. With 20 minutes off the clock, Roma had more yellow cards than attempts on goal (2:1) while ceding nearly 75% of the ball to Milan—it was anti-football at its best or worst, depending on your opinion of Mourinho at the moment.
The ensuing 10 minutes were about as dreadful as we've seen from Roma this season: no direction, no sense of urgency, and no results. And, as one would it expect, it promptly bit them in the ass when Milan drew first blood at the half-hour mark.
Pierre Kalulu: 30th Minute (Milan 1, Roma 0)
Yo Pierre, you wanna come out here?!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 8, 2023
Pierre Kalulu heads home the first goal and the San Siro loves it. pic.twitter.com/0IEjDFwK62
Just your standard setpiece here, and in the run of play, it looked like Roma had it pretty well covered. However, upon further review, you can see Kalulu sneak around Ibañez to steer the diving header past Patricio, whose parried effort wasn't enough to prevent the goal.
Roma showed some faint signs of life in the closing minutes of the first half when Zalewski danced around his defender and fired a shot from the edge of the 18 toward the far right post, missing the mark by maybe half a foot. Dybala would get a crack at goal in the 44th minute when he lashed onto a loose ball from beyond 20 yards, only to see his shot sail wide of the right post.
And that was all she wrote on a disjointed and dispiriting first half from Roma.
With neither club making any changes to start the new half, the script remained the same: Milan would control possession, aiming to wear Roma out in the chase, before breaking the Giallorossi backline with quick diagonal passing. For their part, the capital club was content to sit back and wait for the match to unfold in their favor.
Now, to their credit, Roma played with a greater sense of urgency to start the half, pressing Milan higher up the pitch and even winning possession in the Rossoneri final third but still spent most of their energy chasing the men in black.
Despite those early signals of intent, it wasn't long before Roma retreated into their passive first-half approach. Through 60 minutes, Roma saw only 32% of the ball, managing a meager four attempts on goal, all of which came from beyond the 18-yard box, with all four efforts missing the mark.
With Roma stuck in the mud, the club made their first change of the match, bringing Nemanja Matíc and Benjamin Tahirovic into the match in place of Cristante and Zaniolo, bulking up the Giallorossi midfield for the stretch run.
But Milan would soon put Roma out of their misery..., or so it seemed.
Tommaso Pobega: 77th Minute (Milan 2, Roma 0)
Milan hit Roma on the counter and Tommaso Pobega's first Serie A goal is ruthless. pic.twitter.com/o4FdIxuV5E— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 8, 2023
Sensing desperation, Roma continued to press Milan higher up the pitch, but the defending champions made them pay when Tommaso Pobega converted in the 77th minute with a clever left-footer, putting tonight's results beyond all doubt, if it ever was, to begin with.
Ah, but not so fast!
Roger Ibañez: 87th Minute (Milan 2, Roma 1)
NOT SO FAST!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 8, 2023
Roger Ibañez gives Roma a lifeline pic.twitter.com/SDbGbj763Y
Roma would make things interesting in the waning moments when Ibañez powered a header past Milan keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu off a setpiece, giving the Giallorossi a late lifeline. In keeping with this season's theme, when Roma struggles in the run of play, they can always count on setpieces, and this was no exception as Pellegrini put this ball on a platter for Ibañez.
But they weren't done yet. With Roma struggling all night long, Ibañez's goal, as exciting as it was, could have quickly become nothing more than a footnote in a 2-1 defeat to Milan but the capital club struck last, stealing a point deep in stoppage time.
Tammy Abraham: 93rd Minute (Milan 2, Roma 2)
TAMMY ABRHAM SNATCHES A POINT FOR ROMA IN STOPPAGE TIME— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 8, 2023
WHAT A COMEBACK pic.twitter.com/lqhftWd67M
With little more than two minutes on the clock, Pellegrini whipped a free kick towards the near right post, finding a streaking Matic in stride for a free header. While Tatarusanu initially thwarted Matic's header, the rebound fell right to Abraham, who lashed his long right leg at the ball as Diaz was tugging at his shirt, burying the ball in the back of the net, silencing the San Siro in the process.
Don't get it twisted: Roma was dreadful tonight, managing only six shots in regular time. However, once the clock moved into stoppage time, Roma came to life, passing, pressing, and moving with more vigor than at any point in the prior 90 minutes. In fact, all three of Roma's on-target attempts came in stoppage time, two beating Tatarusanu to earn a sorely-needed point for the Giallorossi.
It wasn't pretty, but Roma rose to the occasion when it mattered most, though it didn't make this match any easier to digest!
Roma faces Genoa in the Coppa Italia on Thursday.
Man of the match?
This poll is closed
Anyone in a Milan shirt for the first 86 minutes