Whew, I have to admit, the tone of this piece was about to be dramatically different. What initially looked like another depressing loss to a rival, where Roma looked listless and unable to put up anything on the board, turned into a wonderful display of character and grit, as the Giallorossi fought back from a 2-0 deficit to steal a point late at the San Siro.
There wasn’t much to write home about for the opening half-hour of the match, with Milan looking the better of the two sides but unable to capitalize on their chances. Roma, with Jose Mourinho again suspended for the match, were seemingly unable to generate anything on the offensive end for the umpteenth time this season.
It was only a matter of time until Milan took the lead, and sure enough, as the match approached the 30-minute mark, they did just that. After winning a corner, the ensuing attempt saw Rui Patricio narrowly miss the incoming ball, which landed right in the path of an on-rushing Pierre Kalulu, who sneaked right past Roger Ibañez, putting the ball in the back of net and giving Milan the lead.
Roma pushed for an equalizer for the remainder of the first half, but it seemed like the writing was already on the wall for the Giallorossi.
The opening half-hour of the second half was much like the first, with neither team looking particularly threatening in possession, but with Milan certainly the stronger of the two sides.
Down a goal and approaching the 80th minute, the Giallorossi finally began to demonstrate some attacking intent, creating several opportunities in their search for an equalizer. Unfortunately, almost as soon as Roma allowed themselves to open up, Milan made them pay, as Rafael Leão, who had been quiet up to that point, carved through Roma’s defense on a fast-break opportunity and found an unmarked Tommaso Pobega, who made no mistake in rifling the ball past a helpless Patricio.
At this point, we all thought the same thing: Game, Set, and Match. Roma looked unlikely to score and was on course for another deflating loss to a top-four side, making qualifying for next season's Champions League a laughable notion.
And yet, in the 87th minute, Roma found their catalyst, a way to flip the match completely on its head: the setpiece. Lorenzo Pellegrini’s corner kick found Ibañez at the near-post, and as we’ve seen on more than one occasion in the Brazilian’s career, he powered the ball right into the back of the net, leaving no chance for his header to be saved.
With Roma perhaps waiting too long to pull one back, you got the sense that the goal was simply a small consolation prize and a moment of redemption for Ibañez after leaving Kalulu unmarked for the opener. But the team was galvanized following the goal and continued to push for the equalizer, winning several fouls, including one near the edge of the box with just minutes to go in extra time.
What was supposed to be an innocuous set-piece that surely would be cleared away and signal the end of the match with time expiring saw Pellegrini’s ball flicked on by the lone Milan defender in the wall, landing right at an uncovered Nemanja Matic, who redirected the ball right towards goal. Matic's shot was parried away, falling right to Tammy Abraham, who was in the perfect position for the rebound and was able to get just enough on it to power the ball in the back of the net to make it 2-2, completing a sensational comeback by the Giallorossi.
This was an excellent demonstration of Roma’s mental strength, playing at the San Siro against a confident Milan side and fighting until the final whistle to get back into the game. Sure, there will be plenty to dissect with Roma’s performance in this match, as this was another example of Roma waiting far too late in the match to demonstrate their attacking intent. But this result will certainly feel like a point won rather than two points dropped, and it gives you hope that Roma can keep pace in the race for top-four.
In case you missed any of the action, enjoy the highlights below. The official league highlights are available here.