The original intention of this was to be a piece to rouse some debate. Perhaps identify three or four standouts and let the winner of the distinction be discussed on the message board or voted on in a poll. However, after what we just witnessed, there can be no other choice.
Man of the Match: Nicolò Zaniolo
Wow! The kid is good, real good. I know we’ve all been gushing about what kind of player Zaniolo is at only 19 years old, but that conversation may now begin to spread outside of Roma and Serie A circles after this performance. Zaniolo bagged both Roma goals in a crucial 2-1 first leg victory at the Olimpico. The first was a lovely right-footed finish off a nice pass from Dzeko.
Scenes in Stadio Olimpico as youngster Nicolo Zaniolo gives Roma the lead— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) February 12, 2019
Watch Roma vs. Porto NOW on #BRLive: https://t.co/zuIX8XZrZu pic.twitter.com/LQEkodsFmp
Meanwhile, the second was a great job of following the play after Dzeko blasted a shot off the post and Zaniolo was “Johnny on the Spot” to put the rebound into an empty net. I thought Dzeko should’ve laid the ball off to Zaniolo for the shot, but all’s well that ends well.
NICOLO ZANIOLO AGAIN— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) February 12, 2019
Can Porto make a comeback? https://t.co/zuIX8XZrZu pic.twitter.com/oXfo6ZThta
Outside of the goals, Zaniolo had a strong game as well. With the body of a grown man the kid was strong on the ball throughout and drew team-leading four fouls. Roma looks to have a real burgeoning star on it’s hands, one who set an Italian record en route to what Roma will hope is the first of many unforgettable European nights in his young career.
2 - Nicolò #Zaniolo is the youngest ever italian player to score 2+ goal in a single Champions League match. Star. #RomaPorto— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 12, 2019
Runner Up: Edin Dzeko
On any other night where one single player didn’t have as impactful a night as Zaniolo, Dzeko would have a serious case for MotM honors. In fact, if his shot that turned into Zaniolo’s second went in the net he just might be MotM. Dzeko was credited with assists on both Zaniolo goals and nearly opened the scoring with a shot that he smashed off the post about 35 minutes in. Dzeko worked hard for the team, held up the ball well, and won plenty of balls in the air. All around a solid night for the Bosnian. Roma will hope he’s got an away goal in his boots for the second leg.