A win for Milan would keep them on the same points as Scudetto rivals Napoli who beat Salernitana in an earlier game. Stefano Pioli was dealing with important absentees with Brahim Diaz, Mike Maignan, and Ante Rebic out of the tie. Junior Messias, Alessandro Florenzi, Samu Castillejo, and Pietro Pellegri also missed out. Mourinho is watching the wheels of his Roma team fall off despite a great start to the season. Roma’s away win at Cagliari last week was on the back of an embarrassing 6-1 defeat to Bodø/Glimt. They had also lost to Juventus and managed to hold off Napoli.
In the third minute, Matias Vina burnt Alexis Saelemaekers before setting up Lorenzo Pellegrini. The Italian arrived late but his shot veered wide off the mark as the game got off to a fiery start. Davide Calabria stole the ball, and after some good combination play between Rafael Leao and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Franck Kessie shot wide with his left. Stefano Pioli looked away in disbelief. Calabria was his usual energetic self, and on 10, he got forward to send a brilliant cross. Leao skewed a shot over.
Nicolo Zaniolo set Rick Karsdorp up, and the Dutch full-back drove at the Milan defense. Again Pellegrini arrived late and drove a left-footed shot wide. The game was frantic with the players bustling with energy. Theo Hernandez burst forward, and even though Zaniolo tracked back, he could not stop the Frenchman from crossing. The ball evaded Ibra. The big Swede then fired over after a neat interplay with Rade Krunic.
On 27, Leao won a free kick on the edge of Roma’s box. Ibra stepped up against a team he always scores and thundered a free-kick into the net as Patricio failed to shift his weight from his standing leg. It was the Swede’s 150th goal in the top-flight. It was his 400th league goal in a storied career that saw him score his first career goal in October 1999. AS Roma 0-1 Ac Milan.
Milan went searching for a second and Ismael Bennacer fired over with his weaker right foot. Leao chipped Patricio and headed in a la Lionel Messi vs Almunia, but it was ruled out for offside. Zlatan, who set him up, was offside. It could have been one of the goals of the season. Roma came forward and had a succession of corners they failed to turn in. Before halftime, Leao won another free-kick on the edge of the box. Theo curled it well, but Patricio palmed then collected the effort.
In true Jose Mourinho fashion, the Portuguese tactician has been criticizing the quality of the squad and complaining about his second team after axing four players from the squad. He brought on academy graduate Felix Afena-Gyan for only his second Serie A appearance. The 18-year-old Ghanaian striker replaced Henrikh Mkhitaryan. A Pellegrini free-kick did not get the contact it needed early in the second half.
The Rossoneri came out firing, and Ibra had the ball in the net after some superb chest control and finish, but it was correctly ruled out for offside. The ball from Simon Kjaer was simply delightful. Ibrahimovic made another deadly run and forced Patricio into a 1v1 save, but again he was ruled offside. Two minutes later, the living legend was at it again. Kjaer charged down Abraham’s shot, and Milan went on a counter-attack. Zlatan made another run, and Roger Ibañez brought him down. The penalty was quite controversial as the fall was quite soft for such a giant. The referee gave it, and even after checking the screen, he surprisingly stuck with his decision.
Kessie stepped up and dispatched it cooly to make it AS Roma 0-2 AC Milan.
Zlatan was replaced by Olivier Giroud after an incredible performance in which he scored one and won a penalty. At the ripe age of 40! Mourinho brought on El Shaarawy for Tammy Abraham, who despite winning his first two duels against childhood friend Fikayo Tomori, was nullified by the Milan defense.
The game was becoming wild and erratic as it opened up. Theo made a senseless tackle to impede Pellegrini and received a second yellow. Milan were down to 10 men despite a comfortable lead so far. Milan had to sit back and defend continuous waves of Roma attacks. Kjaer cleared a Zaniolo header off the line after a smart set-piece routine from the Giallorossi. Ciprian Tătărușanu had been a spectator for much of the two halves, but he had to deny Gianluca Mancini and Carles Perez late on. Former Milan boy El Shaarawy blasted a shot into the goal late on, but it meant nothing as Milan held on for the win.