Roma vs Milan 1-2: Ibra and Kessié Raid the Stadio Olimpico

Milan overcame Roma at the Stadio Olimpico to pass their first real Scudetto test, catching their 10th win out of 11 games. 

Stefano Pioli’s Rossoneri needed all three points on offer to keep sharing the first spot in the Serie A table with Napoli after the Partenopei‘s win in Salerno earlier on Sunday. They did accomplish the mission with a convincing performance that saw them gaining a double lead with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a Franck Kessié penalty.

Roma pulled one back with former Rossonero Stephan El Shaarawy during added time, after playing with a one-advantage for 25 minutes as Theo Hernandez saw red. However, a monumental defensive performance from Simon Kjaer and a couple of good saves from Ciprian Tatarusanu preserved Pioli’s precious lead until the end. 

The Giallorossi pushed until the end but ultimately paid a price for starting to play only when they found themselves in numerical advantage. They should have done more earlier in the game.

There were no surprises among the Roma lines as José Mourinho deployed his trusted 11 men in a 4-2-3-1 setup. For Milan, Stefano Pioli started with Alexis Saelemaekers, Rade Krunic and Rafael Leao behind center forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Frank Kessié and Ismael Bennacer covered the double pivot role, while Theo Hernandez retook his starting spot as left back. Brahim Diaz was fully recovered from COVID but started from the bench.

Despite an early Lorenzo Pellegrini shot, it was the visitors to quickly put themselves in control. Twenty-six minutes into the game,  Rick Karsdorp stopped Rafael Leao by pushing him down just outside the box. It was a good chance for Ibra, one that the Swede converted firing the ball past Roma’s careless wall and the hapless Rui Patricio. That was Zlatan’s 11th goal against Roma in his Serie A career – the most he has scored against any Italian opponent.

Milan also had their second when Rafael Leao caught an Ibrahimovic service and lobbed the ball past the Roma goalie. However, Ibra was flagged offside as he received the ball from Theo Hernandez.

José Mourinho’s side reacted with a Lorenzo Pellegrini ball that flew through the Rossoneri‘s area and was deflected in corner by Fikayo Tomori. That was the only real chance the Giallorossi could come up with during the first half.

Mourinho played his trump card right after the restart, sending in 18-year-old Felix Afena-Gyan. The Primavera youngster had made a very good impression in the mid-week game against Cagliari.

It was still Milan to be in control, however. Five minutes into the second half, Ibra received a service from Kjaer and put the ball past Rui Patricio with a clinical right-foot effort, but once again the offside flag was up.

That was the prelude to Milan’s second, that came from the spot when another Ibrahimovic incursion in the Giallorossi‘s area was blocked by Roger Ibanez. The Brazilian defender crashed into Zlatan, prompting the referee to send Kessié to the spot after a VAR check. The Presidente made no mistake and doubled Milan’s lead.

It seemed like the Rossoneri could comfortably wrap up the battle at the Stadio Olimpico, but the game took an unexpected turn on 65 minutes as Theo Hernandez saw red. The French left-back blocked Pellegrini with a clumsy slide tackle on the edge of the box. He had already been booked in the first half, thus leaving no other option to referee Fabio Maresca. 

Roma smelled blood. Pioli, who had already replaced Ibra with Olivier Giroud, made room for one more defender – as Fodé Ballo-Touré took Saelemaekers’ place. The Rossoneri covered themselves and chances for Mourinho’s side initially only came via some long-range shots from outside the box.

On 82 minutes, however, as their pressure piled up, the Giallorossi started to be more dangerous. A Nicolò Zaniolo header was saved by Kjaer right on the goal line. Then, it was Tatarusanu to steal the stage with two saves, first from a long-range Afena-Gyan shot and then from a Gianluca Mancini conclusion.

The Romanian goalkeeper couldn’t do anything, however, when substitute El Shaarawy volleyed the ball into the top right corner of the Milan net, pouncing on an Alessio Romagnoli clearance three minutes into stoppage time. That gave Roma some late hopes but it was again Tatarusanu to save the day for the visitors, diving to his right to deny Carles Perez’s last-gasp effort and preserve Milan’s lead.

The Derby di Milano next Sunday will really tell what the Rossoneri are made of, though they will have to face it without Theo Hernandez. Still, Milan will come to it from the top of the league table and a seven-point advantage over the cross-town rivals.

José Mourinho, on the other hand, confirmed his terrible record against top clubs, having conceded losses to  Juventus, Lazio, and now the Rossoneri. They will need to do better than that if they want to grab a Champions League spot.



October 31, 2021 – Serie A 2021-2022 Round 11

SCORERS: 25′ Ibrahimovic (M), 57′ Kessié (M, pen.), 93′ El Shaarawy (R)

ROMA (4-2-3-1): Rui Patricio; Karsdorp (80′ Shomurodov), Mancini, Ibanez, Vina (68′ Carles Perez); Cristante, Veretout; Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan (46′ Afena-Gyan); Abraham (63′ El Shaarawy) (Boer, Fuzato, Calafiori, Kumbulla, Tripi, Bove, Darboe, Zalewski) Coach: Mourinho
MILAN (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Bennacer (76′ Romagnoli), Kessié; Saelemaekers (68′ Ballo-Touré), Krunic (77′ Bakayoko), Rafael Leao (76′ Tonali); Ibrahimovic (57′ Giroud) (Jungdal, Mirante, Conti, Gabbia, Kyatengwa, Brahim Diaz, Maldini) Coach: Pioli

REFEREE: Mr. Maresca from Naples
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Zaniolo, Karsdorp, Mancini, Veretout (R), Ibrahimovic, Tomori, Calabria, Giroud, Kessié (M); Red Card: Hernandez (M); Added Time: 1st Half: 1′, 2nd Half: 6′