Roma score twice early to put Europa League quarter-final with Milan to bed

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Roma score twice early to put Europa League quarter-final with Milan to bed

Gianluca Mancini of Roma celebrates after scoring early
Gianluca Mancini of Roma celebrates after scoring earlyAFP
AS Roma advanced to the semi-finals of a European competition for the fourth year running, winning 2-1 to complete a 3-1 aggregate double over AC Milan at the Stadio Olimpico in this dramatic UEFA Europa League (UEL) quarter-final second-leg battle.

On a wet night in the Italian capital that saw sporadic hailstones, Milan’s early game plan was to try and retain possession to keep Roma chasing shadows. Once again though, fate dealt them a blow.

On a foray forward, an ambitious shot from Lorenzo Pellegrini cannoned off the post with Mike Maignan beaten, before falling into the path of Gianluca Mancini, who slotted into an empty net to double Roma’s aggregate lead.

If fate was unkind to Milan with that opener, it was best described in unbroadcastable terms for the second. At one end, Ruben Loftus-Cheek saw a shot inside the box deflected off Mile Svilar’s crossbar before Matteo Gabbia sent a header wide from a corner.

Within just two minutes, a breakaway from Romelu Lukaku had the Milan backline retreating, and while his shot was charged down, Matteo Gabbia misplaced a pass into the path of Paulo Dybala, who needed only to curl into the far corner to turn the Stadio Olimpico crowd’s volume up to 11.

Roma too suffered misfortune though, losing Romelu Lukaku to injury before a red card for Zeki Celik on the half-hour mark after he made a mindless studs-up tackle on the charging Rafael Leao.

Milan’s response was not particularly strong, but a mini wrestling match in the Roma box saw VAR investigate a possible handball from Chris Smalling, but Szymon Marciniak stuck to his original decision not to award Milan a lifeline.

Key match stats
Key match statsOpta by StatsPerform

Stefano Pioli made a double change at the break, with Samuel Chukwueze’s deployment in place of Loftus-Cheek somewhat personifying Milan’s nothing-to-lose situation. And the Rossoneri started the second period well, winning a succession of corners, though Roma would have a chance to truly bury the tie just short of the hour mark when Leonardo Spinazzola embarked on a dazzling solo run and shot, only for Maignan to keep the effort out of his net’s bottom-left corner.

There was some late tension, however, as Milan pulled a goal back with five minutes of normal time remaining.

Gabbia atoned in part for his earlier mistake, bursting into the hosts’ box to meet a whipped inswinging cross from Leao and head in at the near post to put Milan within two goals of extra time.

Roma took that as a clear hint to revert to basics and prevent any chance of that happening though, and held out to proceed onwards, as the possibility of a second European trophy in three seasons remains alive.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma)

See all the match stats here.

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