On 31st August, AC Milan and AS Roma played it out under the floodlights of Sam Siro as the home team emerged victorious in a nail-biting fixture that saw the Rosseneri clinch a late winner.
Following the opening round’s 3-2 defeat at Napoli when they threw away a 2-0 lead, Milan appeared set to suffer another disappointing night before Patrick Cutrone converted a defence-splitting pass by Gonzalo Higuain in the death of stoppage time moving Roma’s record to 1-1-1.
Milan might not be in the reckoning as genuine title challengers to Juventus this season, but they showed exactly why they are very highly rated. A team with a wonderful balance of experience and youth, flair and grit, this Milan side have genuine potential to challenge for the league soon. Gennaro Gattuso has Milan playing wonderful passing soccer — in many ways the opposite of how Gattuso himself played — and he would have been proud of the character showed by his team last night to hand Roma their first defeat in over three years at the San Siro. With rumours aplenty that former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was being lined up to replace Gattuso in case of a prolonged poor start to the season, the Milan Manager had a lot at stake as he went in the game with the pressure on him.
Determined to make amends for the slip-up at Napoli, Milan laid siege to Roma’s goal in the opening half. Ivory Coast midfielder Franck Kessie opened the scoring in the 40th minute, after good work by left back Ricardo Rodriguez, who turned his marker and delivered a clever pass across the face of goal. The pressure was building on Milan with a breakthrough coming in the 59th minute as Roma equalised unexpectedly just before the hour as centre back Federico Fazio unleashed a stinging volley from inside the penalty area after Milan failed to clear a corner.
Gonzalo Higuain then thought he had netted his first goal for Milan after dispatching his effort in the 61st minute. Nevertheless, his goal was chalked off for offside, after replays showed he had strayed fractionally beyond the last defender as he raced clear on goal. N’Zonzi was the next man to fall foul of technology, although the shaky set piece defending on display from the hosts made Roma appear the most likely winners. Cutrone had other ideas. Alisson left sizeable gloves to fill at Roma. Olsen might lack the flashy footwork of his Brazilian predecessor but he is proving an instantly reassuring presence and chipped in with fine saves in either half. Gattuso, famously a combative midfielder during his playing days, was impressed by his team’s willingness to battle through some heavy weather when Roma were in the ascendancy after half-time. “We worked on our mentality and on knowing how to suffer. We can’t think that we can control the game for 90 minutes. Sometimes you need to play with a knife between your teeth”, he said.
And just when it looked as if both sides would take a share of the spoils, Milan’s hard work paid off as Cutrone latched onto a Higuain pass to fire past Robin Olsen. The ex-Juventus striker expertly found the youngster in the centre of the box, who guided his effort into the bottom right corner, much to the delight of the 60,000 Rosseneri fans in San Siro.
Roma dominated the second half. That much was certain. In many ways though, it was this domination and pursuit of all three points that cost them the game. Eusebio Di Francesco will be pleased with the effort put in by his players in the second half, after being thoroughly outplayed in the first, but maybe a little tactical naivety came into play right at the end for his team.
Roma could have gone to the top of the Serie A table with a point, while Milan picked up their first victory of the campaign after suffering a last-gasp defeat against Napoli last time out.