AS Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo capped off an incredible personal comeback following two anterior cruciate ligament injuries by scoring the winner in a 1-0 win over Feyenoord in the UEFA Europa Conference League Final – the Giallorossi’s first-ever Euro cup.
It was a night of firsts, it was a night of fifths, as Roma beat Feyenoord in the maiden Europa Conference League final held in Tirana. A Zaniolo strike before half-time sealed a first-ever UEFA cup win for the Giallorossi – whose last triumph in Europe came back in 1972, in the Anglo-Italian Cup.
However, for the man leading them from the dugout, Jose Mourinho, the success only added to a glowing cabinet of European chalices. The Portuguese won his fifth UEFA competition as a manager, reestablishing his status as one of football’s foremost tacticians following a difficult few years.
The Giallorossi suffered an early blow at Air Albania Stadium when, 16 minutes into the match, playmaker-in-chief, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, had to be substituted off due to an injury. But, despair turned into delight for the traveling Giallorossi as Zaniolo gave them the lead in the 32nd minute.
The Italian had missed nearly two years of football after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament twice, but he capped off a remarkable comeback by scoring one of the most important goals in Roma’s history. The Italian, who had found space in between the Feyenoord defence, chested down a long pass from Gianluca Mancini before lifting the ball deftly over an onrushing Justin Bijlow, sparking wild celebrations in the away end.
Roma switched gears to protect their lead after the break, thus inviting pressure from their opponents. Feyenoord nearly took advantage mere minutes after the restart when, from a corner routine, Gernot Trauner struck the post, and Guus Til saw his effort saved heroically by Rui Patricio on the follow-up.
The on-loan Arsenal forward Reiss Nelson had a chance fall to him in the 62nd minute, but the Englishman dragged his shot wide of the goal after creating space for himself to shoot from the edge of the box.
Mourinho’s men nearly stole a second against the run of play in the 86th minute when Leonardo Spinazzola threaded the ball through to Lorenzo Pellegrini.
With the Feyenoord defence stretched, the Roma captain attempted his luck from close range, but Bijlow had his angles covered. In the end, though, a goal was enough to win Roma the first European Cup in their history.