Roma and Milan entered Sunday evening’s pivotal clash at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome looking to gain something different.
Gennaro Gattuso’s men have been defensively sound over a prolonged stretch and, more recently, feeding off the January acquisitions of Lucas Paquetá and Krzysztof Piatek. Clinching a Coppa Italia semi-final berth with a commanding 2-0 win over Napoli midweek meant the red and black approached a trip to the capital feeling pretty good about their chances to climb up the table after Inter fell to Bologna hours prior to kick-off.
As for Roma, Eusebio Di Francesco sat on the hot-seat and if he was to ensure his safety beyond the weekend, a response in the form of a positive result was required.
Early on, it was clear Roma were not going to lay down. Instead, they fought immediately out of the tunnel, applying pressure onto Milan’s defence, testing Gianluigi Donnarumma and falling into a rhythm that threatened to produce the opening goal. As the match flowed on, and the home side lacked the cutting edge to pull ahead, Paquetá and Piatek linked up to swing momentum in favour of the visitors.
The Pole converted at the front post before teenager Nicolò Zaniolo smashed home via a deflection onto his feet early in the second half to equalize, but that was where the door opened for controversial officiating to negatively impact a match most believed was deserving of a winner.
Fabio Maresca’s inexplicably poor decision making became the latest example in a long line of scandalous officiating performances this season. Besides Suso’s appeal waved off after Aleksandar Kolarov shoved him over in the box, which some claim was a direct result of the Spaniard in an offside position, Maresca’s questionable no-yellow call on Lorenzo Pellegrini that would have seen Roma a man down unfortunately became the main talking point in the post-match.
At face value, perhaps the result was a fair one. Many could make the case Roma deserved more as they peppered Donnarumma often with plenty of shots, only for the Italian teenager to prove unbreakable on the day. The Giallorossi also struck the post and took the lion’s share of the quality chances throughout, putting seven shots on target in what was an overall inspiring effort by Di Francesco’s men to support their Coach.
Even if Milan’s overall performance was a notch or two below the hosts, they must feel hard done by, as stealing three points on the road was possible with proper officiating.
In the end, Roma fans believe two points were left out on the pitch last night, while Milan supporters are within their rights to hold the same opinion.