Zaniolo scores as Roma beat Feyenoord to win Europa Conference League3 min read
Nicolo Zaniolo’s first-half strike proved to be the winner as Roma beat Feyenoord 1-0 to become the inaugural Europa Conference League champions in Tirana.
In the fifth European final of Jose Mourinho’s career he extended his perfect record and in doing so became the first manager to win continental titles with four different clubs.
With just over 30 minutes gone, Zaniolo brought down the ball down in the box and finished from close range to put the Serie A side in front and that was enough to seal the club’s first European trophy since 1961.
Feyenoord went close to equalising, particularly at the start of the second-half when they hit the woodwork twice in quick succession, but Roma showed a real maturity as they managed their way to a trophy Mourinho described pre-match as his side’s Champions League.
It was a slow start from Roma to the final and they suffered an early blow as Henrikh Mkhitaryan, in his first match for almost a month, was forced off with injury after barely more than 15 minutes.
The Italian side grew into the match though as Tammy Abraham became increasingly involved, with Gernot Trauner booked for hauling down the English striker on the halfway line.
For all of Feyenoord’s comfortable possession, it was one bit of clinical finishing from Roma that brought the opening goal of the match just after the half-hour mark. Gianluca Mancini swung in a superb cross from deep, Trauner misjudged the flight of the ball and Zaniolo was waiting behind to chest it down and then flick a lovely finish over the goalkeeper.
Roma were increasingly willing to sit off after that goal and while Orkun Kokcu caused Rui Patricio some problems with a swerving strike from range, Feyenoord created precious little in the opening period.
Twice the woodwork denied Feyenoord within five minutes of the restart. First Gianluca Mancini turned a low cross towards his own goal and saw the ball thunder back off the bar and minutes later Patricio made a stunning save to keep his side in front. Tyrell Malacia hammered an effort at goal from distance, it looked destined for the far corner but the former Wolves goalkeeper somehow tipped it onto the bar.
If Feyenoord were unfortunate there, they were incredibly lucky to keep 11 men on the pitch soon after. Marcos Senesi tried to let the ball run through to his goalkeeper, allowing Abraham to pounce and he looked to be clean through as the defender pulled his arm back. Abraham initially tried to stay on his feet before then appealing for a foul – the referee waved away the appeals and VAR did not come to Feyenoord’s rescue.
Aside from that scare, it was the Dutch side making all the running in the second-half. Chris Smalling was in inspired form throughout, throwing himself in front of a Kokcu shot and seemingly getting on the end of every Feyenoord cross into the box.
The chances did not come for Feyenoord, Cyriel Dessers finding Smalling in his way once more when he briefly found space with ten minutes to go. Roma very nearly put the result beyond doubt when Lorenzo Pellegrini made the run in behind but his strike was well saved by Justin Bijlow.
Feyernoord’s big moment came in stoppage-time when a flick on found Bryan Linssen six-yards out but he swung at thin air under no real pressure. With that went their hopes of taking it to extra-time, as Mourinho greeted the full-time whistle by holding up five fingers to remind everyone of his European tally.