Roma end 60-year wait as Zaniolo seal Europa Conference League crown | Europa Conference League
Nicolò Zaniolo’s goal earned Roma a first major European title in more than 60 years after a 1-0 victory over Feyenoord in the Europa Conference League final in Albania, completing a unique European trophy for José Mourinho .
The Roma coach, who has also won the Champions League, Europa League and UEFA Cup, can now add the third-tier European title – the Italian club’s first trophy in 14 years – to his medal tally.
Zaniolo, 22, clinched victory for Roma with an expert 32nd-minute finish, becoming the first Italian to score in a European final since Filippo Inzaghi against Liverpool in the 2007 Champions League.
Roma, whose only previous continental title was the Fairs Cup in 1961, withstood a fiery comeback from their Dutch opponents, who were twice denied by the woodwork in the second half, and ensured that Mourinho became the first manager to win a European trophy with four different clubs.
“Winning is very difficult. You need many ingredients,” Mourinho said in the post-match press conference. “Our team has played 55 games. We came to the final tired, but we worked on it, hid it. It’s a group of fantastic players, it makes me emotional. We struggled in the second half, our opponents played well and they forced us to make defensive changes. Congratulations to Feyenoord.
Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini told Sky Sport Italia: “We are a real team, we have proven that. Now you have to celebrate and then start again, which is always difficult after a great victory, but a real team wins, celebrates and repeats.
“I said yesterday that I would never have imagined at 25 to achieve this with the Roma shirt and the captain’s armband. It’s a wonderful moment.”
Given that Roma and Feyenoord entered the competition having already secured Europa League football for next season thanks to their domestic league positions, it was all about glory in Tirana.
At first it looked like there would be just one winner, as Roma dominated, undisturbed by Feyenoord goalkeeper Justin Bijlow, playing his first game since March 10.
They only needed one chance to keep the lead at the break, Zaniolo brilliantly bringing the ball back to his chest before scoring his first goal in all competitions since a hat-trick in the quarter-finals against Bodo/Glimt.
Zaniolo also became the youngest Italian to score in a European grand final since Alessandro Del Piero against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in May 1997.
Feyenoord, aiming to be the first Dutch club to win European competition in 20 years since their 2002 UEFA Cup triumph, didn’t really test Rui Patrício in the Roma goal in the first half.
Still, they started the second half with flying colors, with Roma’s Gianluca Mancini deflecting an early Feyenoord corner towards his own post.
The Dutch side kept coming and hit the woodwork again as Tyrell Malacia’s superb strike from almost 30 yards was deflected off the post by Patrício.
Other chances came and went, but a few last-minute blocks and unnecessary finishings ensured that Roma’s long wait for a European trophy would come to an end in Mourinho’s first season in the Italian capital.
Former Manchester United centre-back Chris Smalling told BT Sport: “We knew how much it was going to mean for everyone at Roma, and you can see how close we are together, everyone is getting together. is beaten until the end.
“We had to do it a few times this year, we crashed a little more than maybe we wanted to, but we knew we had to do it all. You could see the forwards running back, everyone was defending and we knew we had to win.
Former Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham said Roma “deserved” the win. “One thing I said when I came here is that I was going to help the team to reach the final and one day I want to win a trophy. In my first season I achieved that” , he told BT Sport.
“Thanks to my teammates, great performance. We deserve it. We worked hard all year. I love them [the fans]. Since the first day I came here it was the best. We are champions, I’m happy to be part of the team, now it’s time to celebrate and enjoy.
There were violent clashes in Tirana between fans of the two clubs before the final, and dozens were expelled to Italy.
Two separate groups of Dutch and Italian supporters clashed with police in the city, injuring 19 officers and five Albanian civilians. A police officer was injured in a knife attack, authorities said. Three Italian supporters and two Dutch supporters were also injured.
Inside the stadium, flares were thrown onto the pitch and stewards removed some supporters before kick-off after an apparent scuffle on the side where the Dutch supporters were seated.