Roma reaps rewards after Milan’s costly misfire
Radja Nainggolan hit a second-half scorcher to secure Roma’s 1-0 win over AC Milan, which saw M’Baye Niang miss a first-half penalty, to close to within four points of leader Juventus on Monday.
Roma and Milan both trailed Juventus by seven point after Gonzalo Higuain’s brace on Sunday sealed a crucial 2-1 derby win for Juve at Torino.
AC Milan coach Vincenzo Montella was welcomed back to the stadium where he played many memorable matches as a forward for the Giallorossi, celebrating his goals by doing the ‘aeroplanino’ (little airplane).
But it was Luciano Spalletti’s host who was left celebrating following an entertaining clash, Nainggolan beating Milan’s teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma in the 62nd minute to make it three wins in succession.
Roma remains second, four points off the lead, with Milan seven adrift in third and with a one-point lead on Napoli and Lazio.
“It was a difficult game tonight because Milan has quality throughout the squad,” Spalletti told Mediaset.
“What they say about this team and their coach is true. They’re up there with the best and they’ ll be fighting to the end. We did well to take the three points.”
After 20 minutes, Gianluca Lapadula earned Milan’s chance when he tempted Wojciech Szczesny into a rash tackle.
But when Niang stepped up to take it, Milan fans had reason for concern.
Last week the Frenchman was involved in an on-field spat with Lapadula after his fellow forward won a penalty at Crotone.
Niang won the argument but missed the penalty, and, thanks to Lapadula’s late winner, Milan earned the points from a 2-1 win.
This time there was no spat, but Niang’s tame shot was easily covered by Szczesny, who dived to his left to parry it to safety.
“They say Milan gets lucky sometimes. Well, not tonight,” Montella said:
“But there were a lot of positives tonight, it wouldn’t be fair to focus on just one incident.”
Szczesny laughed off his heroics: “I was just doing my job. I’d made an error so was trying to remedy it.”
After the miss, Roma took the initiative. Striker Edin Dzeko fired inches past Donnarumma’s post, but Spalletti was concerned when Bruno Peres was stretchered off in tears to be replaced by former Milan forward Stephan El Shaarawy.
Milan resumed in far more positive fashion after the break, but Mario Pasalic was off target from Andrea Bertolacci’s delivery.
And after Diego Perotti blasted over from a corner for the host, Nainggolan cut in from the right to unleash a left-foot drive from outside the area that left Donnarumma clutching at thin air.
Roma could have doubled its lead but Donnarumma did well to stop a Dzeko strike after the Bosnian robbed Gabriel Paletta.
At the other end, Mati Fernandez failed to trouble Szczesny with a near-post shot.
Earlier, Croatia striker Nikola Kalinic struck a stunning first-half brace as Fiorentina held off a Sassuolo fightback to prevail 2-1 and go seventh.
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates with the trophy at the end of the Euro 2016 final between Portugal and France at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris on July 10.
Roma’s Radja Nainggolan in action against AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Monday.