TIRANA, Albania (AP) — José Mourinho had described Roma as “one giant club” without a trophy room to match the team’s social dimension and passionate fan base.
Well, the Giallorossi won their first European title in more than six decades on Wednesday to cap off Mourinho’s first season of training in the Italian capital.
Nicolò Zaniolo scored in the first half, goalkeeper Rui Patrício made big saves in the second and Roma beat Feyenoord 1-0 to win the inaugural edition of the third-tier Europa Conference League.
It is Roma’s first European trophy since winning the Intercity Fairs Cup in 1961, a tournament considered the precursor to the UEFA Cup and Europa League. It is also the first title of any kind for Roma since winning the Coppa Italia in 2008.
Besides the few thousand Roma spectators inside the small national arena in Tirana, some 50,000 fans watched the match on giant screens at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
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 on Tuesday, 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 the stewards removed some supporters before kick-off after an apparent scuffle on the side where the Dutch supporters were seated.
The situation seemed under control after kick-off.
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Zaniolo’s goal started with a ball over center back Gianluca Mancini which Zaniolo controlled with his chest. Zaniolo then pushed the ball past goalkeeper Justin Bijlow with the toe of his boot.
Zaniolo has often been called Italy’s most talented young player. But he has been held back by two serious knee injuries, one of which sidelined him all last season and kept him out of the Azzurri’s run for the European title.
At 22 years and 327 days, Zaniolo became the youngest Italian player to score in a European final since Alessandro Del Piero’s goal at 22 years and 200 days for Juventus in a loss to Borussia Dortmund in the European final. the 1997 Champions League.
An attacking midfielder, Zaniolo has produced five goals and three assists in 10 Conference League games.
After Zaniolo’s goal, Mourinho – realizing how much time was left – motioned to his excited bench players to sit down and calm down.
Feyenoord came on under pressure after the break and quickly hit the post twice, first with a close-range effort from Gernot Trauner and then with a long-range blast from Tyrell Malacia which Rui Patricio fended off the upright.
Mourinho extended his perfect European finals record to five trophies in five appearances, having also won the 2003 UEFA Cup and 2004 Champions League finals with Porto; the 2010 Champions League final with Inter Milan; and the 2017 Europa League final with Manchester United.
Roma had lost their two previous continental finals, beating domestic rivals Inter Milan in the 1991 UEFA Cup and dropping a penalty shootout to Liverpool in the 1984 European Cup final at their stadium.
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