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Esultanza-Zaniolo

European Round-Up

Roma 2-1 Porto: Zaniolo hands Roma slender advantage

19-year-old Nicolo Zaniolo continued his fine first season in the capital, scoring both goals on Tuesday night as Roma beat Porto 2-1 in the first leg of their round of 16 Champions League clash. All of the goals arrived in the final twenty minutes, with Adrian Lopez pulling one back for Porto to keep the tie delicately poised ahead of the return fixture in early March.

Both sides struggled to fashion clear-cut chances in the first half. With Roma being the home side, and having made the semi-finals of last year’s competition, they were expected to try and seize the initiative. They almost did, as the best chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to Edin Dzeko, the striker bringing the ball down beautifully and cutting inside before firing against the near post.

Porto faced Liverpool at this stage of the Champions League last season, losing the opening leg at home 5-0. Any fears of a repeat will have diminished over the first hour of this contest, but Roma did find another gear in the final third of the game. The first goal saw Dzeko and Zaniolo link-up impressively, the Bosnian holding off his man and laying the ball into the path of Zaniolo, who produced a precise finish into the bottom corner past Iker Casillas.

Six minutes later, the same two players combined to double Roma’s lead. Dzeko drove deep into the Porto half, arrowing a shot from the edge of the area which struck the post. The ball rebounded straight to Zaniolo, who could not miss from six yards out.

The Stadio Olimpico was rocking at this point, memories of last year’s victories over Shakhtar Donetsk and Barcelona still fresh in the minds of Roma’s supporters. They were silenced in the 79th minute though when Porto scored a crucial away goal. Adrian Lopez reacted quickest to a miscued effort, coolly side-footing the ball beyond Antonio Mirante to give Porto renewed hope to take into the second leg.

Inter win without Icardi, Napoli cruise in Zurich, Lazio beaten by Sevilla

Inter Milan secured a narrow 1-0 win away at Rapid Vienna, despite missing Mauro Icardi after a dramatic week for the Argentine forward. Icardi was stripped of the captaincy on Wednesday, having failed to yet sign a contract extension at the club. At his press conference on Wednesday evening, manager Luciano Spalletti revealed that Icardi had been called up for the game “but did not want to be there”, so had remained at home in Milan. On the pitch, Inter managed to put this controversy to one side, edging the game thanks to a Lautaro Martinez penalty, making them clear favourites to progress through to the last 16 of the Europa League.

Napoli also look on course to make the next round, as they eased to a 3-1 away win against FC Zurich. Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon put Napoli in command inside 21 minutes. Piotr Zielinski added a third in the 77th minute, before a late penalty from Benjamin Kololli gave Zurich’s fans something to cheer about.

Injury-hit Lazio suffered a 1-0 loss at home to Sevilla, a result that leaves last season’s quarter-finalists in danger of dropping out at the last 32 stage. Already without Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic heading into the match, Lazio lost Luis Alberto, Marco Parolo and Bastos during the first hour of Thursday night’s game. Sevilla took full advantage, netting the only goal of the game, Wissam Ben Yedder tapping in at the far post from Pablo Sarabia’s cross.

S.B.

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