Roma champs of first Conference League

May 26, 2022
Roma’s Nicolò Zaniolo (centre) scores the lone goal during the Europa Conference League final against Feyenoord at the National Arena in Tirana, Albania, yesterday.
Roma’s Nicolò Zaniolo (centre) scores the lone goal during the Europa Conference League final against Feyenoord at the National Arena in Tirana, Albania, yesterday.
Fans light flares prior to the start of the final.
Fans light flares prior to the start of the final.
Roma players celebrate with the trophy.
Roma players celebrate with the trophy.
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TIRANA, Albania (AP):

Jose Mourinho had described Roma as "a giant club" lacking a trophy room to match the team's social dimension and passionate fan base.

Well, the Giallorossi claimed their first European title in more than six decades yesterday to crown Mourinho's first season coaching in the Italian capital.

Nicolo Zaniolo scored in the first half, goalkeeper Rui Patricio made some big saves in the second, and Roma beat Feyenoord 1-0 to win the inaugural edition of the third-tier Europa Conference League.

It's Roma's first European trophy since winning the 1961 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup - a tournament considered to be the precursor to the UEFA Cup and Europa League. It's also the first title of any kind for Roma since winning the 2008 Italian Cup.

Besides the few thousand Roma spectators inside the small National Arena in Tirana, some 50,000 fans watched the game on giant screens at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

There were violent clashes in Tirana between fans of both clubs ahead of the final, and dozens were deported back to Italy.

Two separate groups of Dutch and Italian fans clashed with police on Tuesday in the city, injuring 19 officers and five Albanian civilians. One police officer was injured from a knife attack, authorities said. Three Italian fans and two Dutch supporters were also injured.

Inside the stadium, flares were thrown onto the field and stewards removed a few fans before kick-off after an apparent fight on the side where Dutch fans were sitting.

The situation appeared to be under control after kick-off.

Zaniolo's goal started with a ball over the top from centre back Gianluca Mancini that Zaniolo controlled with his chest. Zaniolo then pushed the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Justin Bijlow with the tip of his boot.

Zaniolo has often been labelled as Italy's most talented young player. But he's been held back by two serious knee injuries, one of which kept him out for all of last season and prevented him from taking part in the Azzurri's run to the European Championship 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 1997 Champions League final.

An attacking midfielder, Zaniolo produced five goals and three assists in 10 Conference League games.

After Zaniolo's goal, Mourinho - realising how long there was to go - gestured for his excited bench players to sit and calm down.

Feyenoord came out energised after the break and quickly hit the post twice, first with a close-range effort from Gernot Trauner then with a long-range blast from Tyrell Malacia that Rui Patricio palmed off the upright.

Mourinho extended his perfect record in European finals to five trophies in five matches, 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 its two previous continental finals, defeated by domestic rival Inter Milan in the 1991 UEFA Cup and dropping a penalty shoot-out to Liverpool in the 1984 European Cup final in its home stadium.

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