Roma end 60-year wait as Zaniolo seals Europa Conference League crown | Europe Conference League


Nicolò Zaniolo’s goal gave Roma their first major European title in over 60 years after beating Feyenoord 1-0 in the Europa Conference League final in Albania, completing a unique European trophy case 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 Roma victory with a superb 32nd-minute finish as he became 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 1961 Fairs Cup, held off a spirited comeback from their Dutch opponents, who were twice denied by woodwork in the second half, and ensured Mourinho became the first manager to take him to a European Pokal won by four different clubs.

“Winning is very difficult. You need a lot of ingredients,” said Mourinho in the press conference after the game. “Our team has played 55 games. We got to the final tired but we worked on it, kept it hidden. It’s a fantastic group of players, it makes me emotional. We struggled in the second half, our opponents played well and forced us to make defensive changes. Congratulations to Feyenoord.”

Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini told Sky Sport Italia: “We’re a real side, we proved that. Now we have to celebrate and then start again, which is always difficult after a great win, but a real team wins, celebrates and starts again.

“I said yesterday that I could never have imagined that at the age of 25 with a Roma shirt and captain’s armband. It’s a wonderful moment.”

With both Roma and Feyenoord entering the competition, who had already secured Europa League football for next season through their domestic league finishes, Tirana was all about glory.

Early on it looked like there would only be one winner as Roma dominated without bothering Feyenoord goalkeeper Justin Bijlow, who played his first game since 10 March

A single chance was enough to hold the lead until the break. Zaniolo brought the ball brilliantly to his chest before scoring his first goal in all competitions since a quarter-final hat-trick against Bodo/Glimt.

Zaniolo was also the youngest Italian to score in a major European final since Alessandro Del Piero in May 1997 in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund.

Nicolò Zaniolo celebrates with Gianluca Mancini after scoring Roma's opening goal against Feyenoord.
Nicolò Zaniolo (left) celebrates with Gianluca Mancini after scoring Roma’s opening goal against Feyenoord. Photo: Fabio Rossi/AS Roma/Getty Images

Feyenoord, who wanted to become the first Dutch club to win European competition in 20 years, failed to really test Rui Patrício in the Roma goal in the first half.

They did, however, start the second half brilliantly as Roma’s Gianluca Mancini deflected an early Feyenoord corner onto his own post.

The Dutch advanced and hit the woodwork again when Tyrell Malacia’s superb shot from almost 30 meters out was kicked off the post by Patrício.

More chances came and went, but some final blocks and wasteful finishing work ensured Roma’s long wait for a European Cup would 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 would mean for everyone in Rome and you can see how we are together, everyone fought to the end.

“We had to do that a couple of times this year, we fell a little bit lower than we might have wanted to but we knew we had to do everything. You could see the strikers were running back, everyone was defending and we knew we had to win.”

Former Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham said Roma “deserved” their win. “One thing I said when I came here was that I will help the team get to the final and one day I want to win a trophy. I achieved that in my first season,” he told BT Sport.

“Thanks to my teammates, excellent performances. We deserve it. We’ve worked hard all year. I love her [the fans]. From 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.”

Before the final, violent clashes broke out between fans of both clubs in Tirana, and dozens were deported to Italy.

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Two separate groups of Dutch and Italian fans 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 fans and two Dutch supporters were also injured.

Flares were thrown onto the field at the stadium and stewards removed some fans before kick-off after an apparent struggle on the side where Dutch fans were seated.

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