Roma 1, Milan 2: Winning with a Capital W

Some wins are just another three points, but this one was important. Not only did Milan continue their perfect start at the sold out and hostile Stadio Olimpico, but they held on to a lead that became tenuous once Tomori was sent off and Mourinho made his subs. That did not happen in January, even when Milan still had all 11 men on the pitch, a game that Milan gave up a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2, the game where it all went wrong. Tonight, even with a bit of help from VAR and while killing those sublime away kits again, Milan managed to fend off a late attack from the Wolves for a 2-1 in Rome. And that is what I call winning with a capital W.

Winning in the capital.

The match nearly started with controversy, as just six minutes in, Loftus-Cheek was in the box and nearly scored, but went down at the last minute, with seeming contact from Rui Patricio and possibly Çelik, who seemed to have cleared the danger. However, Rapuano, the head referee, was asked by Massa, the head VAR referee, to have another look at the play. the VAR review showed that in fact, Patricio's right leg made contact with the Milan midfielder, and a penalty was awarded to Milan. Giroud stepped up and took the penalty, sending Patricio the wrong way and making it 1-0 Milan. Just like that.

Milan did not need to sign a backup for Giroud, he will get his rest by scoring penalties early.

The interesting thing about this is that this was the third penalty awarded to Milan in two matches, with one of the Torino penalties being questionable. Milan were only awarded five penalties total in all of last season. So, while Milan clearly are playing better than expected, given the 17 players out and 10 new signings this season, it begs the question: was it Rapuano that Cardinale was trying to impress with his shirt unbuttoned like that? Because it definitely was not the ladies. And after all, he was never at three matches in a row last season, so clearly something is going on. But on a more relevant note, we can already predict what the opposition fans' narrative will be this season.

Tomori may have felt aggrieved, but his reaction to the red card said it all.

Rapuano's refereeing was important to this match, with Tomori given a yellow card for a foul on Belotti in the 19th minute. In all fairness, I think Rapuano did good job, especially controlling what was often a very heated match. One of the more spectacular moments came in the 22nd minute, when Pulisic took a fantastic shot on the volley from an amazing Theo Hernández cross, only for Rui Patricio to make an even more impressive save. 

Two of the best kits in Serie A this season, so of course everyone wanted a piece of them.

Unfortunately, things took a somber turn when Roma's new signing, Aouar, was forced off the pitch with an injury and replaced by Pellegrini, who was not entirely fit himself. Loftus-Cheek was also reined in by Rapuano with a yellow card in the 34th for an elbow on Zalewski. VAR reviewed another incident at the other end of the pitch in the 39th minute when Belotti was down, but it was determined not to be a penalty. Since Mourinho chose not to speak to the press at all after the match, I can only assume he did not share my assessment of Rapuano's performance.

Was Pioli trying to help Mourinho? Or was he getting cocky?

Leão, whose shirt and shorts were popular in this match for Roma players to hold and whose ankle somehow got bloodied as well (although Rapuano did not make those calls,) opened up the second half with his first goal of the season. And it was worth the wait. With Çelik physically marking him from behind, he took what can only be described as a falling bicycle kick from a perfect Calabria cross, sending the ball to the inside of the far post and into the back of the net as he landed on the ground, smiling the entire time. 2-0 Milan. It was another of those goals that words could never do justice. Giroud surfing with him in his trademark celebration was also very enjoyable to watch.

Giroud's expression says it all.

The 61st minute saw Tomori receive a second yellow card, again for fouling Belotti, and he was very upset about being sent off, too. Maybe he was extra emotional because Southgate had finally called him up for the England squad, and this was not the way to enter the international break, I don't know. But I miss chill Tomori, and it feels like he's got something going on in his life that has been distracting him from being his best. So, although he will be suspended for the Derby, I hope his chance with England goes well, and maybe he pulls his head together, because we are absolutely going to need the Tomori we all know and love this season.

Ignored by Mancini and now Spalletti for Italy, Calabria put in a spectacular cross to remind them he exists.

Once Milan were down to ten men, Pioli sacrificed the cautioned Loftus-Cheek to bring on Kalulu. Roma attempted to capitalize on the man advantage, with our former 'Faraone', El Shaarawy forcing Maignan into a save in the 69th minute. Shortly afterward, Mourinho brought on the big guns, replacing him with Lukaku, then replacing Çelik with Spinazzola, and bringing on Bove for Paredes. Pioli also rested Giroud, bringing on Pobega to try to help hang on to the lead.

Mourinho may not have seen how well Thiaw marked Lukaku last year.

Lukaku made his presence known almost immediately, with a shot that went over, but other than a yellow card for a foul on Okafor in the 85th, he spent his 25 minutes trying to remind his teammates that he had arrived. It seems that they had seen his Champions League performance with Inter, though, and chose safer options when it was time to take shots. As one meme put it, Mourinho respectfully also played with 10 men.

Reijnders putting in solid performances every match so far.

Pioli only made two more substitutions, bringing on Chukwueze for Pulisic and Okafor for Leão, both in the 76th minute. But Roma were getting more dangerous, and thoughts of January kept racing back as blood pressure increased. Sure enough, in the second minute of stoppage time, Spinazzola scored a great goal from the top of the box to make it 2-1 for Milan, and the last few minutes of stoppage time were incredibly tense. Zalewski had a shot deflected wide, and Maignan bungled into Thiaw and actually missed a shot that thankfully went out, despite the fact that he was wearing the killer black kit. Okafor earned his yellow card for pulling on a Roma player's shorts in the seventh minute of stoppage time, then finally, the whistle blew. Milan had managed to pull off the win.

A leap in quality... from El Shaarawy to Theo Hernández, Milan have improved.

Roma put up a good fight. They are shockingly with only one point in three matches, even though Pioli pointed out in his prematch press conference that statistically, they had played the best in the first two matches. But in the end, Cardinale's investments have guaranteed Milan wins. Whether that is from buying so many good players, investing in referees, or spending so much that he cannot afford to dress himself properly, it remains to be seen. After finding out our challenging Champions League opponents, as well as a very busy end to the transfer window that saw Colombo, Origi, and Ballo-Touré all go on loan, as well as Luka Jović join the team, it had been a very intense 24 hours for Milan.

Pioli deserves this one.

But this win appeared to be more about grinta from Milan's players, many of them who were the core group who were already here. They held out and fought for all 98 minutes, even playing on ten men for the last almost 40 minutes. Which was really important going into the break, especially with the Derby and so many tough matches on the other side. Going into Rome and pulling this off is what I definitely call winning with a capital W.

This post inspired by the music of R.E.M.'s "Near Wild Heaven"

Roma 1, Milan 2: Winning with a Capital W Roma 1, Milan 2: Winning with a Capital W Reviewed by Elaine on 11:59 PM Rating: 5
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