After a 1-0 victory against Feyenoord in the Europa Conference League final in Albania, Nicolo Zaniolo’s goal gave AS Roma their first major European championship in more than 60 years, capping a historic European trophy collection for Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho, who previously won the Champions League, Europa League, and UEFA Cup with different teams, can now add the third-tier European crown — the Italian club’s first trophy in 14 years – to his trophy cabinet.
With a superbly taken finish in the 32nd minute, the 22-year-old Zaniolo secured Roma’s victory on Wednesday, becoming the first Italian to score in a European final since Filippo Inzaghi against Liverpool in the 2007 Champions League.
Roma fought off a strong comeback by their Dutch opponents, who were twice denied by the woodwork in the second half.
After prior triumphs at Porto, Inter Milan, and Manchester United, Mourinho became the first manager to win a European title with four separate teams.
“We demonstrated that we are a true team. Now we must enjoy and then restart, which is always tough after a fantastic victory, but a true team wins, celebrates, and restarts,” Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini told Sky Sport Italia.
“I mentioned yesterday that I never expected to accomplish this with the Roma shirt and captain’s armband at the age of 25.” It’s a beautiful time.”
“This wasn’t work today; it was history,” Mourinho stated. “You either write it or you don’t, and we did.” I’ve been in Roma for 11 months and realized right away what that signified — that they were expecting this.”
Given that both Roma and Feyenoord had already guaranteed Europa League status for next season via their domestic league positions, it was all about glory in Tirana.
Early on, it seemed like there would be just one winner, as Roma controlled the early exchanges without disturbing Feyenoord goalkeeper Justin Bijlow, who was making his first appearance since March 10.
They just needed one opportunity to lead before the break, with Zaniolo expertly bringing the ball down on his chest before slotting home his first goal in all competitions since a hat-trick against Bodo/Glimt in the quarter-finals.
Zaniolo also became the youngest Italian to score in a major European final since Alessandro Del Piero in the Champions League versus Borussia Dortmund in May 1997.
Feyenoord, hoping to become the first Dutch team to win a European championship in 20 years after winning the UEFA Cup in 2002, failed to challenge Roma goalkeeper Rui Patricio in the first session.
Despite this, they made a strong start to the second half, with Roma’s Gianluca Mancini deflecting an early Feyenoord corner into his own post.
Tyrell Malacia’s brilliant shot from 25 yards was pushed against the post by Patricio as the Dutch side continued to press.
More opportunities came and went, but last-ditch blocks and poor finishing assured that Roma’s lengthy wait for a European championship would come to an end in Mourinho’s first season in the Italian city.
“We really wanted to take that cup with us, to thank the fans and to put Feyenoord back on the map, but it didn’t work out that way,” Bijlow remarked.
“We placed pressure on them, and you saw how they struggled to cope with us.” Unfortunately, it was insufficient. It’s extremely unfortunate that we won’t be able to carry the cup to Rotterdam.”