Nicolo Zaniolo strikes twice to clinch AS Roma win over Porto

AS Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates
AS Roma picked up their first win over Porto in five attempts, having lost their last meeting in Rome 3-0 in 2016. (Source: Reuters)

Teenager Nicolo Zaniolo scored a quick-fire double to earn AS Roma a 2-1 win against Porto in their Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday. The 19-year-old continued his superb breakthrough season by finding the net twice in six second-half minutes to become the youngest Italian to score two goals in a Champions League match.

Porto substitute Adrian Lopez, however, quickly responded with what could prove to be a crucial away goal.

The result ended a five-match winning run in Europe for Porto, who will welcome Roma to the Estadio do Dragao for the second leg on March 6.

“It’s an incredible night, I am speechless and never would have expected such a thing,” Zaniolo said.

“However, we’ve got the second leg coming up, we shouldn’t have conceded the goal and we’ve got to think as a unit.

“We allowed Porto practically nothing, so we have to do the same in the second leg to qualify. I worked hard tonight, but I am very happy to do that for this team.”

Roma’s Edin Dzeko struck the post with the best chance of an uneventful first half, but the game opened up after the break as Bryan Cristante stung Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ palms with a fierce shot and Porto midfielder Danilo headed a corner narrowly wide.

Zaniolo broke the deadlock after 70 minutes when he raced onto a Dzeko layoff to fire low into the corner, before Dzeko’s long-range shot came back off the post six minutes later for the teenager to tap in his second.

Porto responded almost immediately when Lopez latched onto a miscued effort by Tiquinho Soares to fire in from an angle with 10 minutes remaining.

It was Roma’s first win over Porto in five attempts, having lost their last meeting in Rome 3-0 in 2016 in the second leg of a 4-1 aggregate Champions League playoff victory for the Portuguese side.

Zaniolo told to stay grounded

AS Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo celebrates scoring their first goal against Porto in the UEFA Champions League
Nicolo Zaniola scored in the 70th and 76th minute against Porto. (Source: Reuters)

AS Roma teenager Nicolo Zaniolo has been told to keep his feet on the ground after he became the youngest Italian to score twice in a Champions League match as they beat visiting Porto 2-1 in their last 16, first leg on Tuesday.

Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco sent out the warning after the 19-year-old scored his brace for the Serie A side in six second half minutes at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday.

Zaniolo gave Roma a comfortable advantage before Porto substitute Adrian Lopez responded with an away goal.

“It’s right for him to be lauded, he has done well,” Di Francesco said in a post-match news conference.

“He is on a path of development that is beyond expectations; the matches he doesn’t play well in are also a motive for growth.

“I hear people taking credit for Zaniolo, but then it’s me who coaches him. Now he needs balance, especially with those who are around him.”

Di Francesco was pleased with his side’s performance, particularly in the second half, despite them conceding what could be a crucial goal for Porto with 10 minutes left.

“We grew into the game and used the ball better, the central midfielders were better with the quality of their play,” he said after Edin Dzeko struck the post in an uneventful first period.

“The two teams were looking at and studying each other. We hit the post in the first half too, it was good. In the second half we had more determination in the final third.

“It was one of our best performances from the perspective of feeling like a team.”

Porto coach Sergio Conceicao believes the tie remains finely poised ahead of the second leg in Portugal on March 6.

“At the start it was balanced, then when we tried to be more incisive we conceded,” he said.

“I liked our way of defending and also how Roma played. We have a 50-50 chance, just like before the game.”