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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Alamy Stock Photo AS Roma players celebrate after Chris Smalling scores.
# Mixed Fortunes
Smalling-inspired win comes at a cost for Mourinho's Roma
The Serie A side are sweating over starlet Nicolo Zaniolo after already losing Georginio Wijnaldum to a fractured shin.

Updated at 22.14

CHRIS SMALLING headed Roma to a 1-0 win over Cremonese on Monday but Jose Mourinho’s side are sweating over starlet Nicolo Zaniolo after already losing Georginio Wijnaldum to a fractured shin.

England international Smalling met Lorenzo Pellegrini’s corner in the 65th minute with a perfect header to send a wave of relief around a packed Stadio Olimpico.

The hosts missed a series of chances and only have Smalling’s goal to show for a performance in which they had 27 shots, 12 on target.

“The three points is the most important I think. We can play better, we can finish the game earlier, but it’s two games in and we wanted six points. We can only play better,” said Smalling to DAZN.

The 32-year-old dedicated his winner to Wijnaldum, who signed from Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month.

“We’re so disappointed for Gini … even in the warm up for that session he was feeling good, settled. He felt like he was a real part of this team in the couple of weeks that he’s been here,” added Smalling.

“We’re gutted for him and we hope he’s back as soon as possible because he’s such a quality addition for us.”

Roma have a maximum six points from their first two games after a summer full of optimism following their Conference League triumph last season and an impressive transfer window which also brought in Paulo Dybala.

- Zaniolo fears -

However some of that positive feeling has been drained after Zaniolo had to be taken from the field just before half-time with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

Zaniolo was left lying in pain after a thumping tackle from Luka Lochoshvili.

The 23-year-old Italy international, who has already suffered serious injuries to both his knees in his short career, looked in agony as staff rushed out to treat him before taking him off the pitch and Mourinho told DAZN he would be out “for a while”.

It was blow for Roma as Zaniolo had been their most dangerous player and looked finally to have returned to the sparkling form which had so excited fans when he first arrived in 2018.

Without him, Roma had one less threat against a stubborn Cremonese defence which aggressively chased down the hosts’ attackers.

Massimiliano Alvini’s side might be without a single point but more bold displays like Monday’s and they will trouble a lot of teams in Serie A.

Twice Cyriel Dessers went close with bicycle kicks and the Nigeria international was especially unlucky not to put the away side ahead just after the break when his superb half-volley smashed against the crossbar.

Charles Pickel nearly snatched a point for Cremonese in stoppage time when his rocket shot fizzed millimetres wide.

But Smalling’s header across Ionut Radu was just enough for Roma to gain the three points and join Inter Milan and Napoli at the top of the table.

Next week Roma travel to Juventus, who were held to an uneventful goalless draw by Sampdoria on Monday.

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Massimiliano Allegri’s side were uninspired and failed to create much against a solid Samp at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa.

The closest they came to taking the points was when Adrien Rabiot’s low strike was correctly ruled out for offside, the France midfielder a starter after his move to Manchester United collapsed in the week.

Filip Kostic also forced a save from Emil Audero in stoppage time but that was about it from a team aiming to make a league title charge after finishing way behind champions AC Milan last term.

Juve were missing the injured Angel Di Maria and they lacked the stardust that the Argentina winger brought to the team in their season-opener win over Sassuolo last week.

Their sole decent opportunity in the first half was created by a bursting run in the 15th minute from Juan Cuadrado, who however could only shoot straight at Emil Audero in the Samp goal with Dusan Vlahovic to his right.

Vlahovic barely had a touch in the first 45 minutes and was livid with the Colombian for not passing.

The Serb started the second period brighter, however, flashing a shot wide and claiming in vain for a penalty when clashing with the excellent Omar Colley.

He thought he had set up Juve’s opener when Rabiot met his pass with a perfect low finish, but after awarding the goal referee Rosario Abisso then ruled the goal out for Vlahovic straying offside following a VAR check.

Substitute Fabio Quagliarella almost made it a fairytale ending for Samp when he flashed a snap shot wide with a minute left on the clock, but Audero kept out Kostic’s scuffed volley and both sides had to settle for a point.

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