Rome (AFP) – 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 had missed a series of chances and only has Smalling’s goal to show for a performance in which they had 27 shots, 12 on target.
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 brought in Paulo Dybala.
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.
Roma were already reeling from the news that Georginio Wijnaldum had fractured his shin in training on Sunday.
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.
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
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 complete the weekend’s fixtures at Sampdoria later on Monday.
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