Roma have the strength to ride wave of fan discontent
Wolves should have beaten Milan
Roma 1 Milan 1
Zaniolo 46 Piatek 26
The story of the match
Only one point separated Milan from Roma in Serie A before this keenly contested battle, which was pivotal in the race for Champions League qualification, and the hosts will be more disappointed not to have triumphed having created enough opportunities for victory.
That was despite Roma having to play in a hostile environment as they faced their own supporters for the first time since a shambolic 7-1 Coppa Italia defeat at the hands of Fiorentina.
The squad were booed on to the pitch during their warm-up and then again when the team names were announced, the biggest groans saved for boss Eusebio Di Francesco. Only captain Daniele De Rossi and Nicolo Zaniolo were spared the cursing from the natives.
Inside 20 minutes a loud firecracker was let off in the Curva Sud, home to Roma's ultras, and that was the signal for a mass walkout. It was later reported to be a protest against the players, coach, sporting director Monchi and American billionaire owner James Pallotta.
The bottom area of the stand was empty by the time Milan took the lead against the run of play. New signing Krzysztof Piatek's excellent movement allowed the Polish hitman to convert after good approach play from fellow January capture Lucas Paqueta.
That was harsh on Roma as Lorenzo Pellegrini and Edin Dzeko had forced visiting keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma into action before the Milan goalie produced an outstanding save from Zaniolo and then went one better with a double stop to deny Patrik Schick and Dzeko.
However, Roma were not to be denied just after half-time despite the best efforts of Donnarumma and Zaniolo eventually found a way past the keeper.
Donnarumma produced more heroics with a save from Dzeko and Pellegrini hit the post, although on a rare break the Rossoneri had a strong penalty shout turned down for a push on Suso.
And Milan nearly stole maximum points in the last minute via substitute Diego Laxalt, but that would have been incredibly harsh on Roma.
Di Francesco's side are fairly adventurous in a 4-2-3-1 formation where De Rossi holds responsibility to maintain midfield discipline, while full-backs Aleksandar Kolarov and Rick Karsdorp raid the touchline aiming to produce crosses into Dzeko.
There were no wingers from the start with Schick operating close to Dzeko and Alessandro Florenzi tucked in on the opposite flank.
Zaniolo cost around £5m and was only a makeweight in the deal from Inter which saw Radja Nainggolan move in the opposite direction but he has the potential to become something special in the number ten position.
Roma could build the side around the 19-year-old, who scored an outrageous goal against Sassuolo earlier this season and can surely only improve.
Off-the-pitch uncertainty is hurting Roma. Supporters are unhappy with the transfer dealings - excluding Zaniolo and the injured Cengiz Under - with the Wolves shedding Alisson and Mohamed Salah among others in recent times.
"We seemed to be playing away from home," said right-back Karsdorp afterwards and the team are clearly feeling the pressure on the road too. The Fiorentina collapse came just days after they shed a 3-0 lead at Atalanta.
On the field goalkeeper Robin Olsen looks a bag of nerves and the sluggish Federico Fazio continues to be uncomfortable when defending high up the pitch.
Dzeko is the target for all crosses and set-pieces so is an obvious favourite, but Pellegrini makes excellent runs from midfield and should have more than one league goal to his name. Of the outsiders, Fazio is a threat in the air.
View from the camp
Di Francesco said: "We clearly deserved the victory with this performance. The team makes me a little angry because we know this system and sometimes do it all wrong. It's a pity we need a slap in the face before finding our way."
If Roma can find peace in the stands they could still salvage this season and last season's Champions League semi-finalists are fancied to get past Porto in the last 16 of this term's premier club competition.
It's an almighty scrap for the top four, but Roma look to be at least the equals of local rivals Lazio and Milan.
As you would expect of a side managed by Rino Gattuso, Milan are up for the scrap but they needed a man-of-the-match performance from Donnarumma to escape with a point.
Piatek has added enthusiasm in attack after Higuain's performances were more Primani than Giorgio Armani in the fashion capital of the world, while Chelsea fans may like to note on-loan Tiemoue Bakayoko is returning to the kind of form which saw him move to Stamford Bridge from Monaco.
However, on this evidence they could fall just short of Champions League qualification.
Roma 4-2-3-1: Olsen; Karsdorp (Santon 86), Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; De Rossi, Pellegrini; Schick (Kluivert 81), Zaniolo, Florenzi (El Shaarawy 65); Dzeko.
Milan 4-1-4-1: Donnarumma; Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Bakayoko; Suso (Laxalt 87), Kessie, Paqueta (Castillejo 77), Calhanoglu; Piatek (Cutrone 87).
Next three fixtures
Roma: Chievo (a), Porto (h), Bologna (h).
Milan: Cagliari (h), Atalanta (a), Empoli (h).
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