‘What a performance’: Fans are full of praise for man of the match Chris Smalling after his ‘outstanding’ display helps Jose Mourinho’s Roma land their first European trophy in 60 years
Roma defender Chris Smalling chose a good time to put in an excellent performance on Wednesday night as he guided his side to victory in the Europa Conference League final.
The former Manchester United man put in some vital blocks and was a commanding presence all evening as Roma beat Feyenoord 1-0 in Tirana despite a second-half barrage from the Dutch side.
It was the second European trophy won by Smalling under manager Jose Mourinho, after the pair won the Europa League with Man United in 2017.
Roma’s win in the Europa Conference League was their first European trophy since 1961
The 32-year-old’s heroics didn’t go unnoticed with numerous fans on social media naming Smalling as their man of the match.
One fan called it an ‘outstanding performance’ while others called him ‘fantastic’ and ‘immense’.
Another said ‘Chris Smalling take a bow son.’
He was also described as ‘Smalldini’ – a comparison to legendary Italian defender Paolo Maldini – by another fan on Twitter.
Manchester United fans may be left questioning why the defender was allowed to leave for Roma after their own shaky defensive performances this year.
Smalling wasn’t always the most popular player at United – manager Louis Van Gaal famously got his name wrong in a press conference – but his performance against Feyenoord showed what the England international is capable of.
Mourinho insisted ‘winning is very difficult’ after becoming the first manager to win all three European club competitions.
Nicolo Zaniolo scored the only goal of the game, firing home from his side’s first chance in the 32nd minute as Mourinho’s men sealed their first silverware since the 2008 Coppa Italia.
‘Winning is very difficult. You need many ingredients,’ Mourinho said in the post-match press conference.
‘Our team has played 55 games. We reached the final being tired, but we worked on it, kept it hidden. This is a fantastic group of players, that makes me emotional.
‘We struggled in the second half, our opponents played well and they forced us to make defensive changes. Congratulations to Feyenoord.’
It proved a typical Mourinho-style triumph as Roma sat deep and soaked up plenty of pressure before cruising through the second half with the minimum of fuss.
‘Playing a final is not writing history, I told the players about the finals I lost in the past. We won, the players gave everything,’ the Roma manager said.