Stephan El Shaarawy fired Roma top of Serie A on Sunday with a stunning stoppage-time strike which handed Jose Mourinho’s team a 2-1 win over Sassuolo, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his return to action after four months out with a goal as AC Milan beat Lazio 2-0.
Italy international El Shaarawy struck with a sublime curling strike in the 91st minute which caused wild celebrations at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, with Mourinho running to join his joyous players in front of the screaming supporters.
A thrilling match looked to be heading for a draw after Bryan Cristante’s 37th-minute opener was cancelled out by Filip Djuricic just before the hour mark and both sides wasted a raft of chances.
Each hit the post in an end-to-end contest but it was Roma goalkeeper Rui Patricio who had to be at his best to stop gilt-edged opportunities presented to Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga as Sassuolo pushed for a win.
However with the seconds ticking away El Shaarawy crashed in his shot off the post to put Roma top, level on a perfect nine points with AC Milan and Napoli, on Mourinho’s 1000th match as coach.
There was even time for a scare right after the winner when Gianluca Scamacca’s wonderful strike was disallowed for offside to enormous roars from the home crowd.
Milan are level with Roma thanks to Rafael Leao’s neat strike and a tap-in from Ibrahimovic seven minutes after making his comeback as a second-half substitute against Lazio.
The Swedish star, who turns 40 in three weeks, rolled home the simplest of finishes from Ante Rebic’s low cross in the 67th minute to banish a knee injury he suffered at the end of last season, ensuring his team went two points ahead of city rivals Inter and Udinese.
“He’s got this passion, I believe that apart from his evident talent it’s the passion, the fire that he has inside him that makes training for him a pleasure… When you’re like that you don’t feel the advancing years,” said Milan boss Stefano Pioli.
Milan were the better team on a glorious late summer’s evening at the San Siro and would have won even more convincingly had Franck Kessie not hit the bar from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time.
They are three points ahead of Lazio, who sit sixth after their first defeat under new coach Maurizio Sarri.
Sarri’s team had scored nine times in their first two matches against the more accommodating opposition of promoted Empoli and Spezia but were toothless at Milan, whose fans revelled in another fine home display after watching their team put four past Cagliari just before the international break.
Milan meanwhile turn their attentions to Anfield and Wednesday night’s opening Champions League clash with Liverpool.
And when he was asked whether his side had big ambitions in Europe, Pioli said: “We should only be dreaming at night, in the day we need to work hard to realise those dreams.”
In Sunday’s early match Inter Milan’s perfect start to their defence of the Serie A title ended after a 2-2 draw with a spirited Sampdoria side in Genoa following two wins in their opening two fixtures of the campaign.
Federico Dimarco and Lautaro Martinez twice put Simone Inzaghi’s side ahead at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris but strikes from Maya Yoshida and Tommaso Augello earned a draw for Roberto D’Aversa’s Sampdoria, who sit 15th with two points.
Inter host Real Madrid at the San Siro on Wednesday in their first Champions League group match of the season.
Torino made light work of promoted Salernitana, running out 4-0 winners, while Genoa came back from two goals down to win 3-2 at Cagliari.