ROME (AP) — While Romelu Lukaku is just getting started at Roma, AC Milan's most emblematic player remains impactful.
Rafael Leão's acrobatic goal in a 2-1 win at struggling Roma on Friday extended the Rossoneri’s perfect start to three straight victories in Serie A.
The Italian league’s most valuable player when he helped Milan to the title in 2022, Leão was lying on the ground when he whipped his right leg around to meet a cross from Davide Calabria and strike the ball in off the far post while seemingly not even seeing the goal.
“He was the reference point for our attack tonight,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “Rafa is an exceptional player.”
Lukaku came on in the 70th for his Roma debut after his high-profile loan from Chelsea and immediately put a shot toward goal, missing high narrowly.
Olivier Giroud put Milan ahead with an early penalty kick for his fourth goal in the opening three games — a feat no Rossoneri player has achieved since Andriy Shevchenko more than two decades ago.
Leonardo Spinazzola pulled one back for Roma in stoppage time.
Christian Pulisic shone for Milan in its opening two games. The United States standout was one of more than 10 new players signed by the seven-time European champion.
Milan moved three points ahead of defending champion Napoli, city rival Inter Milan and Hellas Verona, which dropped its first points in a 3-1 loss at Sassuolo earlier.
Napoli hosts Lazio on Saturday and Inter hosts Fiorentina on Sunday.
Roma was left on one point near the bottom of the standings.
While Roma coach Jose Mourinho was back from a two-game touchline ban for protests last season, the Giallorossi missed Paulo Dybala, who was out with a thigh issue.
Lukaku was presented to the Stadio Olimpico crowd an hour before kickoff with a fireworks display in Roma’s colors of yellow and red. Then he saluted fans below the curva sud (southern end) where the team’s hard-core “ultra” supporters sit.
“This is your Colosseum and these are your people,” the stadium’s public address announcer said.
Milan finished with 10 men after Fikayo Tomori picked up a second yellow card.
Domenico Berardi made his season debut for Sassuolo and scored twice in the 3-1 win over previously perfect Hellas Verona.
Berardi, who has spent virtually his entire career at Sassuolo, had been mentioned as a potential transfer target by Juventus. But he stayed put and has 135 goals in his career for the Emilia-Romagna club — 115 of them in Serie A.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer
Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press