Roma have cut the gap to Udinese, who are occupying the fourth and final Champions League spot, to just three points after a dramatic, late 2-1 victory at the Stadio Friuli.
Udinese boasted an unbeaten home run stretching back to September and they were hoping to strengthen their grip on fourth place. But it wasn’t to be as Francesco Totti scored a penalty before Di Natale equalised late on, only for ‘Er Pupone’ to bag all three points for the Lupi with the last kick of the match.
It was the home side who appeared to have the brighter start. Mauricio Isla had a goal deflected wide and Roma ‘keeper Doni fumbled a corner that Udinese failed to take advantage of. Roma almost blundered themselves into going behind, Marco Cassetti striking the ball toward his own goal, only for Doni to rise up and save. German Denis, in as a late replacement for Alexis Sanchez, failed to get on the end of a through ball from Isla, before sending a free header over the bar.
The match took a bad tempered turn after 20 minutes. Cassetti had a kick at both of Antonio di Natale’s heels, and then when the free kick was rightly given, picked up the ball and threw it at Cassetti. It earned the Roma defender his 12th booking of the season, and words appeared to be exchanged between players from both teams.
After the bright start, things died down. Almen Abdi had a 25 yard shot that stung Doni’s palms, while Udinese narrowly avoided an own goal of their own as Handanovic made a great save from his own centre-back, who rose highest from a Francesco Totti set piece. Cassetti blasted a shot over after cutting in from the right, but that saw the last shot of a disappointing first half which saw little in the way of real chances.
In the early stages of the second half, we saw the same rhythm emerge as in the first half. Isla flashed a shot narrowly wide after being set up by Kojo Asamoah; while at the other end, Mirko Vucinic put it high and wide after being put through from a long ball.
Roma won a penalty in the 56th minute, Pizzaro ran through and Giampiero Pinzi stuck out a leg to bring him down when he may not have not needed to. Francesco Totti stepped up to coolly dispatch the penalty to net his twelfth goal of the season with a cheeky chip.
Roma had the upper hand. Totti brought the ball forward on the break, tried to play in Vucinic, but the Montenegrin striker couldn’t reach the ball, but managed to win a corner. Handanovic spilt the corner, but Domizzi made an acrobatic clearance when Juan headed it goal wards.
Udinese had a penalty appeal of their own, Burdisso putting a hand across Abdi, who managed to get a tame shot in, prompting whistles and boos from the home fans, but the referee didn’t blow up for a penalty. Isla had a long range shot which barely troubled Doni, before Boriello seemed destined to connect with a Jon Arne Riise cross, only to have the ball superbly taken off his head by Mehdi Benatia.
Udinese went route one for their equaliser, in the 88th former Man City striker Bernardo Corradi flicked on a long ball for Antonio Di Natale, who lost Juan before volleying left-footed past Doni. It was the first chance of the match for the veteran striker, and he never looked like missing it.
In the 92nd minute, Udinese had the ball in the net once more. An excellent counter attack and after a goal mouth scrap, Asamoah had in the back of the net. However, as the home fans were counting their 3 points, the referee, correctly ruled it out for handball, when it looked as though Asamoah was being pulled down by Juan.
Before the Udinese players could catch their breath from celebrating, Roma had the points in the back. Taddei sent the ball into the box, but Handanovic elected to punch the ball to touch rather than catch it. Roma took the throw in quickly, playing the ball to Riise, who pulled the ball back to Totti, who reacted quickest to give Roma the points with the last kick of the game. The Udinese players hounded the referee Antonio Damato as they left the pitch, but it was to no avail.
Roma have their chances of Champions League qualification a huge boost, and while Udinese remain in fourth place, they will need results against Napoli, AC Milan and Inter if they are to hang on to their loose grip on fourth place.
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