Roma kept themselves in the Serie A title hunt as a 3-0 win over Cagliari at the Stadio Olimpico today took them up to second, for a day at least. Club captain Francesco Totti scored the opener from the spot and Simone Perrotta was gifted the second after a horror mistake from the Sardinians' goalkeeper Michael Agazzi before Jeremy Menez put the seal on the win in injury time.
The victory put Roma a point ahead of Napoli and city rivals Lazio and three behind leaders AC Milan, although all their fellow front-runners have a game in hand on them. It was also ample revenge for their 5-1 thrashing in Sardinia earlier in the season. This was a far from straight-forward success, however, as Cagliari enjoyed some positive moments, particularly in the first half.
Roma coach Claudio Ranieri insisted his team are in the thick of the scudetto challenge. "There are four or five teams in the race for the title and we're one of them," he said. "Inter and Milan are the favourites but we want to compete with them, it will be tough but fun."
Ranieri also rotated his forwards with Menez one of those coming off the bench before his late strike. "It's the first time we have such a competitive squad where the coach can make changes up front," said Ranieri. "We're becoming a strong team with a good squad, it's a tough road but an enjoyable one."
Roma goalkeeper Julio Sergio had to be alert to make a smart save from Andrea Cossu after only seven minutes and he later got down low to stop a Robert Acquafresca effort. Roma went ahead after they were awarded a contentious penalty as Daniele De Rossi tumbled in the box while tangling with Michele Canini. Totti made no mistake from 12 yards, firing high into the roof of the net down the middle.
Cossu had another chance but blazed over while six minutes from the break Totti cut inside onto his left foot only to fire high. Acquafresca, a reported target for some of Italy's bigger clubs, caused problems for the Roma backline and he created an opening through sheer determination only to prod his shot wide.
The second came 20 minutes from the end after centre-back Juan headed Totti's corner goalwards. Agazzi inexplicably dropped an easy catch with Perrotta reacting quickly to flick the ball in from three yards. Totti then tried to catch out Agazzi at his near post but this time the goalkeeper was alert and parried.
French defender Philippe Mexes almost put the cherry on the cake in injury time but his bullet header flew over. And countryman Menez then showed him how it was done moments later by selling Agazzi an outrageous dummy and slotting into the empty net.