Roma stumble to end Champions League hopes
Lecce’s midfielder Andrea Bertolacci
Roma all but crashed out of European contention with a limp performance in a 2-2 draw at home to Catania on Saturday night.
With rumours abounding that Spanish coach Luis Enrique will be replaced by Portuguese Andre Villas-Boas at the end of the season, this was hardly the way Roma would have wanted to end their home campaign.
Goals from Francesco Lodi, from the spot, and Giovanni Marchese were sandwiched between a Francesco Totti brace for the hosts.
It was the emblematic club captain’s 500th Serie A appearance for the giallorossi but he also missed an early penalty.
Roma are now mathematically out of Champions League contention and are two points behind the final Europa League place, but they have just one match left while the teams above them will all play twice.
Roma were awarded a controversial penalty early on when Catania goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo was adjudged to have fouled Fabio Borini in the box.
Carrizo had spilled Pablo Osvaldo’s cross but then punched the loose ball clear as Borini charged in.
The pair collided and the referee pointed to the spot.
Justice was done in the eyes of the visitors, though, as Carrizo saved Totti’s poor spot-kick before the veteran forward embarrassingly blazed the rebound over the bar.
However, he was not to be denied a goal on his 500th league appearance as he bent a left-foot shot from 20 yards into the bottom corner on 52 minutes with Carrizo seemingly unsighted.
Just five minutes later Gabriel Heinze brouhgt down Pablo Barrientos in the Roma area and the Sicilians were awarded a penalty.
Lodi made no mistake and 10 minutes later, from another set-piece, he provided the cross for Marchese to fire home.
It was Totti’s day, though, and he grabbed his second 13 minutes from time as he arrived 15 yards out to slot home Miralem Pjanic’s low cross.
Lecce are almost certain to be relegated from Serie A following their 1-0 defeat at home to Fiorentina.
Serse Cosmi’s team now trail Genoa in the final survival spot by three points but they have only one match left.
Genoa, who play away to Udinese on Sunday, have two chances to get the one point they need to ensure they remain in Serie A next season.
Fiorentina also ensured their own survival, having come into the game needing a point to be mathematically secure.
Alessio Cerci scored the only goal of the game 10 minutes before the break, slotting home from the left side of the box after latching onto Ruben Olivera’s through ball.
Andrea Esposito came within a lick of paint of equalising early in the second period but he headed Andrea Bertolacci’s corner against the bar.
It was a huge let-down for the giallorossi after their dramatic fightback against league leaders Juventus in mid-week, when they rescued a point five minutes from time despite playing the final 35 minutes with 10 men.
It means they are near certainties to join already relegated Cesena and Novara in Serie B next season.
On Sunday, champions AC Milan play Inter Milan in their city derby while leaders Juventus travel to Trieste to tackle Cagliari.
Juve lead the table by a point from Milan, who need to win to ensure they take the title race to the final weekend.