Totti saves Roma as England ‘keeper suffers debut heart-break

AS Roma's forward Francesco Totti celebrates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match As Roma versus Sampdoria on September 11, 2016 at Olympic stadium in Rome. PHOTO: ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP

AS Roma’s forward Francesco Totti celebrates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match As Roma versus Sampdoria on September 11, 2016 at Olympic stadium in Rome. PHOTO: ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP

Francesco Totti came off the bench to hit a late winner from the spot as Roma moved to within two points of Juventus after a rain-interrupted 3-2 win over Sampdoria on Sunday.

“That was the first time I’ve ever felt afraid of taking a penalty,” the 39-year-old veteran, who is in his 24th and final season at the club, told Sky Sport minutes after being mobbed by teammates under the stadium’s popular Curva Sud end.

“You just can’t afford to miss under the Curva (sud)!”

Roma looked to be heading for a difficult second half at the Stadio Olympico after Sampdoria surged to a 2-1 half-time lead after goals from Fabio Quagliarella and Luis Muriel cancelled out Mohamed Salah’s early opener for the hosts.

But Roma coach Luciano Spalletti was given extra time to consider his tactical options when officials delayed the restart by over 30 minutes to render the pitch playable again following a first-half deluge of rain and hailstones.

Totti replaced Diego Perotti and Edin Dzeko came on in place of Stephan El Shaarawy for the start of the second half, and the changes made an immediate impact.

After Kevin Strootman saw his drive palmed away by Emiliano Viviano, Totti set Dzeko up for a shot that forced Viviano to parry for a corner.

Two minutes later, Totti sent Dzeko through in the box and the Bosnian shimmied around Viviano before tapping home from close range to pull the hosts level.

Roma had the momentum, but Salah glanced a header wide from Strootman’s deflected delivery and seconds later only the trailing foot of Viviano stopped Dzeko’s goalbound shot from crossing the line.

Roma looked all set for a share of the spoils until Dzeko made the most of a Milan Skriniar’s challenge in the area.

The referee pointed to the spot and Totti made no mistake, sending Viviano the wrong way to send the fans into raptures.

Roma are now two points behind champions Juventus, who claimed their third successive win with a 3-1 defeat of Sassuolo on Saturday.

Napoli sit in second place, also two points behind Juve, following a 3-0 rout of Palermo on Saturday when Jose Callejon added a brace to Marek Hamsik’s 47th minute opener.

Earlier, England goalkeeper Joe Hart conceded twice on his Torino debut as Atalanta secured a 2-1 win in Bergamo.

Hart, deemed surplus to requirements by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, completed his move to unfashionable Torino on a season-long loan deal two weeks ago.

Despite missing strikers Andrea Belotti and Josef Martinez due to injury, Torino made light of the absences to take a 54th minute lead through Iago Falque.

But Atalanta were given a half-chance to pull level only two minutes later when Hart came off his line to palm a corner away with one hand, and Andrea Masiello punished the move by deftly volleying the loose ball into the net.

When Alejandro Gomez was hauled down by Lorenzo Di Silvestri inside the penalty area with only eight minutes on the clock, Ivorian striker Frank Kessie stepped up to coolly send Hart the wrong way to seal the win.

AC Milan, meanwhile, suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Udinese at the San Siro, where influential defender Luca Antonelli was rushed off to hospital with a suspected serious head/neck injury.

As he lay on the ground, a teammate reached inside his mouth to make sure he did not swallow his tongue.



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