Mattia Destro and Michel Bastos goal let Roma to beat Sassuolo, but there was chaos when the referee changed his mind on a penalty.
The Giallorossi rested Francesco Totti and Douglas Maicon, while Kevin Strootman and Federico Balzaretti were sidelined. Sassuolo had a huge number of absentees, including Antonio Floro Flores, Matteo Brighi, Thomas Manfredini, Luca Marrone, Raffaele Pucino, Marius Alexe, Paolo Bianco and Francesco Acerbi.
On paper it was a simple away win, but Sassuolo had earned a 1-1 draw when these teams met in November at the Stadio Olimpico.
Within the first three minutes there were already two chances, as Pedro Mendes went sliding in to deflect an Alessandro Florenzi cross off the feet of Mattia Destro, then the former Siena striker’s header looped over the bar.
However, after 10 minutes of one-way traffic the hosts woke up with Nicola Sansone forcing Morgan De Sanctis to deflect with his chest from point-blank range. On the resulting corner Paolo Cannavaro was found in acres of space, his finish deflected off target by Daniele De Rossi’s toes.
However, it was Roma who broke through thanks to some dismal defending. Radja Nainggolan caught Simone Missiroli in possession and threaded through the middle for Destro, who dinked it over the on-rushing Pegolo. That was the 60th goal the Neroverdi had conceded in 31 games and Destro’s fourth consecutive game on target.
There was absolute chaos when Sansone burst into the box and as he was trying to turn, Mehdi Benatia appeared to make some very slight contact with his foot and the striker then slipped over. The referee Nicola Rizzoli did not award a penalty, but the goal-line assistant did, sparking a lengthy discussion as Sassuolo complained there was no red card and Roma complained about the penalty. After over four minutes of arguing from all sides and with the ball already on the spot, Rizzoli changed his mind and awarded a Roma drop kick. It will cause controversy and was frankly bizarre, especially for a referee that will be going to the World Cup.
After the restart Alessandro Florenzi stung Pegolo’s gloves from distance, as did Pjanic on a free kick from a tight angle.
Di Francesco threw on another forward, Simone Zaza, but still Sassuolo struggled to break Roma down. In fact, Mendes needed a crucial sliding tackle to block Gervinho as he was pulling the trigger on a Destro pull-back from eight yards.
Sansone was easily Sassuolo’s best player on the day and fired a good chance over from the edge of the box. Domenico Berardi also blasted off target from a similar position.
Sansone went on a blazing run slaloming past a group of Roma players to set up Zaza, who couldn’t finish off the move.
At the other end, Florenzi surged down the right and his strike flashed across the face of goal.
Sassuolo grabbed a 1-1 draw in Rome at the last minute and almost repeated it when Cannavaro tested De Sanctis at the end of another strong run.
However, it was Michel Bastos who made it 2-0 when Rodrigo Taddei caught Mendes in possession and the Brazilian kept his cool to beat Pegolo for his debut Serie A goal.