Francesco Totti said goodbye to Roma with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Genoa to take second place, as Diego Perotti netted in stoppages.
The Giallorossi needed a win to be sure of that second automatic Champions League spot, but also had to say goodbye to icon Totti after 25 years at the club. He was on the bench, as Edin Dzeko was challenging for the Capocannoniere crown, one goal ahead of Napoli’s Dries Mertens going into the final weekend.
Genoa missed Giovanni Simeone, Goran Pandev, Mauricio Pinilla, Mattia Perin, Luca Rigoni and Armando Izzo, so 16-year-old Pietro Pellegri was given his first Serie A start after two brief substitute appearances. He was born 12 years after Totti’s debut. The Grifone’s last victory at the Olimpico was way back in 1990.
Totti saluted the Curva Sud in emotional scenes before kick-off, as they unveiled a banner that read: ‘Totti IS Roma.’
However, the party atmosphere soon evaporated, as after three minutes Pellegri sprinted on to a through ball and held off Kostas Manolas to drill through Wojciech Szczesny at the near post. He was born in 2001, the year of Totti’s only Scudetto.
Szczesny almost gifted a second when wandering out to near the corner flag, but Roma did equalise in a chaotic move. Dzeko controlled Kevin Strootman’s pass over the top (perhaps using his arm), his shot hit he upright and he bundled the rebound over the line with his stomach.
Bad news moments later, as Emerson Palmieri fell very heavily on to his left leg and it was hyperextended, suggesting this could be a ligament problem. The Brazilian-Italian was stretchered off in evident agony.
Dzeko ran on to another Strootman through ball and Eugenio Lamanna beat away the shot one-on-one, then the Dutchman sent Stephan El Shaarawy clear too, but he prodded inches past the far post.
Dzeko pulled back for Radja Nainggolan, who was unable to control it, while Pellegri was almost sent clear on goal.
Dzeko felt he deserved a penalty when embraced by Santiago Gentiletti, who did enough to stop the Bosnian tapping in from four yards.
After the restart, Dzeko’s back-heel volley flick whistled just wide from a Mario Rui cross and Antonio Rudiger’s interception prevented Nikola Ninkovic going clear on goal.
Totti Day started in earnest at the 54th minute, when the captain came off the bench for his 786th and final appearance in a Roma jersey.
Ninkovic drilled just wide and Miguel Veloso charged down a Totti effort before Eugenio Lamanna punched away the Dzeko volley.
Totti flicked up a pass that Strootman hit on the half-volley to skim the woodwork from distance. Another long Totti pass found El Shaarawy’s header, fingertipped out from under the bar by Lamanna.
Roma did get in front for the first time, as Dzeko controlled a ball over the top and pulled back from the by-line for the on-rushing Daniele De Rossi to drill into the near bottom corner from 10 yards. Totti isn’t the only one-club man here, as De Rossi has been called ‘Future Captain’ for years.
However, it still wasn’t over, as Szczesny was again caught out by a long cross from the left and Darko Lazovic nodded in at the back post to draw Genoa level.
With that score, and Napoli winning away to Sampdoria, this put Roma into third place and the Champions League play-off. In fact, Genoa almost went 3-2 up moments later, as Lazovic went clear on the counter and Szczesny made up for earlier errors, getting something on it to deflect on to the base of the upright.
Diego Perotti just failed to get on the end of Nainggolan’s ball across the face of goal, then Dzeko knocked it down for Totti, denied by Gentiletti’s toe.
Diego Laxalt went on the counter, his cross into the middle put over the bar by a Mario Rui back-heel flick. Roma were pouring forward and constantly in danger with Genoa counter-attacks, but in the final minute there was a breakthrough.
Federico Fazio and Dzeko headers knocked down the long ball, Perotti let it bounce and hit the half-volley from six yards for his first goal from open play this season.