Edin Dzeko’s header on a Henrikh Mkhitaryan cross secured victory away to Lecce, despite Gabriel saving an Aleksandar Kolarov penalty.
Paulo Fonseca made changes after the midweek 2-0 home loss to Atalanta, their first defeat of the season, as Bryan Cristante, Nicolò Zaniolo and Federico Fazio were rested in favour of Amadou Diawara, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Gianluca Mancini. Lecce had won away to Torino and SPAL, but lost both home matches, so were determined to change that trend. Diego Farias, Gianluca Lapadula and Cristian Dell’Orco missed out.
Khouma Babacar failed to make the most of a Mancini error, then the defender almost scored with a header cleared almost off the line by Marco Calderoni.
Pau Lopez had to intervene too on Marco Mancosu and Filippo Falco’s follow-up, although Roma had penalty appeals waved away for a possible handling offence.
Chris Smalling continued to put himself about, essential both in attack with a towering header over from a corner, then flung himself in the way of Mancosu’s finish from a Babacar pull-back.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan could not have gone closer at the dawn of the second half, drilling inches past the base of the near post from the edge of the box on a smart Dzeko through ball.
They finally broke through with a trademark goal, as Mkhitaryan floated in the cross from the by-line and Dzeko didn’t even have to jump, just turn his head to redirect into the far bottom corner.
Lecce fought back, Calderoni’s left-foot strike deflected just over for a corner, but Roma thought they’d done it when Lucioni had his hand raised to charge down a Dzeko shot in the box. Kolarov stepped up and it was not a bad penalty at all, but Gabriel somehow got his fingertips to it at the far bottom corner.
This boosted the Salentini’s confidence and they kept the pressure on to the very end with crosses, free kicks and pinning Roma back.
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Saved pen: Kolarov 80 (R)