Roma maintained their 100 per cent record on Francesco Totti’s birthday, beating Verona 2-0 with Mattia Destro scoring from midfield.
There was a unique atmosphere at the Olimpico, as captain Totti celebrated his 38th birthday. He started, but Daniele De Rossi, Leandro Castan, Juan Manuel Iturbe, Davide Astori, Marco Borriello, Salih Ucan and Kevin Strootman were injured. Verona also missed numerous players, including Jacopo Sala, Rafael Andrade, Francesco Benussi, Ivan Martic, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Alessandro Agostini, Rafael Marquez and Emil Hallfredsson, but rested Luca Toni and Javier Saviola. It meant 19-year-old goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini started for the second game in a row.
Mattia Destro went extremely close on 15 minutes with a looping header to turn Douglas Maicon’s cross just past the far post. Kostas Manolas nodded over from a corner and Totti’s effort was deflected off target, while the captain’s diving header was ruined when Frederik Sorensen got a touch on the cross.
Totti thought he had scored when the ball broke in the six-yard box with Gollini stranded, but as he came sliding in Sorensen rushed back for a goalline clearance with the aid of the upright.
Verona also wasted a golden opportunity, as Nene got a glancing header just wide when teammate Artur Ionita was behind him in a better scoring position.
Another Nene header was blocked from point-blank range by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and moments later Juanito Gomez Taleb saw his angled drive palmed away by Morgan De Sanctis. Roma had controlled the tempo early on, but Verona came out of their shells towards the break.
Destro tested Gollini from distance and within 30 seconds of the restart the teenage goalkeeper punched a Totti screamer out from under the bar. The 38-year-old also enjoyed a nutmeg on 22-year-old Sorensen before Radja Nainggolan turned wide.
A well-worked Totti-Keita move ended with Maicon’s low cross-shot smothered by Gollini at the near post. Yanga-Mbiwa should’ve scored on the hour mark, but turned a totally free header off target from a corner.
Tachtsidis saw his free kick flash inches past the far post after nobody in the crowd got a touch to it.
The deadlock in this entertaining game was finally broken with 15 minutes to go. Alessandro Florenzi came off the bench and pounced on a loose ball, smashing the first-time daisy-cutter into the far bottom corner from a good 25 yards. It was Florenzi’s second goal in as many home games.
Gervinho went on a remarkable run to dribble past six Verona players, but Destro horribly wasted his pull-back.
The Ivorian went on another sprint and this time set up Florenzi for a shot fingertipped on to the bar from point-blank range.
Destro finished off the job with a sensational and audacious strike. He chested down a De Sanctis goal kick in midfield, let it bounce and smacked a half-volley that flew over a stunned Gollini in the Verona goal. Evidently he had spotted the 19-year-old goalkeeper off his line and planned the surprise. The distance from the goal was measured at 36 metres (40 yards).
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