Out-of-favor Roma icon Francesco Totti provided his first assist of the season in a frustrating 1-1 draw with Bologna that dented hopes of claiming Serie A’s second automatic Champions League qualifying spot.
Totti’s future at the club for whom he has played 23 seasons is a hot topic in Italy as the Serie A giants stall on offering the 39-year-old an extra year’s deal.
Partially due to injury, Totti has made only a handful of appearances this season, but when ‘Il Re di Roma’ (the King of Rome) replaced Iago Falque at halftime he made an almost immediate impact.
Roma were trailing 1-0 after a 25th minute opener by Luca Rossettini, who capitalized on a moment of hesitation from Wojciech Szczesny at a free kick to beat the Roma ‘keeper at his far post.
Lively Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah had already hit the post in the opening half and found the woodwork again minutes after the restart.
But Salah made no mistake when he collected Totti’s through ball moments later. With only the ‘keeper to beat after Bologna’s offside trap malfunctioned, Salah slid the ball easily past Antonio Mirante to pull the scores level on 50 minutes.
Lacking pace and looking quickly out of breath, Totti’s vision and pinpoint passing to players in better positions helped make amends, all to no avail.
On 54 minutes he curled in a delightful ball towards the back post but Miralem Pjanic slid in just too late.
When Salah collected Totti’s through ball towards the end of the half, he unleashed a drive from 22 yards that brushed the bottom of Mirante’s upright.
Roma dominated a resolute Bologna throughout, but had to settle for just their third draw since coach Luciano Spalletti took over from sacked Frenchman Rudi Garcia in February.
Juventus remain top and on course for a record-equaling fifth consecutive scudetto after a 2-1 win at AC Milan on Saturday maintained their six-point lead on second-placed Napoli, who beat Verona 3-0 minus Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain as he sat out the first match of a three-game ban.
Roma remain third at six points behind Napoli and five and seven points ahead of Inter Milan and Fiorentina respectively.