By Julian Cardillo
ROME – AS Roma played well enough to defeat Catania in Sunday’s Serie A season opener, but had to settle for a 2-2 draw. Catania created two scoring opportunities, both of which went into the back of the net, while Roma was only rewarded with two goals despite vastly outplaying the visitors.
“It’s a long season,” Roma midfielder Michael Bradley said. “The first game is never easy. Obviously tonight, we don’t win, but it’s still a good point to start the season with.”
Most of the action took place in the second half, though Catania opened the scoring in the 28th minute. Francesco Lodi played a free kick short to Sergio Almiron, whose first-time shot deflected through the penalty area to Giovanni Marchese. Marchese, who was unmarked in front of the goal, and appeared to be offside, pounded the ball past Maarten Stekelenburg.
Roma tried for the immediate response, and Eric Lamela had a shot cleared off the line in the 31st minute. Moments later, referee Andrea De Marco failed to award Roma a penalty kick for a shove on Federico Balzaretti in the box.
Roma came out with more fury in the second half in search of an equalizer. In the 47th minute, Catania goalkeeper Mariano Andujar had to dive to his left to parry away a free kick by Lamela headed for the lower right corner of the net. On the ensuing play, Pablo Osvaldo headed a Lamela cross off the post.
Osvaldo didn’t have to wait much longer for a goal. In the 59th minute, he finished a chip by Daniele De Rossi with a bicycle kick that flew into the back of the net. The goal lit up the Stadio Olimpico crowd, and gave Roma more confidence to look for the go-ahead goal.
Roma tried for a second goal by pushing most of the team upfield, though that left large pockets of space for Catania to exploit on the counterattack.
In the 68th minute, Catania made Roma pay as Alejandro Gomez went in alone on Stekelenburg, slotting the ball inside the far post to restore Catania’s lead.
Catania looked poised to steal three points from the “Giallorossi.” Then, Nico Lopez, who came on for an injured Francesco Totti in the 80th minute, scored a last-minute equalizer as he volleyed a cross by Bradley into the net in the final minute of stoppage time.
“You get to the end of the game and at times you have to be more direct,” Bradley said. “It was a good run from Lopez, I was able to find him and he made the play. He made a great goal.”
Roma’s hard-earned point nearly disappeared when, seconds later, Lucas Castro’s chip kissed off the crossbar.
The game seemed fit to be tied.
“Getting this point was good, we can go forward,” Bradley said. “We have to continue to work. There’s time and we’re on the right path.”
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