By Julian Cardillo
ROME – After plenty of waiting, AS Roma finally captured its first home win of the season, defeating Atalanta 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday afternoon. Roma President and Celtics owner James Pallotta was among the 40,155 in attendance.
Erik Lamela scored his second goal of the season to give the Giallorossi the lead in the 30th minute and Michael Bradley got an insurance strike midway through the second half. The result snapped Roma’s six-game winless streak at home over two seasons, dating to a 3-1 win against Udinese on April 11.
Coming off a 4-1 drubbing at Juventus last weekend and many weeks of blown leads and mental lapses, Roma had plenty to prove against Atalanta, which came into the game with the league’s fourth-worst record. In the first 20 minutes, Roma didn’t look like a team competing for a spot in the Champions League and Atalanta didn’t look like a team close to the relegation zone.
A switch by coach Zdenek Zeman to replace Nicolas Burdisso with Marquinhos in central defense likely contributed to Roma coming out cold. Roma’s defense got pelted by Atalanta in the opening segments of the game. First, German Denis rounded Maarten Stekelenburg in the 10th minute, Marquinhos blocking his shot from entering the empty goal. Moments later, an unmarked Davide Brivio collected a pass at the penalty spot and shot inches wide of the left post. At the 16-minute mark, Denis volleyed a shot off the crossbar off a Giuseppe De Luca feed.
Roma had different luck in front of goal. After weathering Atalanta’s storm, Roma came up with a response through Lamela. Francesco Totti picked up the ball just outside the penalty area and chipped it forward for Lamela, who poked the ball into the back of the net past Andrea Consigli.
Lamela nearly helped double the lead by flicking Mattia Destro in behind the defense in the 42d minute, Destro’s volley hitting the crossbar.
“We started poorly but any of the players on this team can contribute,” Zeman said. “The ones on the field proved they could figure it out. The first 15 minutes or so were bad but then they woke up.”
Roma didn’t start the second half as lethargically. Totti tried four chances from distance, the closest of which was a 40-yard bomb Consigli had to stretch to his left to save in the 52d minute. In the 62d minute, Bradley tacked on another goal. Consigli spilled the rebound of an effort by Destro into the path of Bradley, who pounded the ball into the net for his first goal of the season.
“It was a hard game for him,” Zeman said of Bradley, who made his first appearance since Aug. 26 after rehabilitating a leg injury. ”Today he did well. He came up with a goal. He’s a serious and dedicated kid and with time he will get better and give us even more.”
Roma was able to play through a difficult first half and come up with a much-needed win. Many players who dressed for this game have played less than two seasons in Serie A, meaning they have a learning curve to work with. But Zeman chose to rest starters Daniele De Rossi, Pablo Osvaldo, and Burdisso, and let the younger Lupi figure out a tactic to break down Atalanta.
“We started badly,” Zeman said. “For me, it was important for the team to wake up. They did and they saw their risk and learned from their mistake. I’m happy with that result.”
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