Mon, Dec 22, 2014 - Page 19 News List

De Jong’s handball hurts Roma’s bid to catch leaders Juve

Reuters, ROME

AS Roma midfielder Radja Nianggolan, right, vies with AC Milan midfielder Jeremy Menez in their Serie A match in Rome on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

AS Roma were left to rue a rejected penalty appeal after they suffered a setback to their Serie A title aspirations in a 0-0 home draw with a battling 10-man AC Milan on Saturday.

The hosts were fuming when Nigel de Jong handled the ball in the 32nd minute, swiping it away from Seydou Keita, who was about to head at goal from point-blank range.

Neither referee Nicola Rizzoli, who took charge of this year’s FIFA World Cup final — nor his assistants saw the incident.

“The handball was blatant,” Roma boss Rudy Garcia told Sky Sport Italia. “However, it can happen. We lacked creativity today. Milan defended extremely well with five midfielders who played very close to each other.”

The result left second-placed Roma three points behind leaders Juventus, who beat Cagliari on Thursday and face SSC Napoli in the Super Coppa Italiana in Doha today.

The Giallorossi played the last 26 minutes with an extra man after Pablo Armero was sent off after a second yellow for a handball, but were unable to consistently put pressure on seventh-placed Milan, who are showing a marked improvement under Filippo Inzaghi after a dreadful season last term.

“I’m very happy,” Inzaghi told reporters. “We come away with four points from the Napoli and Roma matches, this means that we are almost at the same level as two teams which began the season with the goal of winning the Scudetto.”

“We were fantastic once we were down a man. We showed a lot of heart and it’s too bad that Armero was sent off, as I was starting to believe we could win this match,” he added.

The two best chances for the home side were created by Gervinho, who was able to gain space inside the box, but was twice denied by Diego Lopez.

“I was somewhat lucky both times,” the ex-Real Madrid goalkeeper said. “It was more a question of him kicking right at me.”

In the early game, lowly AC Cesena earned a well deserved 1-1 draw in the closing seconds of their match at US Sassuolo.

Ze Eduardo’s header from close range allowed the visitors to cancel out Simone Zaza’s generously awarded penalty.

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