Tue, Dec 18, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Roma rally to down Genoa, hand their coach lifeline

AFP, MILAN, Italy

AS Roma’s Bryan Cristante, left, scores against Genoa in their Serie A match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

AS Roma on Sunday battled back for a 3-2 Serie A victory over Genoa to give beleaguered coach Eusebio di Francesco a lifeline at the Stadio Olimpico, despite goalkeeper Robin Olsen’s early blunder.

It ended Roma’s five-match winless streak dating back to a 4-1 triumph over UC Sampdoria on Nov. 11 and lifted Di Francesco’s side to sixth — two points behind AC Milan in the final UEFA Champions League berth.

Roma got off to the worst possible start in a tense atmosphere among the 29,000 crowd in Rome, where fans had a silent protest in the first 10 minutes at the club’s management and transfer strategy.

“I have to congratulate the lads for how they played in a very surreal environment, for them it was not easy,” Di Francesco said. “The team is still sick, but I saw the pride and the desire to bring home the three points.”

The hosts were trailing after Olsen let the ball slip through his legs and hands to allow Genoa striker Krzysztof Piatek pounce in the 17th minute.

Piatek slid in for his 12th goal of the season to overtake Cristiano Ronaldo as Serie A’s leading scorer, but goals from Federico Fazio and Justin Kluivert twice pulled Roma level before the break, with Bryan Cristante grabbing the winner just before the hour mark.

Di Francesco was reported to be set for the axe if his team failed to deliver a win against Genoa, who are now 16th.

Amid an injury crisis, the 49-year-old switched things around after his side’s Champions League defeat to Viktoria Plzen last week, with Nicolo Zaniolo in a new attacking role.

“I chose above all players who were fresh, young and free of the pressure,” Di Francesco said. “My only other option in attack was Patrik Schick, I had no options off the bench in midfield, while in defense I picked Juan Jesus because he is tough and I needed that in this game.”

“We had a lot of technical errors, but the most important thing was a show of character,” he said. “Genoa are in good shape and they knew that they were up against a Roma side that was a little frightened, so they tried to make the most of the situation.”

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