Frenchman Cyril Thereau scored a 90th-minute volley for Serie A minnows AC Chievo Verona to secure a 1-0 win over AS Roma and upset the capital club’s hopes of Europa League soccer next season.
Roma remain in fifth place on 58 points, but risked being overtaken by Udinese (57) if the northerners won at US Citta di Palermo yesterday, when SS Lazio, in seventh on 55, were also looking to draw level with their city rvials.
“We stuttered through the first half, but we should have finished the game earlier,” Roma coach Aurelio Andreazzoli said. “Chievo didn’t give our defense too many problems, but we knew they were dangerous on the counterattack.”
Chievo, meanwhile, achieved their aim of pulling far enough away from the relegation zone to secure top-flight soccer next season.
“It’s an important result for us, but it’s all down to the players,” Chievo coach Eugenio Corini said. “They are the ones who go out and play, and try to put my ideas into action.”
Roma reserve goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont started despite fracturing his nose in the 1-0 away win to ACF Fiorentina on Saturday because No. 1 choice Maarten Stekelenburg was still injured.
Andreazzoli, meanwhile, left some regulars on the bench, including striker Erik Lamela and US midfielder Michael Bradley, as he tested a 3-4-1-2 system and a new front pairing of Pablo Osvaldo and Mattia Destro.
Chievo, who were looking to pull away from the relegation zone, came out on top, at least in defensive terms, after a fairly balanced first half in which Roma shaded the visitors for the few real scoring chances created.
Chievo goalkeeper Cristian Puggioni was alert to prevent a threatening cross from reaching Destro, while an Ivan Piris cut-back from the byline following Francesco Totti’s smart through-ball set up Osvaldo, only for Puggioni to get low to smother the striker’s shot.
In the dying seconds of the half Totti sent a free-kick through a hole in the defensive wall to force Puggioni to block.
Thereau came close for the visitors moments after the restart, but it was Roma who were most frustrated after missing a hatfull of chances.
Destro showed great control on the edge of the area by avoiding two tackles, but Puggioni did well to collect the striker’s shot.
Totti then unleashed a drive from long range which took a deflection before hitting the crossbar, while Puggioni thwarted Destro from close range after a corner by Miralem Pjanic.
Roma looked to be edging closer to the opener when Dodo combined well with Destro on the left, but a superb sliding tackle by defender Marco Andreolli came to Chievo’s rescue.
Lamela finally made an appearance, replacing Pjanic in the 72nd minute, while Destro made way for Bradley minutes later.
However, Roma soon began to lose momentum. Andreazzoli’s men appeared fatigued when Chievo began to counterattack and were given a first warning when Chilean midfielder Felipe Seymour stung Lobont’s palms with a drive in the dying minutes.
As the match wound down to a close, Roma crucially failed to pick up Senegalese defender Boukary Drame as he charged down the left and when he whipped in a cross it beat the Roma defense and allowed Thereau to poke the ball home.