Milan (AFP) – Francesco Totti came off the bench to hit a late, precious leveller as Champions League-chasing Roma dropped two points in a thrilling 3-3 draw away to Atalanta on Sunday.
Roma travelled to Bergamo feeling the pressure after Inter Milan stunned Napoli 2-0 on Saturday to close the gap on third place to three points.
But despite taking a 2-0 lead by the 27th minute with goals from Lucas Digne and Radja Nainggolan, Luciano Spalletti’s visitors let their guard slip, allowing an enterprising Atalanta back into the game.
Marco D’Alessandro reduced arrears on 33 minutes and Roma reject Marco Borriello returned to haunt his old club by hitting a brace that gave Atalanta a 3-2 lead by the 57th minute.
Totti replaced Daniele De Rossi on 78 minutes and eight minutes later the 39-year-old club icon slammed the ball through traffic and past Marco Sportiello to secure a share of the spoils.
Although Roma remain in third place, 11 points behind Juventus ahead of their home game against Palermo later Sunday and five points behind Napoli, Inter are closing in.
With five games remaining, Roberto Mancini’s Inter side are only four points behind Roma in fourth as they bid to end a five-year wait to return to Europe’s premier club competition.
“At 2-0 up, we should have put the match beyond reach,” Roma coach Luciano Spalletti told Mediaset.
“But we lost focus at certain points, we took our foot off the pedal, lost our shape and allowed them back into it.
“When that happens, your opponents obviously want to capitalise and that’s what they did.”
It was a scrappy affair at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia stadium, although French left-back Digne settled Roma nerves on 23 minutes when he finished off a well-worked move to roll a right-footed shot past Sportiello at his far post.
Roma looked to be cruising when Belgian international Nainggolan chipped Mohamed Salah’s cut-back past Sportiello on 27 minutes.
But Atalanta fought back valiantly, Alejandro Gomez sprinting down the left to collect a long ball from midfield and fire in a cross for D’Alessandro to bundle past Wojciech Szczesny on 33 minutes.
Roma’s defence really should have done better on that occasion, and Szczesny had more reason to complain when Borriello rose above De Rossi and Kostas Manolas at a corner to level with a powerful header four minutes later.
Roma could have put the match beyond reach soon after, but Edin Dzeko ballooned over from eight yards and minutes later the Bosnian’s crisp volley was tipped over by Sportiello at full stretch.
At the other end, Roma’s defence was nowhere when Gomez fired in a cross that Ervin Zukanovic should have easily swept to safety. Instead, Borriello stole a march on the defender to bundle in at the near post.
It was the first time Atalanta had hit three goals at home since a 3-0 rout of Palermo in December, but more was to come from the hosts.
Borriello could have added to his ally but ballooned over from Gomez’s delivery and then saw a backheel flick go over from close range.
Roma were only saved from a potentially costly defeat when, as the ball ricocheted in the Atalanta area, Totti’s drive sneaked past Sportiello and inside the ‘keeper’s near post in the closing minutes.
It was his 245th goal in Serie A but in what could be Totti’s 23rd and final season with the club, he remains 29 behind the all-time record of Silvio Piola (274).