Serie A - Roma leave it late to beat Novara
Roma clinched a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Novara with two goals in the final 20 minutes in their Serie A clash at Silvio Piola.
Torrential rain ensured conditions which were not remotely conducive to flowing football, but substitute Bojan Krkic provided a clinical touch in the 73rd minute to break the deadlock.
Three minutes later Pablo Osvaldo doubled Roma's lead and gave the visitors a crucial three points which lifted them into seventh place in the table.
Roma captain Francesco Totti was still unavailable through injury and coach Luis Enrique confined Bojan to the bench with Osvaldo and Miralem Pjanic selected in attack, while Novara were bolstered by the return of defender Massimo Paci, who had shaken off a muscular injury.
The visitors enjoyed much of the early possession, but it was Novara who almost scored in the 17th minute as Francesco Marianini ghosted in behind the Roma back four to meet Marco Rigoni's pinpoint free kick and head past Maarten Stekelenburg, but he was denied by a late offside flag.
A downpour midway through the first half saw a very scrappy period of play ensue, and neither side were able to find any rhythm in their passing.
Fernando Gago attempted to forgo any unnecessary build up play and curled an exquisite shot agonisingly wide of the far post from 30 yards with Alberto Maria Fontana at full stretch on the stroke of half-time.
The second half saw a flurry of early substitutions, including the introduction of Bojan, but again it was the hosts who made the initial impact after the break.
Riccardo Meggiorini streaked clear of a static Roma back line and had just the goalkeeper to beat, but Stekelenburg made himself big and pulled off a superb save in the 66th minute.
There finally appeared to be more openings being created and, with Novara having the joint-worst defensive record in the league alongside Parma, it was no surprise when Roma made their belated breakthrough.
Miralem Pjanic floated a sublime through ball beyond the Novara defence, and Bojan flew into the box to latch on to it and coolly finish beyond Fontana to give his side a 73rd minute lead.
Three minutes later, Gago whipped over a devilish delivery from a corner and Osvaldo timed his jump perfectly to power a header into the bottom left corner of the net and double the visitors' lead in clinical fashion.
The sudden onslaught left Novara stunned, and the hosts could not muster any form of a response in the final minutes as Roma sealed an important victory.
Earlier in the day, Palermo swept aside Bologna 3-1 in a consummate display at Stadio Renzo Barbera.
Striker Eran Zahavi gave the hosts a 13th minute lead, before second-half strikes from Matias Silvestre and Josip Ilicic ensured all three points for their side.
Gaston Ramirez grabbed a late consolation for the visitors three minutes from time, but Palermo had long since sealed victory and moved into fifth place in the table in the process.