Serie A - Minnows Cesena hold mighty Roma

Eurosport - Sat, 28 Aug 21:43:00 2010

Promoted Cesena pulled off a mini-shock in holding runners up Roma to an entertaining goalless draw at the Stadio Olimpico in their opening Serie A match of the season.

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In their first appearance in Italy’s top flight since 1991, Cesena - who won back-to-back promotions and showcased six debutants in the Eternal City - showed they were a match for the Romans and looked every inch a Serie A side.

Roma had the better of the possession but, particularly in the first half, Cesena posed an attacking threat, although they were kept in the match later on by veteran shot-stopper Francesco Antonioli.

Antonioli, who was Roma’s goalkeeper for four years between 1999 and 2003 and during their 2000-01 Scudetto win, turns 41 in a few weeks but did not look a day older than 21 when he denied Daniele De Rossi, Mirko Vucinic and, with a super double save, Francesco Totti and Stefano Okaka.

After making a host of impressive signings including the likes of Stephen Appiah and Yuto Nagamoto, Cesena were a real handful at times, with Roma struggling to deal with their pace on the counter attack.

The visitors could also defend, with last year’s player of the season Luca Ceccarelli a rock at the back, his series of timely challenges and interceptions including denying Jeremy Menez with a second-minute intervention and blocking Simone Perrotta’s goal-bound finish just after the half hour.

In terms of opportunities, Roma’s were more clear cut while Cesena were often let down by the final ball.

For the hosts Vucinic nodded De Rossi’s ball just wide, with Perrotta meeting Marco Cassetti’s cross but unable to direct the finish on target, and De Rossi denied a screamer by ex-Roma keeper Antonioli although the midfielder was in an offside position when he received the ball.

The visitors’ best opportunity fell to Nagatomo, who fired just wide after a scintillating break from Emanuele Giaccherini, while poor final balls from Ezequiel Schelotto, Erol Bogdani and Giaccherini were all that foiled a succession of irresistible counters.

The second half picked up in a similar fashion, as the two sides continued their adventurous, attacking ploys.

Clear-cut chances were less forthcoming though, with Philippe Mexes’s weak finish straight at Antonioli 10 minutes in the first real sight of goal.

As the match progressed Roma gradually started to control the tempo, with Cesena seeming to tire and sitting deeper and deeper.

Menez fired straight at Antonioli after Cesena failed to clear a corner, Vucinic oddly headed over while trying to cut the ball across goal for Totti, while the Roma skipper blasted a free-kick over just over from all of 30 yards.

Antonioli then made a remarkable save, showing the reflexes of one half his age when he somehow kept out Vucinic’s finish, managing to fly across from a prostrate position after tipping Totti’s cross into his strike partner’s path.

Totti drilled just wide from the resultant corner but, as it seemed Roma were turning the screw, Bogdani headed inches wide just to remind them of the threat on the counter.

Roma continued to push hard, with Totti again zipping a low shot just beyond the right-hand post, and boss Claudio Ranieri throwing on Matteo Brighi, Rodrigo Taddei and Okaka.

In a hectic 60-second period with 10 minutes left, Antonioli made his second excellent stop, keeping out Totti’s vicious swerving strike then, in one movement, diving at the feet of Okaka to palm away the loose ball.

Cesana raced away on the counter attack, with Ceccarelli sending Bogdani clean through with a perfectly-weighted through ball but, as Julio Sergio flew out at his feet, the Albanian poked the finish into the side netting.

And before the 80th minute was up Roma hit Cesena on the break, Totti heading Taddei’s right-wing cross over with Okaka perfectly-placed to finish to his left.

The latter minutes were scrappy, with Cesena content to eat up the seconds and frustrate Roma, tempers flaring when Totti confronted substitute Luigi Piangerelli in an incident that saw both players booked.

There was a moment of late, late drama when - in the closing seconds of injury time - Antoniolo raced off his line to save at the feet of a clean-through Brighi, but Cesena held on for a deserved point and a clean sheet that landed an early blow to Roma’s title hopes.

Reda Maher / Eurosport

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