Totti saves Roma as England ‘keeper suffers debut heart-break

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Milan—Francesco Totti came off the bench to hit a late winner from the spot as Roma moved to within two points of leaders Juventus after a rain-interrupted 3-2 win over Sampdoria on Sunday.
“That was the first time I’ve ever felt afraid of taking a penalty,” the 39-year-old veteran, who is in his 24th and final season at the club, told Sky Sport minutes after being mobbed by teammates under the stadium’s popular Curva Sud end.
“You just can’t afford to miss under the Curva (sud)!”
Roma looked to be heading for a difficult second half at the Stadio Olympico after Sampdoria surged to a 2-1 half-time lead when goals from Fabio Quagliarella and Luis Muriel cancelled out Mohamed Salah’s eighth minute header for the hosts.
But Roma coach Luciano Spalletti was given extra time to consider his tactical options when officials delayed the restart by over 30 minutes to render the pitch playable again following a first-half deluge of rain and hailstones.
Totti replaced Diego Perotti and Edin Dzeko came on in place of Stephan El Shaarawy for the start of the second half, and the changes made an immediate impact.
After Kevin Strootman saw his drive palmed away by Emiliano Viviano, Totti set Dzeko up for a shot that forced Viviano to parry for a corner.
Two minutes later, Totti sent Dzeko through in the box and the Bosnian shimmied around Viviano before tapping home from close range to pull the hosts level.
Roma had the momentum, but Salah glanced a header wide and only the trailing foot of Viviano stopped Dzeko’s goalbound shot from crossing the line.
Roma looked all set for a share of the spoils until Dzeko made the most of a Milan Skriniar’s challenge in the area to win a penalty that Totti cooly slotted past Viviano.
Roma are now two points behind leaders and champions Juventus, who claimed their third successive win with a 3-1 defeat of Sassuolo on Saturday.
And Spalletti, who endured a lengthy spat with Totti last season, said he’s on the lookout for a bunch of new Tottis.
“I want four or five [Francesco] Tottis in this team,” said Spalletti, who was called out by the club talisman last season over his lack of playing time.
“If I don’t play him people get annoyed at me but I want to produce another player like him.
“One great player is not enough – you need more than that. I want to find more Tottis in my team.
“I want to see some of the other players in the squad develop into players like Totti – that’s what we need.”
Napoli sit in second place, also two points behind Juve, following a 3-0 rout of Palermo on Saturday when Jose Callejon added a brace to Marek Hamsik’s 47th minute opener.—AFP

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