x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Totti takes title race to the final day

Francesco Totti ends a tough week on a high, scoring two late goals as Roma came from behind to beat Cagliari.

Roma's Francesco Totti fends off the challenge of Cagliari's Daniele Magliocchetti.
Roma's Francesco Totti fends off the challenge of Cagliari's Daniele Magliocchetti.

Francesco Totti ended a tough week on a high yesterday, scoring two late goals as Roma came from behind to beat Cagliari 2-1 and take their Serie A title battle with Inter Milan down to the final day of the season. Inter, the leaders, did their job by beating Chievo 4-3 at home but the nervy win for Roma keeps them two points behind in second place going into next Sunday's final round of matches.

The battle for the fourth Champions League qualifying place will also go down to the wire after Sampdoria, in fourth, drew 1-1 at Palermo, who are in fifth. Roma started with Totti despite the striker being widely condemned in the Italian media for kicking out at Mario Balotelli, the Inter striker, and being sent off in Wednesday's Coppa Italia final defeat. Media reports also said Totti will not be included in Italy's preliminary World Cup squad tomorrow after the incident prompted Marcello Lippi, the national coach, to reject the striker's offer to come out of international retirement.

If the controversy was bothering Totti, he did not show it. First he hit a post and the bar as Roma fans began to look desperate as news filtered through of Inter winning. Cagliari then scored midway through the second period against the run of play through Andrea Lazzari's free kick to further dampen the mood. But Totti went from fallen hero to Captain Marvel yet again when he quickly equalised and then converted a penalty seven minutes from time after Davide Biondini had handled.

"He is the captain and our figurehead," Claudio Ranieri, the Roma coach, said of Totti. "The fans and everyone knows what he is about: goals and link-up play." Nicolas Burdisso, the Roma defender, added: "It is fantastic that we are still in contention on the last weekend." Inter were 4-1 up before two late Chievo goals made for an anxious finish at the San Siro."The important thing is that the team held on till the end," Inter's Esteban Cambiasso said. "We have to go to the last weekend and, while it isn't something we wanted, that's football and we just have to win our last game."

Atalanta joined Siena and Livorno in being relegated to Serie B after a 2-0 defeat at Napoli. The Bergamo-based side, known as the Queen of the Provinces for daring to lock horns with the big city teams, had put up a brave fight in recent weeks but will be in the second tier next season for the first time since 2006. * Reuters