Roma snatch Udinese win to pull level with Juventus
Title challengers Roma had Davide Astori`s controversial first-half goal to thank for a 1-0 win away to Udinese that pulled them level with Juventus at the top of Italy`s Serie A on Tuesday.
Ahead of Juve`s later fixture with Inter, Roma travelled north without Gervinho, Seydou Keita, Emmanuel Badu and Molla Wague - all of whom are on Africa Cup of Nations duty - as well as injured defender Leandro Castan.
Despite shading the encounter at the Udinese`s Friuli stadium, Rudi Garcia`s men rode their luck in the closing minutes when late substitute Urby Emanuelson hauled down Panagiotis Kone in the box as the referee waved play on.
Roma`s 12th win of the campaign left them in second place on 39 points, with Lazio, 3-0 winners over Sampdoria on Monday, in third a further nine points adrift. Juventus can restore their three-point cushion with a win in Turin later Tuesday.
Roma took the lead in the 17th minute when Astori`s powerful header from Francesco Totti`s free-kick came off the underside of Orestis Karnezis`s crossbar and bounced over the `keeper`s goalline.
The goal appeared to be initially ruled out by the fourth official but following protests by Roma was validated by the referee.
Television replays appeared to show that not all of the ball had crossed the line, an incident which is likely to reinforce existing calls for goalline technology to be introduced into Italy`s top flight.
Udinese fought to level before the break with veteran striker Antonio Di Natale seeing one effort charged down in the box before setting up Gabriel Silva with a delightful ball only for the left winger to volley wide from close range.
Totti did little better at the other end, the iconic captain firing straight at Karnezis from 10 yards after Juan Iturbe`s assist.
However Andrea Stramaccioni`s hosts struggled to break down an astute Roma defence, while the visitors -- who were sorely lacking the creative skills of Ivorian striker Gervinho -- remained a threat in attack.
Karnezis was forced to block Iturbe`s effort and on the follow-up Ljajic was ruled offside.
Ljajic was stretchered off with a knock to the knee in the closing minutes and replaced by Urby Emanuelson, a change that almost spelled disaster for Roma.
The visitors escaped conceding a penalty award soon after when Emanuelson slid in and hauled Kone down from behind as the Greek prepared to collect a delivery from the right just yards from goal.
Udinese`s protests led assistant coach Dejan Stankovic to be sent from the sidelines.
Emanuelson almost made amends in the second minute of added-on time when he latched on to Alessandro Florenzi`s fine delivery to bring a great one-handed save from Karnezis.
Roma should have wrapped up the points minutes later but Karnezis produced a great block to thwart Florenzi after he was sent through one-on-one.