By Julian Cardillo
ROME – AS Roma let a well-played first half erode into an error-filled second half and fell, 3-2, to Bologna in a Serie A match at Stadio Olimpico in front of 44,494 Sunday.
Alberto Gilardino and Alessandro Diamanti combined to tie the score, 2-2, midway through the second half. Gilardino scored the winner in the 90th minute to clinch Bologna’s first win of the season and hand Roma its first loss.
Roma (1-1-1, 4 points) dominated from the opening whistle and took the lead seven minutes in. Francesco Totti dribbled into a pocket of space just outside the penalty area and uncorked a shot that hit the post. Alessandro Florenzi latched onto the rebound and headed the ball into the net past Federico Agliardi, his second goal in as many games.
Erik Lamela doubled Roma’s lead in the 15th minute, controlling a pass from Ivan Piris before firing a 20-yard shot that whistled in off the far post.
Bologna was unable to to create chances and spent most of the first half tackling Roma players, mainly Totti and Florenzi, in an attempt to break up the attacking momentum.
But everything changed after halftime. Roma stopped creating chances and Bologna swapped fouling for controlling the midfield. In the 73d minute, Gilardino beat Leandro Castan and Nicolas Burdisso to a cross by Nico Pulzetti, heading it past Maarten Stekelenburg to cut the lead in half.
Roma’s defense fell apart again less than a minute later, as Diamanti went in alone on Stekelenburg off a flick from Gilardino and pounded the ball into the goal to tie the game.
“They made those two goals in two minutes,” Roma defender Federico Balzaretti said. “It’s not easy to explain. We had the chance to take it and the sensation to get the next goal wasn’t there. Those two minutes of folly defined the game.
“We had no time to be worried. There was no time. They scored again after 30 seconds. We had no time to realize that it was 2-1, you blink and it was 2-2.”
Mattia Destro earned his first start in place of Pablo Osvaldo (knee) but was unable to combine with anyone, especially after Roma gave up the lead in the second half. The structure of the team changed when coach Zdenek Zeman brought on attackers Marquinhos and Nico Lopez for Piris and Pjanic.
While Roma was able to push forward after the switch, it did leave space at the back for Bologna to exploit. And in the 90th minute, a freak goal caused by too much space on the right flank made Roma pay. Garics flew into the attacking third unmarked on the right and sent a low cross off Stekelenburg, then took another deflection off Burdisso. Gilardino pounced on the rebound and slotted the ball into the open net for the lead.
Roma was unable to produce the equalizer in three minutes of stoppage time, though Totti came closest to scoring with a point-blank header that Agliardi palmed over the crossbar in the final seconds.
“We had a good first half and then we lost our tactic,” Zeman said. “The three goals are enormous errors on our part. Maybe we thought after we were up 2-0, that we had won. That was not the case.”
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