Serie A wrap: Roma pay late penalty at Messina

January 14, 2007

ROME, Jan 14 (Reuters) - AS Roma lost ground on Serie A leaders Inter Milan when they conceded a late penalty to draw 1-1 at Messina on Sunday.

Roma looked on course for victory after a first-half goal by Brazilian winger Mancini, but with a minute of normal time remaining Cristian Chivu upended Arturo Di Napoli in the box to give Alessandro Parisi the chance to stroke home the equaliser.

The result left Roma on 42 points from 19 matches - the halfway stage of the season - nine points behind Inter, who set a Serie A record of 12 wins in a row when they defeated Torino 3-1 on Saturday.

Palermo consolidated third place on 38 points with a 2-0 win over Udinese, Lazio moved up to fourth on 26 points despite being held 1-1 by Siena and AC Milan racked up their third win in succession by beating Reggina 3-1.

Roma's players needed a win to keep up the pressure on Inter in their first game back after Italy's three-week winter break.

They dominated possession in the first half but were let down by a lack of precision in the final third of the pitch.

Roma finally broke through six minutes before halftime when Francesco Totti threaded a pass through Messina's defence for Mancini to go through alone and chip keeper Marco Storari.

Messina rarely looked capable of getting level, but in the final 20 minutes the speed of their strikers Sergio Floccari and Di Napoli began to trouble Roma's tiring back four.

Defender Matteo Ferrari had already pulled off a pair of last-ditch tackles to rob Floccari of possession, but Chivu was slower to react when Di Napoli burst into the area and the pair went down in a tangle of legs.

Parisi's penalty put a further dent in Roma's title challenge and revealed the scale of the mountain they must climb if they are to catch up with Inter.

PALERMO CRUISE

Palermo's players looked more at ease on home ground as they cruised past Udinese.

Striker Andrea Caracciolo put the Sicilian side ahead in the 32nd minute when he nodded Fabio Simplicio's cross into the bottom corner of the net.

Italian international David Di Michele almost doubled their lead with a shot that hit the post shortly after the interval.

Another member of the Azzurri, Cristian Zaccardo, made sure of the points when he headed in Eugenio Corini's free kick midway through the second half.

Milan's win over Reggina lifted them to ninth in Serie A on 23 points -- the first time the six-times European champions have figured in the top half of the division this season.

Andrea Pirlo steadied Milan's nerves when he curled in a free kick in the sixth minute.

Clarence Seedorf and Alberto Gilardino scored the other two. Rolando Bianchi got Reggina's consolation goal during a bright spell for the visitors early in the second half..