MILAN: League leaders Roma beat Udinese 1-0 away yesterday to set a new all-time record of nine consecutive wins at the start of a Serie A season to restore their five-point cushion.
Roma, who have conceded just one goal in their nine wins under French coach Rudi Garcia, were reduced to 10 men in the second half after Brazilian Maicon saw red for a second bookable offence.
However the setback failed to shake the leaders, who virtually sealed the points when American Michael Bradley scored with a precise first-time shot in the 82nd minute.
Defending champions Juventus had set a record of nine successive wins at the start of the 2005-2006 campaign, although that feat no longer stands after the Turin giants were stripped of that season’s crown, as well as the previous year’s, due to their role in the ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal.
Title challengers Napoli had heaped the pressure on Garcia’s side before what was always going to be a tough away trip to Udinese by dominating Torino 2-0 at the San Paolo to reduce their arrears to two points.
And for much of what was a balanced encounter, Roma finally looked as if they would fail to take all three points for the first time in the league this season.
Goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis had to get down quick to smother a dangerous first-timer from striker Antonio Di Natale early on, while Daniele De Rossi bundled a shot wide shortly for the visitors on the half hour.
Miralem Pjanic’s first-time effort sailed low past outstretched Udinese ‘keeper Ivan Kelava, who was then at full stretch to tip over Marco Borriello’s looping header at the far post.
Udinese were only denied an opener on 38 minutes when Leandro Castan peformed heroics, his overhead kick on the goalline keeping out Gabriel Silva’s goalbound effort.
At the other end Kelava had to punch out Pjanic’s ambitious long-range freekick after Adem Ljajic had been bundled to the ground.
Eight minutes after the restart Maicon’s drive from 15 metres sailed just over the Udinese crossbar, but 13 minutes later he marched off after an unnecessary foul on Emmanuel Badu in midfield.
Roma, to their credit, kept their calm and Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman held up play at the edge of the area before squaring for Bradley to beat Kevala with a coolly-taken first-timer shot.
Roma now lead Napoli by five points with Juventus remaining in third, also five points adrift, after a 2-0 home win over Genoa.
Elsewhere yesterday, days after an impressive performance which earned a 1-1 draw at home to Champions League group opponents Barcelona, AC Milan dropped precious points in a 3-2 defeat at Parma. AFP